How the Jazz Traded Enes Kanter, and What They Got Back

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

After weeks of speculation, the deal really occurred today: the Utah Jazz officially traded Enes Kanter and Steve Novak to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for a protected future 1st round pick from OKC[ref]More details on this later in the article.[/ref], a 2017 2nd round pick from the Detroit Pistons, Kendrick Perkins, the rights to FC Barcelona C Tibor Pleiss, and the rights to Tulsa 66ers F/C Grant Jerrett. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo was the first to report the trade.

How the trade occurred

Just 8 days ago, Enes Kanter made his trade wishes known publicly for the first time after the Jazz’s loss to the Dallas Mavericks.[ref]I covered what led up to that situation in this article, so this piece will focus largely on the week leading up to the deadline and the breakdown of the trade itself.[/ref] While Utah was very much internally looking at the possibility of trading Kanter before his comments, going public pushed Utah into acting aggressively to find a deal. The Jazz front office insisted that Enes’ demands did not change what they were willing to accept in a trade, but the feeling was that his comments made a long-lasting positive relationship less likely.

As the Jazz shopped Kanter, they looked to teams who had expressed previous interest in Kanter, who had a clear need for a big man, or had assets the Jazz really wanted to acquire. Oklahoma City was on the list largely due to the first factor alone. Oklahoma City had expressed interest earlier in the year, but while Kanter’s a good young big man, the Thunder already have a pretty solid rotation of Serge Ibaka, Stephen Adams, Kendrick Perkins, Nick Collison, Mitch McGary, and Perry Jones. All 6 of those bigs but Collison and Perkins are young.

Furthermore, the Thunder have a hodgepodge of assets that don’t really fit the Jazz’s situation, as we discovered in the trade itself. The Jazz aren’t fans of Jeremy Lamb’s game or potential, especially defensively. Reggie Jackson was a malcontent expiring without a jump shot. If the Jazz were going to acquire him, then they’d almost certainly want to match any offers he received in free agency, and they weren’t willing to commit long term to a core of Jackson/Exum/Hayward/Favors/Gobert, of whom only one can shoot.

Undeterred by this asset mismatch, the Jazz put together an offer to Oklahoma City early in the week which was discussed back and forth until the very final moments of the trade deadline, including as OKC continued to explore a deal with Brooklyn for Brook Lopez. As Quin Snyder explained, “There wasn’t any kind of watershed moment.” It was clear that this was a possibility all along.

That doesn’t mean there weren’t other offers. The Jazz had the opportunity to join the PG trade wheel as well today as part of a Kanter trade, but ultimately chose to keep Trey Burke and move Kanter in this deal. They like Trey’s attitude, and note that young PGs sometimes take several seasons to develop. They also liked adding more flexibility for this year’s offseason through the trade that occurred, rather than removing flexibility in the other offers presented. Ultimately, Oklahoma City’s desire to add Kanter forced the match.

Breaking down the deal

So what was involved in this trade? Let’s break it down, piece by piece, in order of importance.

Enes Kanter out.

Ultimately, this deal never would have occurred without Enes Kanter’s impending restricted free agency. Just like with the Deron Williams trade 4 years ago, the Jazz sought the relative security of known assets over the possibility that an important player would leave without a return. As Dennis Lindsey explained today, “We concede Enes is a very significant player, and he’s going to get a great contract, deservedly so, given his talent and his work ethic. But there’s 20 teams potentially with $10 million or more in room, so there’s some economics there, some supply and demand there.”

The Jazz felt that with the great number of teams with a large amount of cap space, Enes Kanter was going to get a deal for 10 million or dollars more per season. Essentially, Lindsey concluded, “We can’t pay everybody 10 million plus. We had to look at some hard, cold facts.”

The Jazz have already given long-term contracts to Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, and even Alec Burks at that amount or more, but felt that Enes Kanter couldn’t be trusted at that dollar amount, due to a confluence of his poor defensive numbers, his poor work sharing the ball[ref]Even in Quin Snyder’s new passing oriented system, Kanter only had 26 assists on the season[/ref], and the inconsistent attitude of both Kanter and his agent, Max Ergul. There’s a sense that Utah might be better with Kanter off the floor than on it, given his rather unimpressive plus-minus numbers during the course of his career.

And unlike with Hayward, Favors, and Burks, Utah felt comfortable turning to the rest of the roster for support. Dennis Lindsey felt both Gobert and Favors had surprised him with their growth, saying “Certainly, Rudy’s exponential growth, we didn’t expect that, I didn’t expect that, but you’ve got to react to it and acknowledge it a little bit.” and “I didn’t expect Derrick developing the power forward skills that he has today.” It was time to reward their work with the positions and roles they deserved.

Oklahoma City’s 1st round pick in.

The short version: Oklahoma City will give the first-non lottery pick that comes at least 2 years after the Thunder fulfill their obligations to trade a 1st round pick to Philadelphia. If that doesn’t happen by 2020, the Jazz will receive 2 2nd round picks.

The long version: In the Dion Waiters trade, Oklahoma City gave a first round pick to Cleveland that was protected for selections 1-18 in 2015, 1-15 in 2016, and 1-15 in 2017, then turns into 2 2nd round picks after that. The Cavaliers then flipped that to Denver in the Timofey Mozgov deal. The Nuggets then flipped that to Philadelphia in the JaVale McGee deal today.

Because of the horrendous ruin Cavaliers owner Ted Stepien caused when trading batches of first round picks in the 80s, there’s now a rule that says teams can’t trade more than consecutive 1st round picks. So the Jazz will have to wait 2 years after the Thunder give this pick to Philly in order to receive theirs. The Thunder currently have the 17th worst record in the NBA, so as of today, they would not give a pick to the Sixers, and therefore not have to give a pick to the Jazz until 2018 at the earliest. However, if the Thunder improve in the last 25 or so games[ref]With everybody healthy and Enes Kanter in the fold, it might be likely.[/ref] and get to the 19th pick, then the Jazz would receive OKC’s 2017 1st round pick.

