SALT LAKE CITY — The air had cleared, the storm clouds departed, and a lot of Utahns breathed a sign of relief. That wasn’t just because of the weather.
Mostly it was about the NBA’s trade deadline passing silently for the Jazz. The team that beat Phoenix by 28 points the previous night is the same team that will be hosting San Antonio Saturday afternoon. It’s also the team that has captured Jazz fans’ interest. But capturing their imagination is more complicated.
A trade to get Mike Conley would have been a major help. But it takes giving up assets. Apparently Ricky Rubio, Derrick Favors and draft picks weren’t enough for Memphis.
So the Jazz are standing pat, which is their default mode — and practically everyone else’s. Most trades don’t happen, and one-sided ones are rare. Considering the outcome on Thursday, the Jazz could have napped until next summer’s draft. That’s not the worst idea.
Team management has actually been good with summer moves. It’s true the Jazz added Jae Crowder on trade day a year ago. But June is when they acquired the rights to Donovan Mitchell and a week later gained Ricky Rubio. It was also June when they negotiated Trey Burke (meh), Raul Neto (hmmmm) and Rudy Gobert (wow!) in 2013.
In June 2005 they traded up to get Deron Williams.
That’s why even though the trade date has expired, that doesn’t mean the Jazz have. Summer is coming. For now they’ll remain good. Most likely they’ll end up where they have the past two years, i.e. second round of the playoffs. A staple of motivational speakers is this: “If you keep doing what you’ve been doing, you’ll get what you’ve been getting.”
That’s good and bad news for the Jazz.
Much as the Jazz have connected with their fan base, it’s hard to greatly improve via chemistry and maturity alone. Mitchell and Gobert will grow, but other key players such as Joe Ingles, Rubio, Kyle Korver, Favors and Thabo Sefolosha have peaked. Crowder is on middle ground. Younger players such as Royce O’Neale, Georges Niang and Grayson Allen haven’t hit their ceiling, but how high is that?
Dante Exum has occasional moments and is occasionally healthy. Case closed.
This doesn’t sit well with fans who think deadline trades are like buffet dining. For others, as long as the Jazz have a marquee player or two, they’re fine. Heaven help them if the Jazz ever fall into the Kirilenko-Ostertag-Arroyo ravine.
Where the Jazz are right now is good. But moving beyond will take a star. Much of the buildup to the trade deadline focused on the Jazz wanting Conley, a 12-year veteran who is past his best, but would still be a major boost. Not only is he a point guard, but a scoring point guard.
Multiple publications said the Jazz offered Favors, Rubio and a first-round pick, but Tony Jones of The Athletic said the Grizzlies wanted Exum, too. It’s not like the Jazz are blind to Exum’s uneven results, but the interest shows he’ll have trade value next summer.10 comments on this story
February’s trade deadline is always more about motion than progress. Rumors start flying, but there are few important swaps. For most teams, it turns into a nothing burger with cheese. Conley didn’t end up in Utah, nor did Toronto’s Kyle Lowry. New Orleans’ Anthony Davis stayed where he was.
How many truly big deadline trades have the Jazz made? Jeff Hornacek in 1994. Maybe Williams for Favors and Devin Harris in 2011, or Rodney Hood for Crowder.
But this year’s Jazz need someone who launches them, not merely helps them. They couldn’t make that happen in February, so they’re back where they were 24 hours ago. Which means they’ll be back where they were nine months ago in the postseason. Beyond that depends on what they do this summer.