When Gordon Hayward decided to leave the Utah Jazz for the Boston Celtics in free agency this summer, it seemed as if the Jazz would have to start from scratch and rebuild what had taken them nearly seven years to form.
However, a move on draft night to trade up for Donovan Mitchell has helped this team remain in the race for a playoff spot in the difficult Western Conference. Mitchell has certainly filled the shoes of Hayward in a way no one could have projected when he was taken 12th overall in June.
Yet, even though Utah has a shot to make a playoff run this season, it is in their best interest to recoup some value for a couple pieces that could depart in the offseason a la Hayward. Mitchell is the future of this team and the Jazz have the opportunity to get some more prospects that can align themselves onto a timeline that better matches Mitchell’s projection.
Derrick Favors is in the final year of the four-year $46 million extension he signed in 2014. Favors was the big piece the Jazz pulled in when they made their last blockbuster trade sending Deron Williams shipped to the Brooklyn Nets. Favors has been able to evolve and develop his game to better fit the modern NBA, but with Rudy Gobert manning the middle in Utah for the foreseeable future, Favors looks like the odd man out in Salt Lake City.
With teams hoping to extract first round picks for players like Tyreke Evans and Lou Williams, it isn’t crazy to think that, for the right team, Favors could net the same price. The value of big men has dropped significantly as of late and even though Favors has expanded his range to 18 feet, he doesn’t provide consistent three-point shooting or rim protection most teams are looking for from their frontcourt players. Best case scenario, a team hoping to make a splash in the 2018 free agency class with workable assets can entice the Jazz into selling low on Favors and use his expiring deal to bolster their cap space.
A more likely target for opposing teams is swingman Rodney Hood. Hood has one year left on his deal before he becomes a restricted free agent in the summer of 2019. Hood is 6-foot-7 and possesses the ability to score from all three levels and be an average to above average defender, which makes him the exact type of player that every team could use. But constant injuries have kept him from having a real impact for the Jazz. Hood has played in only 38 games this season and was supplanted in the starting lineup by Mitchell.
Hood is most likely to be coveted by a team that is all-in to make the postseason this year, and there is a very tight race shaping up in the bottom of the Eastern Conference as just three and a half games separate the fifth and ninth seeds. Detroit made a big splash in acquiring Blake Griffin and a player like Hood could be the piece that keeps teams like the Indiana Pacers or Miami Heat above the Pistons in the standings.