With the NBA trade deadline (Feb. 8) bearing down, nobody is completely sure what the Jazz will do, perhaps not even the Jazz themselves. There are so many moving parts to managing a trade. These matters can be complicated and uncertain straight through until a deal actually is done.
If a deal is done.
But it is apparent — perfectly clear — what the Jazz need.
There is a hole in their lineup that must be filled if they ever are to ascend toward real contention even as Donovan Mitchell grows into the remarkable star he will be and Rudy Gobert continues his formidable presence in the middle of the Jazz defense.
They need at least one more legitimate offensive piece, maybe two. Somebody —somebodies — who can and will shoot. Not a little bit here and there, but on the reg, players Quin Snyder can count on to consistently hit the freaking outside shot.
The Jazz need more firepower.
Even with the injuries and acclimation issues they have faced this season, the 22-28 Jazz usually win when they score more than 100 points. Doesn’t matter what the opponent does. That’s happened 29 times, and they’ve won 18 of those games.
Compare that with the record when the Jazz score under 100, which has happened in 21 games. They’ve won four of them.
Not surprisingly, when they pour on the points, the Jazz hit 48 percent of their shots, just better than 41 percent from deep. When they don’t, they shoot 41 and 30 percent.
Conventional thought says when a team plays better defense, it plays better offense. In the Jazz’s case, that bit of wisdom can be flipped. When they play better offense, they not only play better defense, they play better, all around. It’s a part of human — player — nature that even Snyder concedes.
The Jazz have averaged 108 points during their current three-game winning streak — hurt not at all by their 129-point performance against the Warriors, all as the defense has shined.
With as much time and emphasis as Snyder and his assistants put on resistance, as long as proper communication there happens, and, most importantly, as long as Gobert is on the court — the Jazz lead the league in defensive efficiency since he’s returned to the lineup — that end of the floor will be an absolute strength.
But no. The Jazz need points and the shooting, the offensive flow that leads to them.
Part of that can be accomplished via trade. The other part will have to wait for the draft and perhaps a trade or signing in the offseason. On account of the fact that the Jazz are building around Gobert, who is 25, and Mitchell, who is 21, don’t expect the team to acquire older veterans unless it is simply a matter of taking on a short-term deal to facilitate something else.
Speculation on the Jazz’s end has centered on the team moving Rodney Hood or Derrick Favors.
Favors because he plays a better five than a four, and the team is pretty well set at the center position with Gobert there. From time to time, the combo-pack of Favors alongside Gobert has worked, but statistically speaking, the two of them on the court together doesn’t hold up. The reason? Spacing, spacing, spacing. How many times has that word been spoken around here? The Jazz need more of a threat from the perimeter at the four to help open up Snyder’s preferred attack. Anybody with eyes to see knows this, including Jazz management.
Favors has played at a high level this season, demonstrated by his stellar performance against Golden State, when he went for 18 points and 10 boards in the Jazz’s 30-point victory.
But there are other factors at play. Favors is an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, and the Jazz aren’t expected to pay him for the reasons already addressed. What might he draw from a different suitor? Money around the league, in a general sense, will be much tighter in the coming offseason, but the Jazz already have spent — most happily — $100-plus million on Gobert. Nobody’s sure who will spend what on Favors.
Hood is a puzzler. He’s so capable and productive on some nights and on others … well, not much works. It’s difficult to construct a contender not knowing what will be coming on any given night from the oh-so-important wing position. Add in Hood’s lack of durability, and the puzzle misses even more pieces.
No one on the outside might know exactly who or what the Jazz can or will move or who they have targeted as a prize in trade. They value their draft picks and will not give up first-rounders easily because of their success with evaluating, recognizing and getting guys like Gobert and Mitchell.
But what they need is no mystery at all. Fill in the name(s) to accomplish the task.
Gordon Monson hosts “The Big Show” with Spence Checketts weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.