For the first time in franchise history, the perennially stable Utah Jazz will be forced to make significant roster moves mid-season, undoubtedly altering the franchise, and perhaps, with it, the Western Conference or the entire NBA. The Jazz, who boast one of the league's highest payrolls, have a two-time All-Star in Carlos Boozer whom they are desperately trying to rid themselves of, as well as a max player in Andrei Kirilenko who could thrive in any other situation, along with one of the most prized assets in the entire NBA: The New York Knicks' unprotected first round pick.
The Jazz have noted that their primary goal is to incur as small a luxury tax bill as possible, which means potentially sacrificing an All-Star for undeveloped talent or players whose expiring contracts have come to define their stature in the league. The Jazz, understandably, cannot stomach financing a $77 million payroll to stand 9th in the Western Conference halfway through the season. Word is that no one on the roster except Deron Williams is indispensable, and that they're gunning to save over $10 million by the All-Star break. But rather than finding a way out, what if they exercise their considerable assets to find a way in?
As David Aldridge pointed out in an article for NBA.com, the Jazz are in a position to improve upon their already good standing (this before they dropped from 16-11 to 9th in the West) like no team since the Magic when they netted Penny in the draft the year after picking Shaq. With Boozer, a 20-10 machine, and the Knicks' first round pick in a loaded class, Aldridge noted that any team besides Kobe's Lakers and Lebron's Cavs would have to consider a Utah proposal. Unfortunately, almost every superstar the Jazz could conceivably acquire (Chris Bosh, Amar'e Stoudemire) is in a contract year, so the pool for a blockbuster deal is much shallower than analysts like Aldridge surmised.
Here are five potential deals that I hope the Jazz might consider:
Boozer ($12.7M), C.J. Miles ($3.7M), and a First-Round Pick to the Warriors for Monta Ellis ($11), Ronny Turiaf ($4.1M), and Anthony Morrow ($0.7M)
Here's the blockbuster, the home run, the deal that Sloan deserves for all he's given the team and the relatively little the Jazz have done for him by way of going out and making deals to bolster talented but incomplete teams. Assuming the Jazz are willing to take on a few contracts, giving them perhaps the league's highest payroll, this should work perfectly. The Jazz would be able to form one of the most lethal backcourts in NBA history in Deron Williams (19.5 ppg 9.8 apg) and Monta Ellis (25.8 ppg 5.2 apg), while adding a legitimate post defender in Ronny Turiaf and the best young three-point shooter in the league in Anthony Morrow.
If the Warriors haven't figured by now that they will never win with Monta Ellis running the team, their future is not bright. For the services of Ellis, Turiaf and Morrow, the Warriors, who don't have enough minutes to hard around for their plethora of young talents, would gain an All-Star in Boozer (if only for the rest of the season), as well as a sharpshooter in Miles, whom Don Nelson would surely love. But most intriguingly, the Warriors would enter next year's lauded free agent class with a payroll of just $40 million, and a solid core in Stephen Curry, Andris Biedrins, Corey Maggette, Anthony Randolph, Kelena Azubuike, Miles and Brandan Wright, not to mention the Knicks' first round pick, which will most likely fall in the top 10.
Jazz GM Kevin O'Connor has demonstrated that he won't shy away from trading within the Northwest division, and though this deal might bolster the Blazers more than the Jazz, it is still a neat scenario. Now here's a unique way for the Jazz to evade luxury tax expenditures: acquire the injured Pryzbilla and buy him out in order to avoid dollar-for-dollar luxury tax payments on his contract. To make the deal even sweeter, the Jazz would get Travis Outlaw's expiring contract - another $4 million off the books - and a potential star in Jerryd Bayless, who just might be the explosive, promise-laden scorer the Jazz need, and for just over $2 million a year. But will they be willing to hand Boozer over to a division rival?
Andrei Kirilenko ($16.5M) and Kyle Korver ($5.2M) to the Rockets for Tracy McGrady ($23.2M)
The Jazz would sell their souls for a shot at this deal, which would allow them to get rid of Kirilenko and the oft-injured Korver for a superstar with a $23 million contract that will come off the books next season. It would be hard to convince Houston to take on Kirilenko's contract for another year, but he perfectly fits the mold of that Rockets team and, as an All-Star with enviable versatility, is a good insurance policy should Yao not return in time. Korver's expiring contract is a similarly enticing pawn. If the Rockets are desperate to shed McGrady, they might give this deal a hard look.
Boozer ($12.7M) and C.J. Miles ($3.7M) to the Wizards for Caron Butler ($9.8M) and Mike James ($6.5M)
The Jazz have expressed their readiness to trade anyone on the roster except Deron Williams, while the Wizards would consider unloading everyone except Brendan Haywood, Randy Foye and Mike Miller. This is a low-risk deal for both teams, and would satisfy their respective wants. Sloan would love to have a versatile, All-Star like Butler, while Mike James' outside shooting and substantial expiring contract should have the Jazz interested. The Wizards would acquire a potential building block in Miles ($3.7M), who in his fifth season in the league is just 22 years old, and could then rid themselves in $12.7 million in cap space when Boozer's contract comes off the books at the end of the season.
Boozer ($12.7M) to the Bulls for John Salmons ($5.5M), Tyrus Thomas ($4.7 million), and Taj Gibson ($1 million)
This is the least exciting trade option, but considering Boozer's desire to play in Chicago and the Bulls' willingness to part with just about anyone, it might be the most plausible. Salmons, Thomas and Gibson certainly would not appear to be 'equal value' for Boozer on paper, but considering Utah's need for a spark plug, defensive presence, and dependable shooting, the 23-year old Thomas, 24-year old Gibson, and combustible Salmons could prove to be a worthwhile gamble.