SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz have waited a long time to make a splash on the NBA trade market, and it appears they may finally be close to pulling the trigger on a major deal.
Several of the NBA’s news breakers, including The New York Times' Marc Stein and ESPN’s Zach Lowe have revealed the Jazz are in serious talks with the Memphis Grizzlies for guard Mike Conley Jr.
Conley, a 31-year-old point guard, has had a near All-Star career derailed by injuries, and has been overlooked in an era of elite point guards in the league. Just as Conley helped developed the "Grit and Grind" culture in Memphis, he appears to be an ideal fit in Utah as an elite perimeter defender and floor general with the ball in his hands.
A move like this is one the Jazz seem to have been building up to for nearly the past decade.
Since Deron Williams departed from the Jazz, the team has had a fluctuation rate between a mid-level playoff team and a team drafting in the late lottery. The Williams trade brought in Derrick Favors, Devin Harris and a series of draft picks. The Jazz gave up on their existing core player in Williams and decided to undergo the long game, a sometimes painful process of building a roster through the draft.
Somewhat ironically, a blockbuster trade this season could be centered around Favors, the former third-overall pick who signaled the beginning of the new-look Jazz.
While Ricky Rubio appears to be the main player named in a Conley trade, Favors' name has consistently been thrown around in trade rumors over the past two years and could be included alongside Rubio to take back extra salaries from Memphis.
While the patience the Jazz have asked of the fan base has been trying at times, now may finally be the right time to turn this roster into a true contender. Donovan Mitchell continues to evolve as an elite scoring guard in the NBA, with plenty of room to grow.
Meanwhile, Rudy Gobert narrowly missed out on an All-Star selection, but is nearly a lock to make another All-NBA team and potentially repeat as the league’s Defensive Player of the Year.
With two years remaining on Mitchell’s rookie contract, as well as having Gobert and Joe Ingles under contract through 2021, Conley’s two-year, $67 million contract fits well with the Jazz's plan. The team would have two years to compete for a title in the Western Conference before having to negotiate the next round of contracts.
The Jazz have built the current roster specifically for one of two scenarios: Surround Mitchell and Gobert with a max-level free agent this summer, where the Jazz could have as much as $30 million in cap room; or for this exact situation, where the Jazz could take on the max contract of a star from a team that is needing to begin a rebuild.
With a team that’s showed an ability to win a first-round playoff series in each of the last two seasons, the Jazz can realistically hope to take the next step by adding one final piece to the puzzle. Patience has been a common request from the team’s front office, but Jazz fans may finally be on the verge of reaping the reward of a long rebuilding process.