SALT LAKE CITY — The approaching NBA trade deadline is heating up and the league resembles a bunch of 10 year olds with Pokémon cards. Fans see it as a way for their team to improve or become the best tanking team. GMs try to do what is best for their franchise while coaches worry about how a trade will affect their team, for better or worse.
NBA front offices see player movement as another way of creating buzz about their business. But the trade season has the most effect on the players (on and off the court) and their families. It would be hard to have to uproot a family at a moment’s notice, even if it is expected.
As the trade season rolls around, players go through different emotions. Some players hope to get traded to a winning culture or a place where they’ll receive more playing time. Rodney Hood recently got his Christmas wish granted in being traded from one of the worst teams in the league (Cleveland Cavaliers) to Portland, a team in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race. The Trail Blazers have two stars that will allow Hood to fulfill his more natural role of a rotation player.
Kyle Korver also wanted a trade, since the Cavs were no longer in win-now mode. A trade to Utah was just what Korver wanted as a way to finish off his career by playing for a winning team.
Other players will have mixed emotions. Alec Burks loved his time in Utah and enjoyed his teammates but wanted more playing time. He got this in a trade to Cleveland but it came at the cost of having to play for Cleveland.
If the Grizzlies move Mike Conley (something their owner discussed with him, which is refreshing to see), it will be bittersweet. He wants to win and Memphis is no longer able to do so with the players surrounding him. A trade (depending on where he is sent) could be a welcomed fresh start. Conley has been in Memphis his whole 12-year career, the city has embraced him and he has them. Leaving this will be extremely hard as will leaving his longtime teammate Marc Gasol.
Some players demand a trade, mainly because they get tired of a losing culture. Players hardly have any control on trades and in demanding one they try to gain a little control. Anthony Davis is the most recent example. He wants to go to a winning culture since the team he was on (Pelicans) couldn’t provide this. Davis also is leaking out places he wants to play and re-sign, with the hopes of avoiding going to another team with similar issues.
The toughest trade comes when a player is happy where he is, but the team feels the need to move him, usually for what the team feels is an upgrade. The best example of this is the Boston Celtics and Isaiah Thomas. He had an amazing season for them in 2016-17, and put off surgery (and has now missed almost two full seasons) to help the Celtics with its playoff run. Thomas and others felt like the trade was a stab in the back and that there is no loyalty in sports.
However, the Celtics didn’t just trade him for a random piece, but traded him for an upgrade at point guard and one of the most talented offensive players in the game, Kyrie Irving. Most GMs would have made the trade, but it didn’t make it easier on the player (Danny Ainge did trade him to play with LeBron James, so it wasn’t all bad for Thomas).
This brings us to the 2019 trade deadline. The Utah Jazz have been discussed in a lot of rumors and the main two names that come up are Derrick Favors and Ricky Rubio. Both players love playing for coach Quin Snyder, GM Dennis Lindsey, owner Gail Miller and Jazz fans. The team that Lindsey has built displays some of the best camaraderie of any team in the NBA.
Rubio, along with Favors, are a huge part of the roster mix and trading one or both of these players could make an impact.
When Favors re-signed with the Jazz in the offseason, he talked about sacrifices he knew he would make.
A trade would be hard for Favors but it might be easier to go through if the Jazz send him to a situation in which he wouldn’t have to sacrifice and could continue to play for a winner. It would still be difficult, just like with the Conley situation, but it could be the best thing for his career as well as for the Jazz.
Rubio loves it here as well and wants to stay. After hearing his name in trade rumors for Conley, Rubio put up 20 points and nine assists against the Hawks and gave that quote on camaraderie, which seemed like a plea to Lindsey not to trade him.
After his experience in Minnesota with then coach and team president Tom Thibodeau, Rubio doesn’t take where he plays lightly. In coming to Utah, he has the first coach that has truly believed in him and has helped unlock more confidence in his game. Getting traded away from his current team wouldn’t be easy.Comment on this story
The hard thing about the NBA and trades is that the assets are people with feelings. Balancing the different aspects of player transactions is not an easy task. Former Philadelphia 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie was let go a few years ago, during “The Process, ” because he took the human element out of it. He treated his players like they were basketball cards and not the people on them. This led to agents steering their players away from the Sixers during free agency and trying to keep them from drafting their clients.
Lindsey’s job is to build the Jazz into a contender. The Jazz are on the verge of this and if trading a beloved figure will help improve the team, short and long term, Lindsey has to do it. Throughout the trade process, remembering that players are people too and treating them as such will hopefully make a difficult situation a little easier.