SALT LAKE CITY — Anthony Davis made waves across the NBA Monday when he requested a trade from the New Orleans Pelicans.
Davis, a perennial MVP candidate and arguably one of the five best players in the league, is the latest superstar in a recent string of big names to ask to be relocated before his next contract negotiations. The Pelicans will get a king's ransom for Davis, and will likely move him before the Feb. 7 trade deadline.
With the deadline nearing and the potential for big names to be moved, here’s a ranking of the best tradable assets for the Jazz.
1. Donovan Mitchell
While ranked as the best tradable asset for the Jazz, Mitchell is about as close to a non-tradable asset as there is in the NBA. Outside of the league’s true superstars — LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, James Harden, Kawhi Leonard and the aforementioned Davis — there’s nearly no opportunity for the Jazz to get equal return for a player like Mitchell.
Truthfully, the Jazz wouldn’t move Mitchell for Durant, Leonard or Davis, as each player could opt to leave the Jazz in the next six to 18 months. Additionally, James, Curry or Harden will not hit the trade market anytime soon. The Jazz are thrilled to have Mitchell on a rookie contract, and he’s almost guaranteed to stay under team control for the next six years.
2. Rudy Gobert
Gobert is the league’s best rim protector and truly has an incomparable effect on opposing offenses when he’s on the floor. Additionally, he’s an efficient offensive player and seems to enjoy living in Utah. The Jazz control his contract for the next two years at an expensive $25 million average, but he’s more than worth the money.
For the right deal, though, Gobert might be worth moving. Unless the Jazz want to audition for Davis for the next 18 months, they should be thrilled to have Gobert on the roster for as long as they can. So don’t expect Gobert to leave Utah anytime soon.
3. Draft picks
Draft picks, specifically first rounders, are the ultimate wheel greaser in today’s NBA. Rarely are high-caliber moves made that don’t include picks, and the Jazz own all of their own future picks, with the exception of a 2020 second-round pick.
It’s a little worrisome that the Jazz's third-best asset is draft picks, but they’ve had to spend past first-round picks to try to keep Gordon Hayward. The Jazz traded a lottery pick for George Hill and a first-round pick from Oklahoma City for Ricky Rubio. Those were gambles the Jazz had to make, but having two additional young players on affordable contracts would have been a nice addition for the Jazz, either as players on the roster or as trade assets.
4. Joe Ingles
Ingles has seen his shooting numbers drop off from last year’s breakout season when he was one of the league’s best deep threats, completing 44 percent of his 3-point attempts. This year, Ingles is shooting a rather pedestrian 42 percent from the floor, 35 percent from the 3-point line and a surprisingly poor 69 percent from the free-throw line.
Still, Ingles is a legitimate NBA starter, a good defender and a better-than-adequate playmaker and his shooting can help the right team win a playoff series. The Jazz signed Ingles to a declining deal, which sees his contract gradually dip from $13 million this year to $10 million by 2020-21. And at that price, assuming he doesn’t see a dramatic drop in production, he’ll remain a valuable piece.
5. Kyle Korver
The Jazz acquired Korver in November for Alec Burks, and the trade has gone as well as the Jazz could have expected. Korver is shooting 41 percent from the 3-point line and is an instant contributor off the bench. The league continues to transition to offenses focused on perimeter shooting, and Korver is one of the best shooters in NBA history.
Although Korver has some athletic shortcomings at 37 years old, he makes every team in the NBA better with his ability to space the floor. Korver is owed $7.5 million this year and has a team option for $7.5 million next season.
6. Derrick Favors/Ricky Rubio
Favors and Rubio find themselves in a similarly awkward situation with the Jazz. Both are starters, and yet, have uncertain futures with the Jazz beyond this season. Favors has a team option for $16 million in 2019-20, while Rubio becomes an unrestricted free agent in July. Both could find themselves again in a Jazz uniform next year or could be shipped out by next week.
Both are starters in the NBA and will be wherever they play next season. There’s high value in that, but they are both a bit antiquated for the modern league. Both are trying to show they can shoot the 3-point shot, but the results have been mixed. Rubio is a career 32 percent 3-point shooter, while Favors shoots just 21 percent from the 3. Neither are true plug-and-play rotation players, so their value to the Jazz as starters is probably higher than it would be for another team, even as an expiring contract.
7. Thabo Sefolosha
Sefolosha is currently out of the Jazz rotation due to injury, but is an easy fit on any NBA roster, including in Utah when he returns. At 6-foot-7, 220 pounds, Sefolosha can earn minutes at three positions and is trustworthy in the playoffs. He’s been red hot from the 3-point line this season, making a career-high 46 percent of his attempts, but is averaging a career low 3 points per game. His shooting, defensive versatility and expiring $5.2 million contract make him an ideal trade target for a team wanting to add a savvy veteran.
8. Jae Crowder
Crowder is a valuable rotation player, but a likely non-starter in the NBA and a very affordable contract. Crowder is owed an average of $7.5 million over the next two seasons and can fill a role on most NBA rosters, playing both forward spots. He’s only an average shooter and isn’t a lockdown defensive player, but is an excellent locker room presence.
Crowder provides versatility and adds a rare combination of toughness and sanity to a roster. He wouldn’t help a young team that's trying to rebuild its roster and isn’t an expiring contract, so young teams wanting to start over through trades likely wouldn’t look at Crowder. This would limit the teams the Jazz could make a trade with by next week.
9. Dante Exum
Exum is once again battling an injury that has seen him miss the last three weeks of action. But his breakout defensive performance against Harden and the Houston Rockets last year earned him a three-year, nearly $30 million contract this past summer.
Exum had a disappointing start to the year, getting benched after the Jazz acquired Korver. Exum responded nicely, though, and appeared to have taken a major step forward before injuring his ankle. At just 23 years old, there is untapped growth for Exum that another team could value. But with the little value he’s proven so far in his four-year career and the risk of injury, the two years and $20 million left on his contract likely aren’t a great value in a trade.
10. Grayson Allen/Royce O’Neale
Both Allen and O’Neale should have value around the league as secondary pieces in a trade that could turn into contributors down the road. O’Neale is more floor ready now, and has been a mainstay in the Jazz rotation, earning 18 minutes a night this season. He’s a potent 3-point shooter, sinking nearly 40 percent of his attempts this year, and provides an above-average defense. His contract is non-guaranteed next year, but at $1.6 million, so he’s a lock to make a roster.
Allen has yet to show enormous value in the NBA, struggling to shoot consistently from anywhere on the floor. Still, he’s young and has a contract that will allow him to remain under team control for most of the next decade should he prove his value as an NBA player. NBA teams always like young talent, even if it’s unproven as of yet.
11. The rest
Raul Neto, Tony Bradley, Georges Niang and Ekpe Udoh finish out the Jazz trade assets, mostly as expiring contracts to make deals work financially. Niang and Udoh both have expiring contracts this summer and can provide minutes when a team is in a pinch.
Neto and Bradley are both under team control through next year. Neto likely has the most value of the group as a proven third-string point guard, but third-string point guards aren’t impossible to find across the league.
Udoh is a fantastic locker room presence, and an underrated third-string center, but mostly serves as a rim protector and offensive garbage man. Bradley has yet to prove anything as an NBA player and spends most of his time with the Jazz's G-League affiliate. But he is just two years out from being a first-round draft pick, while Niang has an obvious role as a shooter and last resort ball handler.
The Jazz don’t need to move any of these players at the deadline, but likely wouldn’t get hung up on trading them should their salaries be needed to complete a trade.