Jefferson to the Jazz?

If you want a lesson on how NBA trade exceptions are used, take a look at what the Utah Jazz are reportedly doing to acquire Al Jefferson.

The Utah Jazz have quickly moved into the lead to acquire Al Jefferson and were actively working Monday night to complete a deal with Minnesota, according to NBA front-office sources.

Sources told ESPN.com that the Jazz and Timberwolves are on the verge of completing a trade that would slot Jefferson’s contract into the $14 million trade exception that Utah created earlier this week in its sign-and-trade deal with Chicago for Carlos Boozer.

But because its trade exception is large enough to absorb Jefferson’s $13 million salary next season, Utah can complete a trade for Jefferson without sending back any players to the Wolves. Sources with knowledge of Minnesota’s thinking said Monday that the Wolves’ main aim in shopping Jefferson in recent weeks has been securing multiple future first-round picks and taking back as little salary if possible.

Via his Twitter account Monday night, Utah CEO Greg Miller wrote: “I just approved a Jazz roster move that I’m very excited about. Planning to share details tomorrow.

Playing in the NBA’s version of purgatory, Jefferson posted 21-and-11 in 2007-08 and 23-and-11 in 2008-09 before suffering a knee injury that required surgery. He finished with 17-and-9 playing alongside Kevin Love in his post-injury 2009-10.

He’s just 25 and one of the league’s true back-to-the-basket big men. Assuming his knees are okay, he will serve as a nice replacement for Carlos Boozer.

There’s an old adage — when one door closes, another opens. Congrats to the Jazz if they can swing this trade. The Mavericks were also very interested in Jefferson.

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Carlos Boozer thinks he’s better than David Lee

Per the NY Post…

Boozer was asked on ESPN 1050 if he was a better player than Lee.

“Absolutely I do. I think he’s a very good, young player though,” Boozer said. “I think he’s had a great season and he was the all star this year. I think he has a great upside to him I just think I’m better, but I mean that’s for you guys to debate about, I don’t worry about that kind of stuff.

“I just go out there and play all for my team and try everything I can to win games and win a ring. David Lee is a great young player, a good friend of mine, and of course I wish him the best of luck as well with whatever he does, if he stays in NY or if he also goes elsewhere.”

Lee just turned 27 while Boozer turns 29 in November, so Lee is about 1.5 years younger. I agree with Boozer that he’s (a little) better when he’s healthy, but that’s a big condition. Lee has missed three games in the last three years while Boozer missed 45 games during the 2008-07 season and another 80 games from 2004-2006.

Boozer is a better post up player, but the two are about the same on the glass and neither player is terribly good on the defensive end. Moreover, Boozer is (probably) going to command a starting salary of $14 million per season on his next contract while Lee will likely be $2 million – $3 million cheaper per year.

Bottom line — I’d rather have Lee because he’s younger, cheaper, more durable and almost as productive.


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NBA Draft Lottery: Who wouldn’t pick John Wall #1?

The NBA Draft Lottery is tonight, and as always, there is a lot riding on a few ping pong balls. Here is a list of the lottery teams (with their chances of winning the top pick in parenthesis) along with some discussion of their possible strategy if they do win the #1 pick.

ALMOST A SURE THING

Nets (25%)
The Wall-to-New Jersey/Brooklyn rumors have been strong all season, thanks to the Nets’ woeful record and Devin Harris’s struggles. Harris is now viewed as expendable, which means Wall would be a Net if the balls bounce their way tonight.

Wizards (10.3%)
Winning the right to draft Wall would allow the Wizards to cut ties with Gilbert Arenas and the franchise’s gun-toting past. It might also convince a free agent or two to sign for the chance to play with Wall.

76ers (5.3%)
Jrue Holiday is nice, but he’s not going to dissuade the Sixers from drafting a franchise-savior like Wall.

Pistons (5.2%)
See 76ers above but substitute “Rodney Stuckey” for “Jrue Holiday.” That is all.

Pacers (1.1%)
Indiana arguably needs a point guard more than any other team in the lottery, but with just a 1.1% chance of winning, they’re hoping against hope.

Grizzlies (0.7%)
Memphis would be buzzing with the arrival of Wall, who would seemingly be a great fit with O.J. Mayo, a re-signed Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. Memphis would likely make the playoffs next season.

Raptors (0.6%)
The chances are very slim, but winning the right to draft Wall would offset the likely loss of Chris Bosh this summer. Neither Jarrett Jack nor Jose Calderon would be enough to convince the Raptors to draft Evan Turner.

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Where do the Jazz go from here?

First of all, after watching the first few episodes of “Treme,” I find it even more ridiculous that the Utah Jazz took the “Jazz” nickname with them to Salt Lake City. The franchise should apologize to the city of New Orleans and give the name back to the Hornets, who took their name from Charlotte, whose team is now named “Bobcats” after the franchise’s former owner, Bob Johnson.

Sigh.

But back to the Jazz. They were swept out of the playoffs last night by the Lakers, which marks the third straight year that L.A. has eliminated Utah in the playoffs. Over the past three decades, the team has been the model of consistency, with just one losing season in the last 27 years. That has a lot to do with the guy at the top, Jerry Sloan, who has coached the Jazz for 21 straight seasons. One of the biggest travesties in the history of the league is that he’s never won the Coach of the Year award.

Looking ahead to this summer, one big name free agent comes to mind — Carlos Boozer. The 28-year-old forward averaged 20-11-3 this season and shot 56% from the field. Of course the Jazz want him back, right? Not so fast. This was one of Boozer’s “healthy” years. He appeared in 78 games, which marks just the fifth time in eight years that Boozer has played in 52-plus games. In short, he’s an injury risk, but when he’s healthy, he’s an All-Star. Throw in the fact that he’s getting older and it’s obvious why the Jazz are a little leery about handing him a big contract.

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Lakers hold off Jazz to win Game 1, 104-99

The Lakers led by eight heading into the fourth quarter, but with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer out of the game, the Utah reserves took advantage of the Lakers’ bench, going on an 8-1 run to start the period. After Kobe and Gasol returned, the Jazz managed to build a four-point lead with four minutes to play, but the Lakers went on a 15-6 run (featuring 11 of Kobe’s 31 points) to put the game away.

These two teams actually remind me of the Bucks/Hawks first round matchup. Like the Hawks, the Lakers are more talented, yet they tend to lose focus during (sometimes long) stretches of the game. The Jazz are a more talented version of the Bucks — a team that is going to play its heart out from start to finish. What this means is that the Jazz are probably going to have a chance to steal a game or two in L.A. They almost stole Game 1, but five straight missed shots with under four minutes to play did the Jazz in.

Like Jeff Van Gundy said, when it gets into crunch time, the Jazz need to double off of Ron Artest and force Kobe to give the ball up. If Utah can put the ball in Artest’s hands, they’ll have a better chance to win. This may go against Jerry Sloan’s straight man-to-man philosophy, but I’d rather see an uncomfortable Artest launching long jumpers than let Kobe go one-on-one with Wes Matthews.


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