NBA Sunday: Maybe Jazz Shouldn’t Trade Big Men
In today’s NBA, talented big men come at a costly premium and the Utah Jazz are fortunate enough to possess four guys in Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter who are highly coveted throughout the league.
But, how long the Jazz continue to ride it out with those frontcourt pieces remains an intriguing mystery as the quartet has been the subject of rampant trade rumors over the past two seasons. Most observers continue to believe that the franchise will eventually be required to make a deal involving the talented frontcourt in order to shore up other areas of the roster.
However breaking up the interior strength of the roster may not be the best move for the Jazz as most teams in the Western Conference possess talented frontcourts. The Memphis Grizzlies rely on Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol in the paint, the Los Angeles Clippers have one of the league’s most athletic duos in Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, while the Los Angeles Lakers boast two future Hall of Famers in Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol in the middle.
Count third year forward Derrick Favors amongst the minority who feels the Jazz shouldn’t make any moves to shakeup the frontcourt. Favors believes the Jazz’s depth on the interior will play an important role, especially come playoff time.
“It’s important because there are a lot of good bigs in the Western Conference,” Favors told HOOPSWORLD on the need to keep the group together. “[Depth] is a big thing to have. You can go Al to Paul and then come off the bench with me and Enes and you don’t lose any production, so that’s a good thing to have.”
Jefferson and Millsap will both be unrestricted free agents next summer who will command top dollar on the open market, while Favors can potentially become a restricted free agent at the end of next season and is also expected to be in high demand. Potentially losing two talents such as Jefferson and Millsap in free agency without any assets in return has sparked many to believe the Jazz will seek a deal to bring in more pieces.
The Jazz currently have $26 million in salary commitments on the books for the 2013-14 season and will have over $30 million in cap space available. Forward Marvin Williams has an early termination option worth $7.5 million and if the veteran decides to exercise this option the team will have even more room to work the free agency and trade markets.
But for now, Favors is focusing on the Jazz’s prospects on the court this season and not worrying about the future. The former Georgia Tech product believes the Jazz are a definite playoff team this season and also feels the club can eventually claw their way into the conversation of the league’s elite with more discipline and hard work.
“We’re a playoff team,” Favors said confidently. “You don’t want to think of yourself as a lottery team. We think we’re a playoff team and sometimes we play like it and sometimes we don’t. We just have to figure that part out, but I think we’re a playoff team.
“We’re ready to be considered one of the elite teams in the West. We just have to continue to work hard and keep improving.”
The Jazz currently sit eleventh in the Western Conference and would miss the playoffs if the postseason were to begin today, however, the team remains only one game behind the eighth seeded Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Toronto Raptors Are On A Mission, But Can They Make A Playoff Run?
The Toronto Raptors entered this season as a trendy sleeper pick in more than a few preseason ranking lists but struggled mightily out of the gate battling an assortment of injuries and trade rumors.
The Raptors started the season 5-19 and whispers even began starting to question the long term future of head coach Dwane Casey with the organization. But, over the past two weeks the Raptors have reeled off seven victories versus just one defeat and now find themselves just four games behind the reeling Boston Celtics for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Point guard Kyle Lowry says the team’s chemistry has improved a great deal since the start of the season and is one of the reasons the Raptors have been able to win at a high clip as of late.
“Honestly, just togetherness,” Lowry told HOOPSWORLD. “You see everyone cheering for each other, everyone jumping up and down. It works easy, everyone has confidence in everyone’s abilities, there is no one guy trying to do it all. When it’s like that and you have a dynamic like that, it’s just a team effort. You got 13-15 guys on one string.”
The team’s leading scorer, DeMar DeRozan, says the early losing left a bitter taste circulating in the locker room and guys are now hungry to prove how good the team can ultimately become.
“I think everybody on this team is just hungry,” DeRozan said. “We had a lot of bad luck earlier in the season with injuries and close games we should have won. Everybody is just hungry, it’s desperation time. So every time we step out on the court, we’re going to play like it’s our last game.”
During the Raptors’ current hot streak they’ve secured wins over Dallas, Houston, Cleveland, Detroit, Orlando (2) and New Orleans.
Lowry feels the team has displayed a huge amount of perseverance after overcoming a horrid start and the guard the team is mentally prepared to continue playing consistent basketball – night in and night out.
“We struggled to start the season,” Lowry said. “A lot of things didn’t go our way, lost a lot of close games and everything wasn’t the greatest. But good teams string it together and we’re trying to become a good team and string them together. If we lose one, bounce back and get the next one and play like we didn’t lose the night before.”
DeRozan agreed with Lowry’s assessment and noted the team’s confidence levels are at an all-time high in the locker room.
“It’s definitely high,” DeRozan said of his teammates’ confidence. “When we’re sharing the ball and talking on both ends, we tend to make it fun. Once we make the game fun, everybody’s confidence level gets high and we feel like we can’t be stopped.”
The Raptors will start a six game home stand on January 2 with Portland, Sacramento, Oklahoma City, Philadelphia, Charlotte and Milwaukee traveling to the Air Canada Centre. The Raptors currently own a 7-5 record at home, while struggling on the road at 4-15.
This home stand will go a long way in determining if the Raptors can rebound and make a strong playoff push.
Brandon Roy Won’t Retire, Seeking More Treatment
The Minnesota Timberwolves expected shooting guard Brandon Roy to be an integral part of their playoff push this season, but the veteran has only appeared in five contests with the club posting averages of six points and five assists on just 31 percent shooting from the floor.
Roy continues to battle chronic knee pain, due to a lack of knee cartilage, which initially forced the former All-Star to retire before the start of the 2012 campaign.
Although initial reports led many to believe Roy was contemplating retirement with his latest setback, the guard says walking away from the game isn’t in the cards and he’s currently seeking alternative treatment options.
“The past two days I have been weighing all my options as I try to continue my basketball career,” Roy said according to the Associated Press. “I have decided to explore additional treatment options and an extensive rehabilitation plan. My goal has been, and continues to be, to return to the basketball court as healthy as possible in order to help our team.”
T’Wolves president David Kahn says the franchise is pulling for Roy to return to the lineup healthy, but is mindful that a return to action may never come.
“We’re hoping for the best and preparing for the worst, meaning I think the team has to prepare as if it may not work, and do what’s necessary,” Kahn said. “Having said that … I’m rooting for him, and am hopeful it will work, but we have to proceed as it may not and thus have to be very open in what we do.”
The T’Wolves had been linked to James Anderson, a 2010 first round draft choice, in recent days as a measure to shore up their depth in the backcourt. But have apparently removed themselves from pursuing the guard after working him out on Wednesday.
Roy signed a two-year deal worth $10 million to join the T’Wolves during free agency last summer. The deal is not guaranteed for the 2013-14 campaign.