Fake Trade Friday: Volume 2

Every Friday until the trade deadline I will take a look at the pros and cons of a completely fake, unsubstantiated trade. This week I fake liberate two of the year’s most tradeable assets from their current situations.

The Trade:

Utah Jazz Receive
Eric Bledsoe (2 yrs remaining)
Caron Butler (2 yrs remaining)

Salary Taken On: $9,707,720
Salary Sent Out: $10,840,934

Los Angeles Clippers Receive
Paul Millsap (1 yr remaining)
Jamaal Tinsley (1 yr remaining)
DeMarre Carroll (1 yr remaining)

Salary Taken On: $10,840,934
Salary Sent Out: $9,707,720

Why the Jazz Would Do It
Millsap, along with center Al Jefferson, is in the last year of his contract, and the frontcourt of the future is already waiting in the wings in Utah. Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter have both played well in their reserve roles, and Favors in particular has shown the ability to be a special player with his game-changing defense. In order for the Jazz to allocate significant playing time to these young players one or both of Millsap and Jefferson must go. Jefferson’s $15 million contract is a major roadblock to moving him, but a lot of teams would like to have Millsap, who can play tough defense, rebound, and has shown a willingness to play a reserve role in the past.

In addition to the frontcourt duo, Utah also has two promising young wings in Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks. The jury is still out on Burks, but Hayward is clearly capable of starting. The only position at which the Jazz are lacking young talent is point guard, and Bledsoe is the best option on the market. He is disruptive defensively and uses his athleticism to make plays on offense. Adding Bledsoe, along with two first-round picks in next year’s draft (Utah’s own pick and a top-6 protected pick from Golden State), the Jazz could have one of the most talented teams in the league in a couple of years.

Why the Jazz Wouldn’t Do It
Currently the Jazz are tied for seventh in the Western Conference, and they may believe that Millsap would give them a better shot at the playoffs this year than Bledsoe. Millsap may also be in their long term plans as part of a three big rotation with Favors and Kanter.

Perhaps the bigger concern is that they would be required to add Caron Butler’s contract for next season. If both Millsap and Jefferson are allowed to leave in free agency Utah could have enough cap space to offer a max contract this offseason. Salt Lake City isn’t exactly a major free agent destination, but the Jazz may prefer to see what could happen with the cap space and a couple of picks rather than making a move now.

Why the Clippers Would Do It
The Clippers know that they need to trade Bledsoe to capitalize on his value now and gain pieces to help their chances of winning a championship. With Chris Paul on the team Bledsoe will never get the amount of playing time his production demands, so moving him for a piece that could fit better with their current roster is a must.

Of course, if Bledsoe needs to get traded because he backs up one of the team’s two stars, it’s fair to ask why it makes sense to trade for a backup for Blake Griffin, the other star.

The reason is that the Clippers need some help up front, where DeAndre Jordan’s foul shooting and defense have him playing just 24 minutes per game and the top reserve is Lamar Odom. Since it’s not 2009 this is less than ideal, even though Odom has rebounded from his slump from last season and the beginning of this season to play respectable basketball.

Millsap would be a massive plus off the bench, bringing his strong defense and solid rebounding, as well as a knack for scoring as a second option on the bench unit. He could also be utilized in huge units featuring Griffin and Jordan up front and Millsap at small forward. Similar lineups have been successful change of pace groups in Utah.

Beyond this season, the Clippers would not have to deal with Caron Butler’s contract being on the books for another year, and they would have a strong chance to re-sign Millsap if he did not receive a huge offer from another team in the offseason. If he chooses to leave, the Clippers’ salary burden is reduced.

The rest of L.A.’s haul would help balance the roster, but that’s about it. Carroll could provide value with his energy and decent scoring, but he would likely play behind Grant Hill and Matt Barnes. Tinsley would play a few minutes a night behind Paul, but Jamal Crawford would be the primary ball handler for the second unit.

Why the Clippers Wouldn’t Do It
If Paul’s recent string of missed games has convinced management that they need to keep Bledsoe around, no trade will happen. Realistically, however, there is no chance this team will win a championship without Chris Paul. Chauncey Billups is also slated to return soon, which could make it easier to let Bledsoe go if this is a concern.

The only other reason the Clippers would not go through with this trade is the players they would be receiving in return. Millsap is nice, but there is also a need on the wing and adding a shooter couldn’t hurt. Plus, L.A. could want more long-term assets as opposed to expiring contracts.

For the short term though, this deal would add another piece to the puzzle in a potential championship season for the Clippers, while on the other side it would secure a key building block for the future and potential All-Star for Utah.