New Orleans • Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey has a difficult job this week.
The NBA’s trade deadline is Thursday, and the Jazz have been active in talks. They’ve assessed and reassessed the roster, asking themselves what moves they should make. There have been multiple reports on who may or may not be available on the trade market.
But as the Jazz prepare to face the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night, there’s another question they must face.
Should they make a move at all?
It’s a valid question. The Jazz are playing their best basketball of the season, winners of six consecutive games, including four by double digits. They have the NBA’s best net rating (10.9) over their last nine games. They’ve beaten the Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs, Toronto Raptors and New Orleans Pelicans during the streak. And they aren’t just beating teams, they are destroying them.
So does Lindsey simply leave well enough alone with the deadline looming? Does he trade Rodney Hood or Derrick Favors?
What once looked like an easy decision to shake up the roster now looks complicated. There’s an argument to be made that the Jazz are playing too well to make a trade.
“I’m going to be happy either way,” Favors said. “I’ve been through this before. My rookie year, I thought I wasn’t going to get traded, and then I did. So I have to clear my mind. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I just have to go out there and have fun and see what happens.”
The Jazz may rethink their strategy a bit with the current hot streak, The Tribune has learned. Utah has been committed to trading Hood and gauging the market for Favors and Alec Burks. Veteran Joe Johnson has emerged as a buyout candidate if no trade partner is found in the next few days.
But the Jazz have gone from 19-28 with little hope of a postseason run to 25-28 with significant hope for a playoff berth. A once-frustrated locker room has life. The Jazz are defending like one of the best teams in the league, as was expected at the beginning of the season. They have scored at least 120 points in four consecutive games, something wholly unexpected at the beginning of the season.
Favors is a big reason for this. He is averaging 14.6 points and 8.4 rebounds over his last five games and scored in double digits in each of them. He’s defending as well as he has all season and even made two 3-pointers against the New Orleans Pelicans. In a season that’s undergone a stunning turnaround, Favors’ individual game has coincided with that.
“Derrick’s been really engaged and focused,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “He’s been precise. He’s had attention to detail and he’s competing. He’s making winning plays and he’s having fun playing basketball again. And that’s great to see.”
The landscape around the Jazz is showing vulnerability. The Los Angeles Clippers traded star Blake Griffin, while New Orleans lost All-Star DeMarcus Cousins to injury for the remainder of the season.
And the market simply may not be there for Favors. He’s thought of as a center in the new-age NBA, a position that isn’t nearly as crucial as it used to be. Teams may not want to hand assets to the Jazz for Favors, who will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. The Pelicans already traded for Nikola Mirotic, and the Boston Celtics are in the midst of picking up Greg Monroe. And in a telling sign, the Milwaukee Bucks, who badly needed another big man, traded for Tyler Zeller on Monday. They surrendered a second-round pick in the deal, which means they bought low.
In this environment, it means Hood has emerged as their most tradable piece. According to league sources, the Jazz are seeking a first-round pick in return and multiple teams have shown interest in the shooting guard. If anyone changes teams in the next few days, Hood is the best bet. He’s a scoring wing, which is in high demand around the league. He will be a restricted free agent this summer, which means if he is traded, that team will control his rights. He is talented, as his 30-point showing against New Orleans showed.
The Jazz expect activity to ramp up in the 24 hours before the deadline, which means teams will begin to get serious about potential offers. But if the past two weeks have shown anything, it’s that Utah has a new dynamic to consider.
The Jazz actually may be a playoff team now.
UTAH JAZZ AT MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES <br>When • 6 p.m. MT Wednesday <br>Where • FedEx Forum, Memphis <br>TV • AT&T SportsNet <br>Radio • 1280 AM; 97.5 FM <br>Records • Utah 25-28; Memphis 18-34 <br>About the Jazz • Utah rookie Donovan Mitchell scored 2 points on 1-of-6 shooting in Monday’s win over the New Orleans Pelicans. … The Jazz have scored at least 120 points in four consecutive games. … Five of Utah’s last six wins have come over teams currently in playoff position. … Jazz guard Rodney Hood scored 30 points off the bench against New Orleans. He outscored the entire Pelicans bench 30-29. … The Jazz have won three of their last four games by at least 20 points. <br>About the Grizzlies • Memphis is holding out guard Tyreke Evans until a trade can be worked out. … Heading into Tuesday night, the Grizzlies had lost four of their last five games and three straight. … The Jazz will have seen both Gasol brothers on their current road trip. They played against Pau in Saturday’s win over the Spurs. Younger brother Marc is Memphis’ best player. … This will be the first meeting between the two teams this season. … The Grizzlies will be playing on the tail end of a back-to-back. They face the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday night.