While the Utah Jazz are on track to make the playoffs this year, it’s safe to say that the Jazz won’t be winning the NBA Finals this year. So, Utah is focused almost 100 percent on the future.
The Feb. 21 NBA trade deadline is fast approaching. Every team has this date circled on their calendar because it could make or break their team, in the present and in the future. Lots of great players pack their bags and head elsewhere at the trade deadline and two of the best Jazz players could be experiencing that feeling very soon.
Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap are two of Utah’s big men and they team up to create a formidable duo down low. However, it’s not leading to enough wins, so the two will probably be on different teams on Feb. 22. Both have desirable stats and are helping the Jazz, but they won’t power Utah to the NBA Finals. However, the stats show that both players are valuable and that they could lead another team to the Finals.
PER, or player efficiency rating, is a stat designed by ESPN’s John Hollinger to determine player value to a team. Jefferson is in the top 20 in the league with a 20.97 PER, while Millsap’s 20.36 PER places him in the top 25. The league average is 15.00, so you can tell that both players are far above-average in PER. In EWA, or estimated wins added, both are also among the best in the league.
EWA is designed to track how valuable a player is to his team by dividing his value added by 30, and Jefferson is tied for 12th in the league with an exceptional 8.6 EWA. Millsap isn’t as valuable in this particular statistic, but he has also added an estimated seven wins, which is very noteworthy. The two combine for almost 16 wins, which is also exceptional, considering that the Jazz have only 28 wins this year.
However, it’s safe to assume that Millsap and/or Jefferson will be boosting their EWA with another team soon. Why? Because they are needed much more on other teams.
This may surprise the casual fan, but Jefferson would be a great fit in Miami with the Heat. The Heat may seem like a perfect team to some, but they are last in total rebounding. LeBron James is a good rebounder and Chris Bosh is one of the best power forwards in the league, as he averages 17.3 points and 7.2 rebounds per game while also shooting 54.4 percent from the field. However, Miami still averages about two less rebounds per game than their opponents, something that needs to be fixed.
Jefferson can most definitely fix that, while adding an intimidating frontcourt presence the Heat failed to acquire when they stockpiled stars in their 2010 free agency reign. Miami has missed a guy like Jefferson and it will certainly help them to have a center averaging 9.5 RPG down low. He will have about two months before the playoffs to develop chemistry with his new teammates, which will lead to a lot of success and possibly a second consecutive championship for the Heat.
Millsap is not needed in Miami, as they have Bosh at power forward, the same position Millsap plays. The last thing Millsap wants is another talented power forward on the same team as him, because he’s dealing with that in Utah. Derrick Favors is blossoming into a good player and Millsap is blocking his development. Having two months as the primary power forward and some playoffs will help Favors for the 2013-14 season, as it will be a lot better with Millsap gone.
Some people could say that Millsap or Favors could move to center (if somehow Jefferson leaves and Millsap stays), but Millsap is just 6’8″ and Favors is just 6’10″. Neither can handle being a center and Favors shouldn’t have to. Millsap will be a free agent after the season and he won’t be re-signing with Utah if they keep him. Therefore, the Jazz will definitely look to ship him out.
While Miami doesn’t need a power forward, as they have Bosh filling that position, other teams do. The Atlanta Hawks have Ivan Johnson, Mike Scott and Anthony Tolliver as its power forwards and they could definitely use Millsap there. The Hawks are 26th in total rebounds and average 2.4 less RPG than their opponents, one of the worst marks in the league.
How could they improve that? By adding Millsap, who averages 7.3 RPG in just 30.5 minutes per game. If Millsap played 35 minutes per game, which he likely would in Atlanta, that average would be an estimated 8.4 RPG, which would help the Hawks significantly. But Millsap wouldn’t just help the Hawks. He could help any team that decided to take him.
In a separate article, I broke down three trade scenarios for Millsap. While I don’t see Miami as a suitable destination anymore, the New Orleans Hornets could be a good fit. They could move Ryan Anderson, who has a very good shot (87.9 percent free-throw shooter, 40.2 percent shooter from 3-point range) to small forward, trade Robin Lopez to Utah (in a deal for Millsap) and move Anthony Davis, who averages 12.8 rebounds per 48 minutes, to center.
That would give New Orleans a lineup of Greivis Vasquez, who averages 9.4 assists per game, Eric Gordon, who averages 16.4 PPG and almost made the 2012 U.S. Olympic team, Anderson, Millsap and Davis. With some time to gel, that would be a playoff team and a contender in the 2013-14 season. New Orleans could pull the trigger on that, and Utah would enjoy stockpiling young talent or draft picks while having a decent frontcourt with Favors, Lopez and Enes Kanter.
There are other teams that could target Jefferson, such as the Boston Celtics. Teams in need of rebounding help could even make a move, such as the San Antonio Spurs. San Antonio is tied for 24th in rebounding, with a differential of minus-1.6 RPG. That could be improved with Jefferson and while they would probably have to deal Tiago Splitter, who has added an estimated six wins for the Spurs, it would be worth it to pair up Tim Duncan and Jefferson, creating a relentless frontcourt duo second to none.
Obviously, Miami and San Antonio would both have to sacrifice a lot, but it would be worth it. Jefferson could be the piece that makes a good team great, or he could lift a team over the hump and make a good team better. While among the two, Jefferson is generally viewed as the better player with more value, Millsap could help whichever team he plays for as well, as he is one of the more underrated players in the league.
Millsap and Jefferson are great players, but their time in Utah is up. The Jazz aren’t going anywhere, and it’s time for them to move on and deal Millsap and Jefferson. There will definitely be takers, and there are lots of trades that could end up happening. We don’t know where these two players will go, but they will both help their new team achieve greatness.
And maybe, a trade for Jefferson or Millsap will allow one team to experience the glory of winning the 2013 NBA title.
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