Utah Jazz Enter the Post-Enes Kanter Era

Rudy Gobert makes life hard for Kawhi Leonard as the Utah Jazz defeated the San Antonio Spurs 90-81 on February 23, 2015. (Credit: Tom Smart/Deseret News)
Rudy Gobert makes life hard for Kawhi Leonard as the Utah Jazz defeated the San Antonio Spurs 90-81 on February 23, 2015. (Credit: Tom Smart/Deseret News)

I think I saw somewhere that more players were traded on Thursday than anytime in Trade Deadline history. Wouldn’t surprise me. First I want to focus on the Utah Jazz and what this trade means for them, then look at everyone else.

The Jazz traded away former #3 pick Enes Kanter as well as Steve Novak for 2013 2nd round pick PF Grant Jerrett, the rights to 2010 2nd round pick C Tibor Pleiss, a lottery-protected 1st round pick from the Thunder, and the Pistons’ 2017 2nd round pick. The Thunder pick won’t be able to be used until 2017, and if Kevin Durant leaves OKC in 2016, it’s possible that pick never pans out. It turns into two 2nd round picks if not used by 2020.

At first it seems like the Jazz didn’t get that great a deal. Kanter’s only 22 and he’s going to keep getting better every year, but three years under Ty seemed to ruin him. With Rudy Gobert breathing down his neck, Kanter was still frustrated with his development and playing time under Quin Snyder, and so he figured he’d do best with a change of scenery, and he’s right. He’s on a perennial playoff team with two of the best players in the NBA, and he fills a need. He’s the starting center and so far so good for him, putting up 15 points and 12 boards in two games, both wins. He’s also had 5 assists in those two games. He had 5 total assists in the sixteen previous games. So I guess he feels comfortable to pass more on a better team.

He’ll also be a restricted free agent this summer, so the Thunder will have some difficult decisions coming soon. They’ll have to go into the luxury tax if they want to keep him. I’m happy for Enes to land in a winning franchise. I’d cheer his introduction if I attended the next Jazz home game against the Thunder.

Meanwhile, back in Utah, the Jazz are trying to get Tibor Pleiss to come over now, but it’s not a done deal. They have 10-day options like guard Bryce Cotton and big-man Jack Cooley, but if they do get Pleiss over here, and they have Jerrett, then I don’t see a reason for them to have 15 guys on the roster.

The loss of Kanter is so far looking like addition by subtraction. He wasn’t fitting in that well to what Quin wanted to do, and now Rudy Gobert can start and take the spotlight, and he has. The Utah Jazz outplayed the 4th-seed Blazers and the 7th-seed Spurs. They didn’t squeak by. They were the better team both times. The Jazz have now won 4 of their last 5, and they now look like they can aim for a 35-win season. It might lower their draft pick odds, but it increases the attractiveness of the team to free agents. “Look at our trajectory!”

Since January 1, the Jazz have the 10th best defense in the NBA (101.3 DefRtg). With more minutes for Rudy, I expect that number to get better. It still amazes me the Jazz are 25th for the year. Just shows how bad the first six weeks of the season were.

I was able to watch the Spurs game in the lower bowl, and with this vantage point, I was able to notice things that may or may not come across on TV. First, Dante Exum’s defense on Tony Parker was excellent. If you didn’t see the game and just looked at the box score, Dante’s line might not seem that great, but he impacted the game. Dante’s quick and long, and I’m excited to watch his development.

Second, the Spurs look old. I know we say that every year, but really the window looked like it’s actually closing shut. Manu Ginobili isn’t who he once was, and while Tim Duncan is still great, he can’t dominate a game the way he used to. Kawhi Leonard’s having a down year. Granted, the Jazz held the Spurs to a season-low 81 points, so anyone’s going to look bad on those kind of nights, but as long as Durant can come back quickly, I expect the Thunder to overtake the Spurs for the 7th seed.

I love that the two oldest guys on the team are rookies. Elijah Millsap and Joe Ingles are 27.

As to the other trades in the NBA, it’s looking like a win for the Thunder, a win for the Heat (who unfortunately lost Bosh), a win for the Rockets, a win for the Pistons, a win for the Blazers, a win for the aimless Sixers (MOAR picks!), a wash for the sinking Nets, and headscratching losses for the Suns and Bucks. The T-Wolves can have a feel-good gold star for getting KG back.

The Top Five and Bottom Five in the NBA by NetRtg:

1. Golden State Warriors
2. Atlanta Hawks
3. L.A. Clippers
4. Dallas Mavericks
5. Portland TrailBlazers
(19. Utah Jazz)
26. Orlando Magic
27. L.A. Lakers
28. New York Knicks
29. Minnesota TimberWolves
30. Philadelphia 76ers

About the author

John English

John studied journalism at UVU and put that to good use by writing for free for blogs on a part-time basis. Money well spent. He became an avid Jazz fan since moving to Utah in 1989. Also a fan of the NFL and BYU football.