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Favors, Jerebko Lead the Way in Jazz’s Rout of Nuggets

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With no games on the Saturday or Sunday, it seemed like a good opportunity for a Salt City Hoops Q&A. To my surprise, only question came in about the team as presently constituted1. The rest focused on potential future Jazzmen, including G-Leaguers, trade targets, or free agents. 

On to the questions!

 

What would have to happen to replace Derrick Favors in the starting lineup? – @caseygreer2

Casey chimes in with the only question about the Jazz on the court, as opposed to a potential personnel move, so he’s first in line.

First off, Favors is a huge asset to the Utah Jazz. It’s hard to imagine the Jazz being able to find a more talented backup center for the minutes Rudy Gobert rests or (God forbid) any games Gobert misses. On the current roster, those minutes would be taken by the steady but offensively limited Ekpe Udoh, or in theory second-year man Tony Bradley, who has yet to play 10 NBA games or 30 NBA minutes.

That said, fans often question Favors’ fit in the starting lineup, probably with good reason. Advanced stats make it pretty clear that the starting lineup is outplayed pretty handily by the Rubio-Mitchell-Ingles-Crowder-Gobert combo, and it’s not really close. Starters have tallied a 0.6 net rating to date, while the same lineup with Crowder in for Favors scores a 17.5 net rating. Across the board, the numbers favor a Favors-less, Crowder-ful team on the floor. Shooting is better and the ball moves better; only rebounding percentage is slightly better with the Favors lineup.

So what has to happen for Crowder to get the start and for Favors to come off the bench? Honestly, I’m surprised it hasn’t happened already, given what I perceive as Quin Snyder’s affinity for a stretch four on the floor. Last season Crowder was new to the Jazz and less prepared physically, so not making the change then was understandable. This season the sample size is still fairly small. At some point, if the results stay the same or close, I think Snyder makes the change unless he feels like he would lose Favors in the process.

I have more thoughts about how that rotation might work, but if I get into that, this will become an entire column, not an answer to a single question.

 

Do the Jazz have any rights to (SLC Stars forward) Willie Reed? Or does he just play for the Stars? – @deige22

In short, he just plays for the Stars. Only NBA assignees (Tony Bradley in the Jazz/Stars case) or players with Two-Way Contracts (Naz Mitrou-Long and Tyler Cavanaugh) have contracts with the NBA affiliate. As such they are only eligible to be called up by that affiliate, not by other teams.

The vast majority of G-League players sign a contract with the league, not the NBA affiliate, and this is the case with G-League draft picks like Reed. The Stars have no exclusive right to call him up to the Jazz; any NBA team that wants to call Reed up can do so. That said, the Stars selected him, so the Jazz may have had some interest in evaluating him up close. They seem somewhat pleased with the pick, having filmed his introductions with the front office and interviewing him during a Jazz game2. If the Jazz want to retain Reed longer term, they could opt to offer Reed either a Two-Way Contract or a full NBA contract (presumably for the minimum salary, although the Jazz could use an exception to offer more). Either option would require the Jazz to clear a roster spot.

In his first three games, Reed has likely turned some heads somewhere in the league, averaging 30.7 ppg on .755 FG%, 13.7 rpg and 1.3 bpg. If he keeps that up for long, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see someone call him up. He’s very long (although not a stretch four or five – a potential strike against him in today’s NBA), and he has NBA experience.

 

What’s the next significant move the Jazz make and when? – @Jazzies12

There are a couple ways to answer this question. The first is that any move Dennis Lindsey makes could be significant. When the Jazz claimed Joe Ingles off waivers, nobody called that a significant move, and yet he has been proven to be an NBA starter and a huge asset for the Jazz. In hindsight, that was a significant move.

That said, I assume you mean a SIGNIFICANT move, like bringing in a high-level player who is already proven and a good fit, then adding the Jazz development and system like a cherry on top. The short answer is that it could happen any time. There could be a blockbuster trade tomorrow (but I doubt it), or there could be a move at the deadline that qualifies as significant. In my opinion, the best chance for a significant move is a free agent pickup during the offseason, and we’ll talk about that more later.

 

When is Favors eligible to be traded (not that I want that – he played really well yesterday – just curious on options)? – @trueblueclint

That’s a simple answer, so I won’t belabor this one. Because Derrick Favors was signed with Larry Bird rights and the Jazz are over the salary cap, Favors can’t be traded until January 153.

 

I’m really curious about trade ideas, mostly dealing with Favors or Alec Burks. Seems like expiring contracts don’t carry the same weight they used to. I feel like the Jazz need more shooting, any thoughts on who and what they’d cost? – @dallas_sawyer

It is true that expiring contracts haven’t been as valuable in recent years as they once were, but with a larger crop of good free agents in 2019, we might see a shift.

Even with Burks’ resurgence this year, I sense that the Jazz and Burks will part ways next July 2019, when he will be an unrestricted free agent. It may be his decision or the team’s, or it may very well be mutual. If I’m reading those tea leaves correctly, it would make sense to move Burks if the Jazz get a chance to gain some kind of asset, as long as that asset doesn’t hamper future flexibility.

Favors is a different story. I don’t know if the Jazz will pick up the guarantee for the second year of Favors’ contract, but the harsh reality is that the Jazz need him for the reasons stated above. The Jazz might survive without power forward Derrick Favors, but they really need backup center Derrick Favors. He shouldn’t be traded unless it improves the team, and that would have to include a capable backup center either coming back in the deal or joining the team some other way.

Finally, I agree the Jazz could use a little more consistent shooting, but improving shooting via trade doesn’t necessarily equate to improving the team. For example, the worst three-point shooters so far have been Ricky Rubio and Dante Exum. Any shooter the Jazz acquire in a deal likely doesn’t take minutes from either player, but from a someone who is shooting better (like Burks at .579 from three). Donovan Mitchell is also shooting a subpar percentage, but I’m pretty sure I don’t want to sit him so that a career great shooter like Kyle Korver can launch some threes. For the moment, I think shooting improvement comes from in-season improvement, but obviously that assessment could change if it continues to be a problem at the 20, 30 or 40-game mark.

 

Do you think the Jazz are real players in free agency, or should they focus on the trade deadline to build next year’s roster like they did last season? – @JamonWinegar

Everything I’ve read (no inside information from me, sorry!) tells me that Plan A is free agency. The Jazz feel like they can be players not at the very top of the free agent list, but in the range where they can still get a player they want. More on those types of players later.

In order to abandon Plan A in February in favor of a deadline deal, the Jazz would want to get a similar type of player with a reasonable amount of time left on a contract. If they can’t do that, I think they wait and roll the dice in the summer. There’s an exception for deals involving taking on expiring contracts, as those don’t affect Plan A.

 

Do you think the Jazz will go after Tobias Harris or Khris Middleton in free agency? – @newbymiles89

I think both players are on Lindsey’s radar, and are exactly the type of player the Jazz expect to compete for next July, not the Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving tier. Both are 20-point scorers, but are somewhat under the radar, Middleton due to playing with the Greek Freak, and Harris because he’s been around the league a bit. Given a choice, I’d pick Middleton, but nothing happens in a vacuum, and Harris isn’t a bad consolation prize.

 

Thanks to everyone for the questions! We’ll do this again in a few weeks!

Ken’s connection to the Jazz started in the mid 1980s in the old Salt Palace and hasn’t really missed a beat since. Ken lives in the Phoenix area, where he and his wife operate their own business. Ken tweets at @k_clayt.


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