The Utah Jazz regrouped as best they could in the wake of Gordon Hayward’s departure last summer. At the very least, they entered the season as a fascinating test case: How would Utah’s patented and usually effective two-big lineups featuring Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors survive without Hayward? Would losing him sink the offensive viability of that pairing and render it ineffective? So far they seem to be missing the dynamic playmaking and shooting of Hayward immensely.
Aside from the Donovan Mitchell experience, the Jazz haven’t had many bright spots to point to this season. They are struggling to tread water, dangerously close to falling out of playoff contention. They’re sitting at 10th place in the Western Conference right now and are just a few games ahead of the lowly Lakers. Of course, Gobert’s extended absence due to injury submarined the team in December, but things haven’t exactly gone smoothly with him in the lineup either.
The de facto starting lineup of Gobert, Favors, Mitchell, Joe Ingles and Ricky Rubio has gotten completely obliterated throughout the year — its ignominious -21.9 net rating has been the second worst mark for lineups that have played at least 100 minutes. This team just can’t seem to score reliably with two bigs on the floor anymore. They don’t have enough shooting around Gobert and Favors to make things work. When those two share the floor with Rubio in particular, the spacing gets too scrunched. A bunch of Utah’s smaller lineups have been more effective than the starters.
Hard-nosed defense and effective, egalitarian offense have been Utah’s modus operandi in the Quinn Snyder era. To reestablish both, Utah will probably have to jettison the Gobert-Favors pairing. With Favors hitting unrestricted free agency soon, the Jazz should try to cash in on him if possible to get some reliable frontcourt shooting. Ingles and Jonas Jerebko are capable players at the four spot, but the Jazz will need more firepower to have a chance at making the playoffs. Even if they can’t find a suitable four man, they should simultaneously pursue some future picks and try to get off some of their bad salary. They aren’t stocked with a ton of assets at this point, but perhaps there are a few moves on the margins that could help them.
The Jazz have actively shopped Favors this year, but a workable deal has yet to materialize. Rumors of a Mirotic for Favors swap had surfaced early this month, and while he would certainly help, Mirotic might be on the way to New Orleans soon.
Given Kevin Love’s broken hand, Cleveland could be another potential landing spot for Favors. The Cavs are in a bizzaro spiral of their own, though, and finding pieces that would appease the Jazz could be tricky. With Channing Frye and Iman Shumpert possibly heading to Sacramento, the Cavs could have a hard time scrounging the salary fodder necessary to get a deal done. Tristan Thompson and J.R. Smith are on toxic deals and the Jazz will loath to take them back in a deal. Would the Jazz theoretically accept something like Kyle Korver, Cedi Osman and a Cleveland first-rounder? That kind of deal might not be on the table anyway given the fact that Korver, remarkably, might be Cleveland’s second most consistent player after LeBron James at this point.
Rodney Hood is another player the Jazz could trade within the next week. He has shown flashes of brilliance throughout his four seasons, but he has never really sustained them for extended stretches of any season. After the 2015 season, Hood seemed like a guy that rival GMs would rue passing on, but his value has definitely declined over the past two years. Much of that is due to his nagging injury issues.
The Pistons, who are going for broke after completing a mega deal Blake Griffin, appear to have shown interest in Hood. According to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, rumors around the league indicate that a Hood for Stanley Johnson trade could be in the works. Johnson has not lived up to expectations in Detroit on either end of the floor. (His broken jumper is especially concerning as far as his development goes). But this deal could be worth the risk if the Jazz feel like they can unlock Johnson’s potential. They would avoid paying Hood this summer and maintain some future cap flexibility while bolstering the wing rotation.
Finally, the Jazz could also look to move on from Rubio and Alec Burks. Rubio is a joy to watch and a wonderful player in so many facets of the game, but his fit on this team is questionable. If the Jazz end up shipping out Favors, perhaps Ricky will stay put, but he’s not the ideal guy to captain the ship on a team where every inch of space is critical. The emergence of Mitchell might have turned him into an ancillary piece anyway. So who could pursue him? The Pacers might be interested, but given the favorable contracts of guys like Darren Collison and Bojan Bogdanovic, they might be reluctant to make any kind of deal with Utah.
Moving the salary of Burks will be more difficult. You have to feel for Burks, who was becoming a productive player before a series of injuries derailed his career. He’s played in 145 total games in the past four seasons. If a team trades for him, they’ll be trying to extract a future asset out of the Jazz.