TRADES GALORE FOR THE UTAH JAZZ
Fans were questioning whether the Utah Jazz would be buyers or sellers coming into this trade deadline.
With the team treading water at 26-26, it was certainly difficult to predict what the front office may do.
Now with the trade deadline on hand, the Jazz have answered that question with a handful of roster shakeups.
These shakeups would tell fans that Utah is once again prioritizing getting the youth more playing time and maximizing cap space for future moves down the road, which is a nice way of saying their selling.
Here’s what has transpired up to this point in time:
Simone Fontecchio went from a seldom used player his rookie season to starting 34 of Utah’s 50 games this year.
The Italian Stallion was a serviceable starter good for 8.9 PPG, 3.5 total rebounds and shot at a 39 percent from deep.
Simone was never going to be a star as a 28-year-old second year player, but he has absolutely proven his worth at the highest level of basketball.
He can take and make open shots, defend the perimeter and was often in Utah’s closing lineups proving the trust that Coach Hardy had.
His 23.2 minutes a night prove that he’s a bit more than a spot player and is a rotational talent.
Utah jetting him away is likely a case of Fontecchio playing well enough, that when his ensuing Restricted free agency commences this year, he would likely cost more than his current average of 3 million.
The Jazz get something in return before losing him for nothing or having to pony up more cash for a player that they didn’t view as a long-term building block.
In return, Kevin Knox is a former 9th overall pick in 2018 who has largely underwhelmed most of his career.
Utah will be his 5th team since 2021, and was added more likely to make contracts matchup in the swap.
If Utah plans to keep or use him is to be determined but they gain cap flexibility as Knox is an unrestricted free agent when the season wraps.
The Jazz keep their Italian roots by obtaining the draft rights to Gabriele Procida, a 21-year-old 2nd round pick in 2022.
Procida is currently developing in the Euro league and when he decides to come to the Association is anyone’s guess, but Utah likes him well enough to guarantee he wears a Jazz jersey first.
Procida’s body, strength and size are NBA level, his shot no so much based on his current 27 percentage from deep this season for Berlin.
The intangibles are intact, but Utah is likely content to wait it out as Procida develops himself.
The best part of the trade is certainly the 2nd round pick.
Typically, second round selections are tossed around as filler and deemed the least valuable thing in a trade.
This 2nd round pick however will convey from either the Wizards or Grizzlies, which ever is more favorable in 2024.
This will likely end up being in the low 30’s or if you want to be overly optimistic, a top pick in the 2nd round.
The very next day, Utah would strike a deal with their friend from the North:
The Raptors bring home the local Canadian in Kelly Olynyk, and a young former lottery selection in Ochai Agbaji.
Kelly does a lot of useful things, and was a high-quality glue guy in Salt Lake City averaging 8.1 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 4.4 APG and doing so while hitting at near 43 percent from deep.
A lot of contending teams were vying for Olynyk’s services, but it appears the Raptors were one of the few who would give up a first round selection for him, making Utah more inclined to bite.
The pick is also for the 2024 draft, and currently stands as a late 20’s selection as the least desirable of an Oklahoma City, Los Angeles Clippers or Houston Rockets position.
Olynyk stated he loved Utah and had no issues ending the year as a Jazzman, but Kelly’s contract is up after this year and he would likely sign elsewhere as he doesn’t likely mesh with Utah’s future plans at this point.
Between Fontecchio and Olynyk, Utah tried to garner assets for guys who would end up walking away.
Ochai Agbaji is a tough one to swallow for Jazz fans.
A year ago, Agbaji was listed as an untouchable in the trade market. A for sure building block.
After a disappointing summer league and uninspiring minutes in year two, Utah pulled the plug on the 14th pick of the 2021 draft.
The Raptors will hope he can develop into the three and D player that Utah envisioned.
The defense is there, the athleticism is there, but Ochai has in his last 9 games put up grand totals of 24 points, 15 rebounds, and 15 assists.
Those 2.6 PPG, 1.7 rebounds and 1.6 assist in that span show how limited of an impact Agbaji has had on the offensive side of the ball.
Toronto will hope to unlock that offense as Agbaji is still young enough that the hope is not gone.
Agbaji finishes his Jazz tenure averaging 19.7 minutes, 5.4 PPG on 33 percent three-point shooting, 2.5 rebounds and 0.9 assists.
The Jazz get back another unfulfilled lottery prospect in Kira Lewis Jr, the 13th overall pick in 2020.
Lewis Jr has played 2 minutes in the last ten games, and 16 games on the season, 15 in New Orleans, 1 in Toronto.
On the move again, Lewis Jr has averaged 5.4 PPG. 1.8 Assists, and 1.3 rebounds while shooting 39 percent from the field and 30 percent from distance.
Like Kevin Knox, no clue what Kira Lewis Jr’s role will be on this team, if he has one at all, but he is on an expiring rookie contract.
But the expiring contracts don’t stop there, the Jazz also received Otto Porter Jr. who has played 23 games since the 2022 season began.
Only years removed from being a bench staple of a champion winning Warriors team, Porter was likely included due to him coming off the books after this season.
Porter Jr’s career is a 10.3 PPG, 40 percent three-point shooter, and 4.9 rebound stat line, but this season has seen him out of the rotation with 2.6 PPG and 1.9 rebounds.
You may ask, why would the Jazz bring in only players with expiring contracts?
It was never about the players coming back to the Jazz or the players going out. A year from now, likely none of these names would be seen on a Jazz roster.
It was simply about gaining flexibility in the money department and harvesting more draft capital to either use themselves or to package in deals for players they may want.
Nothing done helps the team win now, but it makes the coming years certainly more open to the Jazz building the team they envision.
If you’re not a patient person, Utah also made sure to open up heavy minutes, particularly at the small forward spot.
Taylor Hendricks, Utah’s 9th overall pick in this last draft, has been buried on the depth chart and has played the majority of the season with the Salt Lake City Stars.
We could expect to see him in the rotation as soon as tonight.
Jazz fans will finally get the chance to see how excited they should be about the former UCF Knight.
The youth will play more, the Jazz will develop more, and all the while remain wide open with resources and outlets to make a big splash in the near future.