The Great Gamble: Shaking up the Sixers and Jazz

Why the Jazz make this Trade

Mike Conley has been out with injury since early December, and prior to that he was struggling greatly to integrate into Utah’s offense. While it would seem logical to continue to roll with this team and try to make things work with Conley once he returns, I would strongly look at moving Conley if I’m Utah.

Since December 4th (Conley’s initial injury), the Jazz have gone 12-3 and crafted a 113.9 offensive rating, the fourth best mark in the league during that span. With Conley in the lineup Utah owns a bottom ten offense in the league.

To be fair, Utah has played an easier schedule since Conley has gone down, but the sample size and on court product provide overwhelming evidence that the Jazz may be better off moving on from Conley. With the current run they are on, they could negatively impact their playoff seeding trying to make the offense work with Conley. With Conley out, Donovan Mitchell has been given much more on-ball opportunity and the offense has run primarily through him. He’s a capable shooting guard, but it’s become clear during his young career that he best projects as a lead ballhandler.

Conley there minimizes the amount of control that Mitchell has over the offense, and I think with the results we’ve gotten from the past month, I’d roll the dice and keep moving with this format. For reference, Mitchell has been much more efficient and expanded his playmaking abilities since starting at the point (24.5/4.8/3.6 on 43.5%FG/36.9%3pFG/83%FT with Conley to now 25.6/4.1/5.5 on 50.2%/34.8%/85.7%). Mitchell’s Assist/Turnover ratio has actually improved which is great considering that he’s gone from a secondary to primary creator. These numbers, as well as watching Utah, shows that Mitchell has been able to get his shot and finish inside with much better efficiency now that he has more room to operate.

Joe Ingles has slid back into the starting lineup and quietly been a primary reason for Utah’s run, as he’s slashing 14.9ppg/4.5rbs/6asts on 51.9%FG/51.6%3pFG/89%FT. Prior he’d been one of the worst offensive players in the league (7.3pts/4.3rbs/3.5 asts on 36.4%FG/30.9% 3pFG/75% FT), and looked like his shot and game was broken.

So why does Horford make sense? The Jazz don’t have a four. They currently deploy Royce O’Neale, Georges Niang, and Bojan Bogdanovic at the second forward spot. While that has been great for their spacing and offensive game, it limits their defensive potential. O’Neale and Bogdanovic are plus defenders but both are much too small to capably defend the premier forwards of the West. Horford provides the defensive versatility that this team gave up when they moved on from Derrick Favors, without clogging up the offense in the same way. There is no one on this roster who can capably defend Anthony Davis (Gobert is not mobile enough, he makes his living at the rim not fifteen feet out) and having Horford gives you a player who can matchup against him.

Horford could also slot in as Utah’s backup center behind Gobert. If their minutes are staggered there are still a great deal of opportunities to go small and play 4 or 5 out.

Yes Horford is older and on a longer contract, but I believe in Quin Snyder to integrate him into the offense in a way that utilizes him as more than just a spot up shooter like has been in Philly. Just imagine the elbow playmaking/two man game that Horford and Mitchell could craft. I dream of offense like that. Horford’s game has never relied on athleticism and while his deal is large, I don’t think his play will fall off dramatically. Even if he greatly declines he’s one of the best vets in the league and could be moved in the future.

Why the Sixers make this Trade

The Sixers currently run the second least pick n roll in the league. Their halfcourt offense is one of the least watchable things on national television and I cringe everytime the game hits the final three minutes in the fourth quarter. This is what a Philly offensive set looks like in the fourth quarter of a close game; Ben Simmons brings the ball up, passes off to Josh Richardson, J-Rich dribbles for 5 seconds drives in passes out to Harris, Harris drives in has no look and passes out to Embiid in the high post, he gets doubled, passes out to Korkmaz who swings it to Harris who dribbles 6 times and shoots a 19-footer that hits the backboard.

I’m not trying to be harsh, just honest. Ben Simmons is not a point guard. A point guard can run pick and rolls, or some semblance of offense. For whatever reason, he cannot or does not do that. He often brings up the ball and fades away for the possesion, maybe he comes in for a putback or will cut back door, but often he just hangs out in the dunker spot.

Simmons needs to stop being looked at as a guard, and more as a high energy forward with good handles. He’s more like Larry Nance than any kind of guard I can think of. Brett Brown, or maybe a different coach, needs to craft an offense that utilizes Simmons as a screener, cutter, and abuser of mismatches against smaller players. And I think the best way to do that is to bring an a great passer and ball mover like Conley.

By moving on from Horford, Harris can play the four (where he should be/actually fits), Simmons can play up to the three, and Richardson is allowed to slot back as a secondary ballhandler, as he has been the primary creator for this team late in games. Conley who has played with another incredible post finisher in Marc Gasol, would immediately be the best passer that Joel Embiid has ever played with.

He would be able to find Embiid more readily in the post and I believe he would make this offense flow much more smoothly. Embiid is a force and the best weapon this team has. Right now, he’s not being used like it the majority of the time. This team needs to be Embiidcentric, and this is a step towards that. Simmons is incredible as a talent and has loads of potential, but this is a better trajectory for the team to try and win a title now.

Part of the issue for Conley this year has been the awkward fit with Gobert. Gobert is a great pick and roll threat but that’s really it. Embiid is phenomenal as a pick and roll partner and provides more spacing for Conley just with his gravity (defenders will be much less willing to drop off Embiid to cover Conley than they would be to drop off Gobert). Gobert operates within a 5 foot are, Embiid can operate anywhere on the court and while it may not seem like a big difference, this could mean the world for Conley’s at rim finishing.

Horford just has not fit in Philly and has voiced his displeasure with his role on offense. Even if the Conley trade were to not workout, Conley’s deal ends 2 years prior to Horford’s and will be an expiring next year which would be much easier for Elton Brand to stomach.

The Point

Both of these teams don’t want to make this trade and admit that their big offseason splashes didn’t pan out. But, I think this is one of the rare trades that benefits both teams. Philly and the Jazz have both largely disappointed after being seemingly primed for deep runs in the preseason by the media and their own front office’s. Winning a title requires calculated risks, and gambling with your assets to achieve something greater. It’s ballsy, but I fully believe that this trade is worth it.

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? What are your thoughts? Let me know down below.

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