This whole column is pure speculation, is already outdated since it was submitted two days ago, and probably is filled with incorrect assumptions about the most tight-lipped franchise in the NBA.
Chances are as you read this, you will get a good chuckle just how wrong I am, but I do not see the Jazz making the highly publicized trade with the Los Angeles Clippers. Instead, I see the Jazz either sitting this season out and waiting until the offseason to make a move or trading for a minor point guard, of which there are a couple available.
In case you have not heard the largest rumor swirling around involving the Jazz, it was reported the Jazz and the Clippers had trade discussions where they would ship Paul Millsap to Los Angeles in exchange for young guard Eric Bledsoe. Due to trade rules and roster limitations, the Clippers will need to add additional contracts to even out the salaries while the Jazz will need to waive a player for each additional contract brought on.
Bledsoe would be valuable for the Jazz heading into the future. The third-year guard already showed he can run a team effectively when he guided the Clippers while Chris Paul was out with injury. At only 23 years old, this firs- round pick out of Kentucky is the quick, dynamic guard teams are looking for. If the Jazz add him to their core of players, it will not be long before the team is challenging for the Western Conference title on an annual basis.
Considering the upside Bledsoe brings, I just do not see the deal materializing. Clipper insiders, such as ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz, insist the team will not deal Bledsoe as an insurance policy in case they cannot sign Paul to a contract this offseason. However, it is unlikely Millsap goes anywhere else, as few teams could give him the contract and the chance at winning the Clippers can.
As a result, Bledsoe’s value is higher now, especially after performing in the Slam Dunk Contest at the All-Star Game this weekend, than it will be this offseason. If the Jazz feel Bledsoe is their guard of the future, then they could get a better value in the offseason than right now.
Waiting would also benefit Millsap, who will be a free agent. In LA, Millsap would play backup to Blake Griffin, and see his value diminish in the backup role. Wherever Millsap ends up next year, starting with the Jazz improves his value compared to what will happen when his minutes are reduced in LA.
Another thing working against such a deal getting done is time. The longer this stretches out, and the rumors popped up Saturday, than the odds this deal gets completed diminishes. Someone will get buyers remorse and squash the deal before it gets legs.
Bledsoe comes at such a high price, and there are other quality point guards available, that it will probably be the Jazz who hesitate when pulling the deal. The Knicks are reportedly shopping Iman Shumpert while the Thunder have former Jazz guard Eric Maynor on the chopping block. Both are quality guards, but both are coming off injuries that cost them significant playing time. Shumpert has put up solid numbers in his return, while Maynor lost his backup role and is looking for a fresh start.
The Jazz could even look to next year’s draft, with a crop of solid facilitators available in the middle round of the draft. If the Jazz elect this path, Mo Williams would likely stay around for another few seasons to mentor the new guard.
The Bledsoe deal would be nice, but considering the several options available for the Jazz, the asking price is too high. The Jazz always said any deal they make has an eye to the future, but the team must be better now and better in the long term.
Bledsoe is a boost at this point, but does the loss of Millsap, and the loss of the financial flexibility his expiring contract brings, really improve the team?
I believe it does not, which is why I predict there will be no moves this trade deadline. Of course, I’ve been wrong before.