Utah Jazz trade rumors: Team might choose between Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap

Soobum Im-US PRESSWIRE

The Utah Jazz probably won't be able to hang on to both Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap in the upcoming free agency process. They might be on the market to get something in return for one now rather than lose one for nothing this summer.

Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap will both be free agents this summer. Utah has to decide whether they'll be able to keep both - and if not, which one they can get something quality in return for.

The Jazz' outlook

It's not that the Jazz are a bad team: they're the seventh seed in the Western Conference, pretty safe at this point in the season from falling out of playoff contention. And that success is almost entirely due to a strong frontcourt Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. Both guys are gifted scorers and strong rebounders, giving Utah a decent season.

But it's not something that's going to be sustainable for Utah. For starters, both players are free agents this offseason. If Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum stay with their current teams, Jefferson will be the top big man on the market and is on the fringe of being worth a max contract -- meaning that even if the Jazz are willing to pay up, they might lose him for nothing if he likes another team better. And Millsap won't be courted as heavily, but there's a chance he leaves as well. So a trade for one of those two could be worth it just to avoid losing talent for nothing. Even if they did want to keep both players, its not likely it would be financially feasible with their free agency upcoming.

And as SLC Dunk writes, the Jazz have somewhat of a logjam: Jefferson and Millsap are ahead of two younger players -- Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors, drafted with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2011 and 2010 drafts, respectively -- capable of playing their positions who haven't had a chance to play significant minutes. Having a wealth of big man talent is a great problem to have, but moving someone will open up minutes for young talent that needs it, while helping them at other areas.

Namely, they could use a point guard: with Mo Williams hurt for most of the year, they've been playing back-from-the-dead Jamaal Tinsley and Earl Watson at point guard, but a trade could bring in someone to supersede Tinsley -- or even Williams -- in the rotation.

Dealing Millsap

Although both have been bandied about, it seems more likely the Jazz will deal Millsap, since Jefferson is the more valuable and productive of the two. Also, opposing teams could be worried about the likelihood of resigning Jefferson.

The strongest rumor surrounding Millsap has him going to the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for Eric Bledsoe. It's a deal that makes sense for both teams: the Jazz are obviously looking for somebody to run the point, and Bledsoe is a speedy 23-year-old who has seemingly discovered how to contribute offensively. The Clippers had been most strongly linked to Kevin Garnett, but it doesn't seem like that deal is going to go through, and Millsap provides some of the same things: a guy who can get by at center while spreading the floor for Blake Griffin and Chris Paul by hitting jumpers.

There's also a lot of talk about Millsap heading to the Brooklyn Nets, a move that would reunite him with his old point guard, Deron Williams. It's not clear who the Nets would send back, but they've been rumored to be shopping MarShon Brooks and Kris Humphries in other deals.

Dealing Jefferson

The Suns were linked to Jefferson as part of a deal that would also bring Gordon Hayward. However, that's a lot to ask for -- a team's best player and a younger player who is third on the team in scoring -- and its not clear the lowly Suns have the assets. They'd have to give up Marcin Gortat and Jared Dudley, and neither really fills team needs for the Jazz - they're just replacements for the players Utah would be giving up.

The Spurs were considered frontrunners at one point for Jefferson, but Ric Bucher reports this isn't particularly likely. It would be a little strange for the team with the best record in the NBA to make a major deadline deal, even if Jefferson would be a strong contributor for a championship-caliber team if he ever got the opportunity to play for one.

Other moves

Some less involved rumors surround Raja Bell, the veteran shooting guard the team has essentially been paying not to play this season. They've been shopping him to anybody who will listen, and reportedly, the Lakers are one of those teams, as Mike D'Antoni would love to have one of his players back to play alongside Steve Nash.

They're also possibly interested in backup point guard Eric Maynor from Oklahoma City.

What's the gist

The Jazz likely aren't going to be able to keep Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson, and if they did, it could cripple them financially. They might as well get something out of it. There's a lot of teams that would love to have frontcourt players of their talent, and they could benefit from bringing in a point guard, and also get some potential future stars some playing time.

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