Imagine it’s Friday and you just got you paycheck (and let’s pretend everyone doesn’t use direct-deposit). You pay the bills and you have money left-over. What do you do with it? Put it in the bank to safely earn minimal interest? Blow it on a fun night out? Or spend it all on lottery tickets? (Let’s also pretend you live in one of the 44 states that has a state-run lottery system). In yesterday’s Golden State-Utah trade, the Jazz essentially blew a year’s worth of spending-money on lottery tickets.
The Jazz could’ve taken the safe route – re-signed Paul Millsap and DeMarre Carroll for reasonable amounts and reaped the benefits and peace of mind with their effort and steady production. The Jazz could’ve taken the short-sighted “fun route” and gone after other free agents who might fill out the 2013-14 roster better but do little long-term. Ultimately the Jazz decided to invest heavily in the exciting unknown of “lottery tickets.”
With the Warriors retaining their two most tradeable assets (Harrison Barnes and Klay Thompson) as well as utilizing their available cap room to sign Andre Iguodala – G.S.’s 2014 1st-round pick figures to be in the 20’s. As we were reminded again from the 2013 draft (Rudy Gobert), a late 1st-round pick can be easily acquired for $3 million in cash.
The Jazz are essentially banking on two seemingly dubious scenarios. Either that they’ll be able to roll their 2013 cap room into something remarkable in 2014 (despite the facts that the Jazz struck out with big name FA’s in 2013 and that the 2014 FA class is dependent upon 3-4 superstars exercising ETO’s) or that Golden State will have a terrible season – with Stephen Curry’s durability the main focus point. The latter scenario also seems unlikely, given the fact that aside from the 2012-13 lockout season (which Golden State intentionally tanked) Curry has averaged playing 77.3 games in his other three seasons.
While it’s possible the Jazz could hit a homerun in 2014 free agency or with a Golden State draft pick to make this deal a homerun in retrospect, the odds certainly don’t appear significant and gambling a year’s worth of flexibility for a low-percentage wager is not sound business practice in my opinion.
As Kevin Pelton states, “$24 million in contracts is a remarkable amount to swallow, and the return for that seems relatively paltry.” This point is only further emphasized at previous salary-for-draft pick trades, ranging from the Ben Gordon trade – (courtesy of @Peter_J_Novak) to just over 3 years ago when Utah was forced to part with their 20th-overall pick – rookie Eric Maynor – to clear only a $6.5 million expiring contract off the books.
As I wrote two montsh ago, I fully support the concept of utilizing cap space to acquire future assets. Blowing the entirety of it only for 2 future Golden State picks seems incredibly risky – especially when you factor in the auxiliary factors.
The result of Utah taking on $24 million in salary meant the Jazz were forced to renounce their FA rights to PF Paul Millsap. It also created a glut of wings that forced SF and fan-favorite DeMarre Carroll (who was clearly rewarded for his loyalty and dedication to Utah) out.
Less than 8 hours after details of the trade emerged, Millsap and Carroll both signed with the Atlanta Hawks for bargain 2-year $19 million and 2-year $5 million deals, respectively. When you consider the collateral damage from the trade, it really looks like this:
The premise that re-signing Paul Millsap would have negated Utah’s 2014 cap-space is untrue. As it stands, Utah could’ve allotted $25 million to extensions for Hayward and Favors, paid Millsap $9.5 million and even after factoring in the salaries for Trey Burke, Alec Burks, Enes Kanter and Jeremy Evans, still would’ve had $12 million in capspace (assuming the cap stayed at 2013 levels rather than it’s expected increase).
As I mentioned earlier this week, Millsap could’ve easily fit into a 3-man big rotation that allowed Favors and Kanter to flourish while giving Millsap his customary 28-32 minutes. Unfortunately, they let the Hawks get an absolute bargain – 2 years $19 million to pair Al Horford up with a guy who does this:
The overstated plus-side is the Jazz will now undoubtedly rely on the Core-4 of Hayward/Burks/Favors/Kanter to finally assume larger roles (although that could also have been accomplished with Millsap and DeMarre in tow), cutting ties with virtually all of their prominent starters from 2012-13. The fact that they centered their 2012-13 team around Jefferson and Millsap – only to lose both without any compensation pushes their current decision-making further into question.
Losing Millsap to Atlanta for nothing is in stark contrast to how the San Antonio Spurs have handled their business throughout the years. Even though they had George Hill – who like Millsap was a coach and fan favorite – they recognized Hill played a position of strength and was due an extension in a year. Therefore they traded Hill to the Pacers for the draft rights to Kawhi Leonard – addressing a position of need in both a long-term and cost-efficient way.
Conversely, the Jazz kept Millsap and got nothing. Yes they got “cap space” but they could’ve traded Millsap in early 2012 for a comparable player on a 2-year deal or a lesser player on a 1-year deal that would have netted them the same future cap space, freed up playing time for Favors and Kanter, and likely still picked up a future draft pick in the process. The Jazz emphasized they wanted flexibility in 2013 and they simply rolled that over into 2014 – no differently than acquiring a 2-year deal accompanied with future assets in 2012 would have done.
Yesterday the Jazz didn’t thrust their “young guys” to the forefront because after the failures of the 2012-13 season – they already were there. The only thing Utah did was gamble sure-fire production and short-term flexibility on prospective assets and future flexibility that may be terrific, may be average, or may be mediocre. That’s a lot of “maybes” for a move that also marginalized immediate success. The Jazz enter 2013-14 with basically their five core lottery picks, a mediocre head coach and very little bench.
I truly feel the Core-4 along with Trey Burke in their first seasons as starters – coupled with 2-3 solid complimentary veterans (like Millsap and DeMarre) could contend for the playoffs. If the Jazz believe in their Core-5 to a similar extent – they should surround them with a few complementary veterans to offer needed support to help them win games. If the Jazz feel the opposite and are now suddenly willing to lose games to attain a high pick in the 2014 draft, it shows the hypocrisy of their holier-than-thou approach regarding tanking and the utter waste of time the 2012-13 season really was.
The Jazz have a lot to look forward to heading into next season. The chief complaint of mine is that they shot their 2013 offseason wad far too early, giving up too much for too many uncertainties. Only time will ultimately tell on this deal, but there are as many valid reasons to not like it as there are to like it.
With Utah’s summer league set to begin on Sunday, visions of the future will continue to blossom. It’s important to remember the real future of the Jazz revolves around Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Alec Burks and Trey Burke and not the 2014 offseason. Paul Millsap and DeMarre Carroll could’ve been a part of that grouping as well, but they were sacrificed in the name of 2014 cap room. As we learned from the past year, expecting cap space to solve all our problems can be a mirage.
In addition to renewing the use of the Jazz’s “flexibility” and “caproom” buzzwords for another season, this trade allowed the optimism and imaginations of fans to run wild with grandiose dreams for the coming years. I’m obviously not ecstatic about the trade, but I understand why others are. After all, dreaming and hoping is why people buy lottery tickets in the first place.