One of the biggest strengths of the Utah Jazz is their insane depth in the frontcourt. Al Jefferson, Derrick Favors, Paul Milsap and Enes Kanter are all worthy of being starters on this team, as well as many other rosters around the league.
There isn’t enough ball and playing time for all of those bigs to be effective at the moment. The smart move would be to part ways with one of the four in order to improve depth at other positions.
The name being tossed around as a possible candidate to be moved before the February 21st trade deadline is Al Jefferson.
In fact, the San Antonio Spurs are expressing heavy interest in acquiring his services, as Chris Sheridan recently acknowledged in a recent report for SheridanHoops.com.
Here is the latest they are telling me: The San Antonio Spurs are the front-runners to land Al Jefferson in a trade with the Utah Jazz – and they are frontrunners like Secretariat was in the 1973 Belmont Stakes.
Jefferson and the Spurs seem like a match made in basketball heaven.
Through 49 games, Al is averaging 17.1 points on 49% shooting from the field, as well as 9.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.1 blocks a game.
The Tim Duncan (36) era in San Antonio (unfortunately) won’t last forever, The Spurs need to start looking towards the future, even though the present isn’t at all negative (39-11. first in Western Conference).
A trade between the Spurs and Jazz works perfectly for both parties involved. San Antonio could use a guy like Jefferson to be the focal point of the frontcourt once Duncan walks off into the sunset, and Utah would not only clear up some more minutes for guys like Favors and Kanter, but they could snag some pretty sweet pieces from a fairly deep Spurs roster as well.
Utah is very thin in their backcourt with Mo Williams constantly injured and veterans like Jamaal Tinsley needing to play more minutes as a result. On the other hand, the Spurs have a couple of quality point guards in Nando De Colo and Patty Mills just wasting away on their bench that, with the opportunity to play, could certainly thrive on another team.
I’m well aware that a couple of backup point guards would not be enough to sway Utah to part with a player the caliber of Al Jefferson, but it’s certainly a start.
With the long-term potential Kawhi Leonard presents at the small forward position, I doubt San Antonio would willingly part with him either.
That just leaves guys like Tiago Splitter, Stephen Jackson (expiring contract), Danny Green, Dejuan Blair and Matt Bonner (owed just $1 million) as potential names to fill in any gapping holes in a possible trade. A first-round draft pick would (more than likely) need to be included to top things off.
Would any combination of those players, as well as a point guard in De Colo/Mills, be enough to make the Jazz pull the trigger? (Trevor Zickgraf of Project Spurs recently came up with a number of packages San Antonio could offer that would work under the salary cap).
Quality big men who average 17 points and nine rebounds a game aren’t exactly growing on trees these days. Al Jefferson will become an unrestricted free-agent this summer, so there is a strong possibility that he will walk and leave the Jazz with absolutely nothing.
Utah currently sit seventh in the Western Conference with a record of 28-22. While their success through the first three months of the season deserves to be applauded, no one in their right mind would ever confuse them for a team worthy of challenging the likes of the Oklahoma City Thunder, or even the San Antonio Spurs themselves on the road to the NBA Finals.
I can’t argue with those who believe that the Spurs should stand put with what they have. They currently own the best record in the entire league, so it’s not like they’re in a rush to make any serious moves. Although, regular season success doesn’t always carry over into the postseason, and the Spurs should know that better than anyone else, at least in recent memory. Jefferson could be that weapon San Antonio needs to reach the NBA Finals once again.
Al Jefferson would fit in seamlessly with the Spurs system. He’s a prototypical big man who loves playing back to the basket, which would take more pressure off of the shoulders of Tim Duncan to produce in the paint. Splitter is too inconsistent to trust on offense just yet, so what Jefferson could provide in that department would be a tremendous asset to have.
It should be noted though just how awful Al is on defense. the Jazz give up 110.53 points per 100 possessions while Jefferson is on the floor. When he is off the floor, their defensive efficiency drops to 101.21 points per 100 possessions allowed. That essentially means that Utah’s defense gets nearly 10 points per 100 possessions better when Jefferson is not playing.
Dealing a guy like Splitter in a deal for Jefferson would be swapping strong defense for offensive production, but I’m sure a renowned head coach like Gregg Popovich could help cover up any flaws in Al’s game.
Whether it be expiring contracts like Stephen Jackson, a backup center to Enes Kanter in Tiago Splitter or a point guard for the future in Mills/De Colo, the San Antonio Spurs present the Utah Jazz with many appealing pieces for Al Jefferson.
Utah should just get what they can while they can, because that February 21st deadline is creeping closer and closer.