Monday’s Morning Huddle is a weekly column that highlights all the teams from across the great state of Utah, as well as some national sports news. Author Spencer Durrant can be found on Twitter here,@Spencer_Durrant
Ah, the trade deadline in the NBA, a time of year that’s surely headache for every GM in the league, but one that fans look forward to every season. This year, the Utah Jazz are oddly in the thick of trade talks, popping up in multiple rumors. I talked about the proposed Al Jefferson trade last week, and this week has seen the arrival of yet another rumor. According to multiple sources, the Los Angeles Clippers are looking to deal their backup point guard Eric Bledsoe for Utah’s Paul Millsap.
Clint Peterson did a great piece on the logistics of the deal, taking into account cap space and those other things that always seem to muddy up the amazing trades we fans come up with around the water cooler. So instead of focusing on the monetary logistics of the deal, I want to talk about why I think this is a bad trade for both teams.
First of all, the Jazz would be trading away a proven NBA talent in Millsap. Now, we’re all aware he intends to test free agency and most likely won’t return to the Jazz next season. However, Millsap has very high trade value, and Utah could probably get a better deal for him than the Clippers’ backup point guard. I threw that opinion out on Twitter and immediately had other fans pointing out to me that Bledsoe could very well be a starter on another team if he wasn’t backing up Chris Paul. To be honest, though, I don’t see it that way. Yes, I think Bledsoe could start on another team in the NBA, but can you show me a contender he’d be fit to start on? Bledsoe isn’t starting point guard material for a contending team in my opinion. If Utah is trying to build itself into a contender, bringing in a backup point guard to be the floor general of the future doesn’t seem like the wisest move.
However, this shouldn’t be taken as a guy thinking Bledsoe isn’t a good player. In the games that Bledsoe has started for the Clippers’ in Paul’s absence, he’s averaged 5.3 assists per game, pretty good for a backup. Despite those modest numbers, there seems to be a lot of chatter about Bledsoe potentially becoming a star, and there’s plenty of Jazz fans that are high on this kid. But this Jazz team has enough potential already – Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Alec Burks, and Gordon Hayward all represent the potential future for Utah. This team doesn’t need more potential; this team needs some solid veterans that know the game of basketball and know how to win in the NBA. Bringing in another project player in Bledsoe isn’t necessarily the greatest move Dennis Lindsey could make for the Jazz franchise moving forward.
Also, you have to look at this thing from the Clippers’ standpoint. They’d be taking on a great talent in Millsap, but as was previously stated, he’s a free agent after this season. Considering Millsap would likely not start for the Clippers (DeAndre Jordan, Blake Griffin, and Caron Butler man the starting front court for the Clippers), it makes little sense that he’d be willing to re-sign in LA for a bench gig. Coincidentally, the Clipppers are going to be strapped for cash in the coming years due to the new punitive luxury tax. They don’t have the money to make Millsap an offer he’d accept, and there’s no reason for them to throw $12 million+ a season to a big coming off the bench. In all honesty, the Clippers come off worse in this deal, and I have a hard time seeing them pulling the trigger on this.
Remember, this is trade season. Speculation abounds and “sources” are everywhere. It’s important to take these things with a grain of salt.
Now, let’s move on and preview the schedules for teams across the great state of Utah.
Utah Jazz (30-26, 6-4 in their last 10)
The Jazz surprised everyone Tuesday night when they managed to get a solid victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder, beating Kevin Durant and company 109-94. The next night Utah was in Minneapolis to take on the Timberwolves, a game I thought they’d lose. The Jazz had expended so much effort to beat the Thunder, I just thought they wouldn’t have enough in the tank to put away the Wolves. Despite a furious rally by Minnesota in the final minutes of the game, the Jazz did well in both their games before the All-Star break and won both games, managing to get to a 30-24 record.
This week, the Jazz only play two games. Tuesday night, they’ll be in Salt Lake City to play the Golden State Warriors, a game that will have serious consequences on playoff seeding come April. This is a game the Jazz just need to win. After three days of rest, Utah will be back at it in Los Angeles, taking on the Clippers. The Jazz haven’t won a game against LA all season, and playing this game on the road doesn’t help their chances of improving that mark. However, with the recent play the Jazz have shown and the drubbing they gave the Thunder, it’s possible that the Jazz steal a win here, but not likely. Utah will beat the Warriors but lose to the Clippers, going 1-1 this week.
