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Utah Jazz trade Derrick Favors to Thunder in cost-cutting move

Utah Jazz forward Derrick Favors (15) shoots the ball during the game at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Thursday, April 8, 2021.

Utah Jazz forward Derrick Favors (15) shoots the ball during the game at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Thursday, April 8, 2021. (Annie Barker, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Derrick Favors' homecoming lasted all one season.

The Utah Jazz are sending Favors and a future first-round draft pick to Oklahoma City in exchange for a future second-round pick, the team announced Friday. The Athletic was the first to report the Jazz were working on a trade with the Thunder. ESPN later had the details.

The deal adds to a massive stockpile of first-round picks for the Thunder. As for the Jazz, it saves them money as they try to retool with Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert's big contract extensions kicking in.

The trade gets the Jazz $13 million below the luxury tax line to begin free agency. While that won't be enough to outright sign players — the Jazz are still over the cap — it will drastically cut the team's tax bill if they do end up bringing back Mike Conley.

The Jazz are still planning on being a tax-paying team with Jazz general manger Justin Zanik even saying after the draft that new owner Ryan Smith's "resources and commitment to spending are going to be at levels that we've never done with the Jazz."

That points to the Jazz, who don't currently have any options to sign high-priced players, bringing back Conley.

Favors was a major piece in Utah's rise to playoff contention during his first eight seasons in Utah before being traded to New Orleans in 2019. He only sparingly had the same impact in his return season. Favors, 30, averaged 5.4 points and 5.5 rebounds last season in a limited role behind Gobert. Depending on Conley's figure, the Jazz could stand to save upwards of $40 million in tax money with the trade.

Considering Favors' production last season, it's a move that makes sense, but it's also one that shows the cold reality of the NBA. It's the second time in three seasons Favors has been traded from Utah in a cost-cutting move. Two summers ago, with the team looking to move the roster to a more offensively potent unit, Favors was dealt to New Orleans in order to open up space for Conley and free agent Bojan Bogdanovic.

He came back last offseason, all smiles to be back in Salt Lake City and a place he considered "home." Now, after less than a year back in Utah, he's being shipped away again. Along with saving money, the trade is an admittance of sorts from the Jazz about how poorly they've handled the backup center position.

In the last two seasons, the team has spent two first-round picks — Udoka Azubuike last season and now this trade (plus some more assets along the way) — addressing the 15 or so minutes Gobert isn't in the game.

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