BYU MBB (19-8, 9-4 WCC)
The Cougars managed to get a win against a WCC opponent at home on Saturday, beating Portland 85-67. Honestly, there’s not a lot that can be said about BYU at this point in the season that hasn’t been said already. They’re a team that has an incredibly slim chance of making the tournament (they’d have to win the WCC tourney), but the Cougars also have amazing players for the future, most notably Tyler Haws and Matt Carlino.
A lot of fans have a few problems with Carlino’s decision making, but that’s something he’ll learn over time. He’s only a sophomore and will continue to improve. Watching him play, I see a potentially good floor general for a BYU team that will be back in the big dance very soon.
This week the Cougars play Utah State on Tuesday in Provo. This game was postponed to this date after Danny Berger collapsed at practice a few days before the Cougars and Aggies were scheduled to play. BYU rescheduled, but gave themselves only a day’s rest before they have to face WCC rival St. Mary’s on Thursday at St. Mary’s. The interesting thing about this week is BYU could go 2-0 or 0-2, but I don’t see them splitting these games. If they beat the Aggies, a formidable opponent, they should have enough confidence to beat a St. Mary’s team they lost to on a crazy half court shot. If BYU drops the home contest to Utah State, it’s hard to see them going into the St. Mary’s game and winning. I think BYU will have some more problems this week and end up losing both of these games, going 0-2 on the week. (Note: Jeff Call, BYU beat writer for the Deseret News, wrote a great piece about Craig Cusick’s performance against Portland. You can read it here.)
USU MBB (18-6, 9-5 WAC)
Utah State didn’t get the win against Denver, losing 63-60 in overtime on Tuesday, but they got the win they really needed against New Mexico State on Saturday. Earlier this season, when Utah State traveled to Las Cruces to play New Mexico State, the Aggies left with a loss and two injured starters. Avenging the loss and injuries with a thrilling 73-69 win gave Utah State even more confidence going into the WAC tournament.
Jarred Shaw, Utah State’s junior center, played his heart out against New Mexico State, finishing with 11/18 shooting. Also, this game was on ESPNU, giving the Aggies great exposure this close to the start of March Madness.
The Aggies will take on in-state rival BYU on Tuesday in the postponed match up in Provo. From the confidence boost that came from beating New Mexico State, the Aggies should get a win over the Cougars in Provo. ]
Utah State starts ESPN’s BracketBusters on Saturday against Illinois St. That game will be played in Logan and the Aggies should have no problem beating Illinois St. Utah State could have another very productive week as the season winds down, which will only help them reach the big dance.
UofU MBB (11-14, 3-10 PAC-12)
What a slew of games for the Runnin’ Utes lately. After losing earlier this season to Arizona State in overtime by a single point, the Utes put together a solid conference win and gave the fans in the Huntsman Center something to cheer about.
While the Utes looked to be faltering and again giving away a game by missing free throws down the stretch, Utah still managed to pull out a win that did wonders for their confidence.
That confidence was evidenced on Sunday when No.9 Arizona came into Salt Lake City, only the second top-10 team to play there since 2002.
Even though the Utes lost that game 68-64, they have to feel good about themselves for hanging with the No.9 team in the country. For a program that’s in the midst of rebuilding, games like these are important for morale. They show the coach, athletic directors, and everyone else involved in the program how far they’ve come, and how much work still needs to be done to put the Utes back on the map as a basketball powerhouse.
Utah has one game this week, against Colorado on Thursday. The game will be in Denver. This game will be a fight between two PAC-12 bottom feeders, but with all the good that Utah’s had in the last couple of games, they should get a win here and add another conference victory to their record.
WSU MBB (19-5, 14-2 BSC)
Weber State had a great week, winning all three of their games as well as pounding rival Montana at home. The game against Montana was huge, because it’s likely a preview of the Big Sky Conference championship game. The Wildcats are playing some great basketball and continue to build a resume that will most likely carry them into the NCAA tournament, if they can win the BSC tourney.
The Wildcats managed to hand Montana their worst regular-season defeat in four years, winning 87-63. Weber’s win also snapped Montana’s 25-game BSC winning streak, the longest in conference history.
The Wildcats have one game this week against Oral Roberts in Tulsa, OK. This game kicks off Weber State’s BracketBuster’s schedule. In all honesty, the Wildcats have a legitimate shot to win out and put themselves in a great position to make a tournament run in March.
Instead of taking to Twitter with this question, I thought it’d be fun to get a discussion going in the comments section. So here’s the question I want all of you to weigh in on: who would you want to trade Paul Millsap for? I don’t care if you say LeBron James, I just want to see some good discussion and see what people are thinking about this.
Tune in next week for the next installment of Monday’s Morning Huddle.