That is, unless the Thunder were in the lottery. Then, the Jazz would not acquire the pick until the next year that the Thunder made the playoffs. The Jazz feel confident enough in OKC’s management that, regardless of Kevin Durant’s future in OKC, the team will likely be in the playoffs between 2016-17 and by 2019-2020, before the 1st round pick would sadly fall into 2 2nds. [ref] The best-case scenario for the Jazz might be this: The Thunder improve enough to be a top-12 team this season. Kevin Durant leaves in 2016 to a Eastern Conference team, say, Washington. Westbrook and Ibaka remain under contract until 2016-17, which might make the Thunder good enough to make the playoffs but not good enough to be a top team. It’s complicated.[/ref]

It’s not a brilliant set of conditions, but it’s a 1st round pick. The going rate for those is about $10 million in salary, even with onerous conditions.[ref]Like the one used in today’s Javale McGee trade.[/ref]

Steve Novak out.

Steve Novak had had two good games in his last week in a Jazz uniform, which made this part of the deal tougher for Jazz fans. But the truth is that Novak has always been a negative asset during his time with the Jazz, as evidenced by the good 2nd round pick Toronto had to give up in order to dump his $3.5 million salary on Utah. Barely playing while Utah gave minutes to a rotating cast of D-League characters over him didn’t do his trade value any favors either.

Dumping Novak in this deal, then, saves the Jazz from having to spend a 2nd round pick in order to dump him in the offseason on another team as they chase after free agents. Agents don’t love negotiating with teams that only have money to spend conditional on a trade, so this might open up free agency negotiations a little bit more than had they not moved Novak today. Back of the envelope math shows that the Jazz could end up having up to $18 million to spend in this year’s free agency, with a Booker waive, maybe allowing them the upper hand in free agency negotiations. We’ll see.

Detroit’s 2017 2nd round pick in.

This one’s actually simple! The Jazz get Detroit’s 2017 2nd round pick. This gives the Jazz 4 second round picks in that draft[ref]New York’s from Novak trade, Golden State’s from the RJ trade, Detroit’s from this trade, and their own.[/ref] and up to 3 first round picks[ref]GSW’s 2017 unprotected from the RJ trade, OKC’s from this trade (maybe), and their own.[/ref]. Maybe we’ll see 7 picks traded for the #1?

Again, Dennis Lindsey explained: “”You pooh-pooh 2nd round picks until you hit on one… Those are great chips to go to the poker table and make swaps with as well.”

Tibor Pleiss in.

Tibor Pleiss is a 7’2” German big man who currently plays for FC Barcelona, backing up fellow Jazz prospect Ante Tomic[ref]By the way, I really don’t think Tomic’s ever coming to the NBA.[/ref], ironically enough. Dennis Lindsey has watched infinitely more film on Pleiss than I have, so I’ll let him give the scouting report: “He’s a large man, and he’s getting bigger, more developed. He still has some more strength and power work to do, especially as it relates to our league. He’s big, he has very good touch, good FT shooter. He scored big with his club last year, where he was a starter, then he moved over to Barcelona where he’s Ante Tomic’s backup. He’s mobile for a guy that size.” In other words, he is large.

But when asked if he could be a defensive player, Lindsey answered, “I’d say he’s more of an offensive player. But certainly when you’re 7’2”, by definition you’re a defensive presence.” While Pleiss may be literally present on the floor, we’ve certainly learned with a number of NBA big men that size does not always equal defensive effectiveness.

Oklahoma City tried to bring Pleiss over to the NBA this season, but the buyout amount on his contract with his former team, Laboral Vitoria, was apparently prohibitive. That being said, FC Barcelona was able to conduct the buyout for a reported $650,000, just over the $600,000 allowed without paying the remaining amount on the cap. Still, when that “penalty” was combined with Pleiss’ contract demands as the Thunder’s approached the luxury tax line, they ultimately decided against it. The two planned to reopen negotiations for his NBA move this upcoming summer.

Now, though, that’s up in the air, and will probably be determined after the Jazz make initial moves this offseason. Favors and Gobert are sure to remain on the team, but will Booker? Will the Jazz draft a big man in this year’s studded class, or will they give money to a free agent big? All of these questions determine whether or not there’s space for Pleiss to join the roster.

Grant Jerrett in.

Grant Jerrett was the 40th pick in the 2013 NBA Draft by the Thunder. Lindsey wrapped him up by saying, “He’s 21, he’s 6’10’, he’s mobile, he’s shooting 38% from 3 in the D-League, and we like shooting bigs and the spacing that provides.” In other words, this is another Malcolm Thomas/Erik Murphy play for the Jazz, and while those guys didn’t work out, they also never had a chance to play under Quin Snyder. Jerrett should make the Jazz’s NBA roster immediately, as without him, they only have 12 players on the roster. More info on Jerrett’s profile entering the draft is available on DraftExpress.

Kendrick Perkins will be waived. He’s in this deal to make the salaries work.

This summer

So, what do the Jazz do this summer, now with some additional flexibility after this deal? They could do nothing, make a pick, and forward cap space onto the summer of 2016, but given the rising salary cap, that seems like a bad idea: literally every team will have salary cap space that summer.

They could also chase one of the bigger free agents. The free agent market has a lot of role players who might fit nicely in Utah’s new system: Paul Millsap, Danny Green, Wesley Matthews, and Khris Middleton are all conceivable targets. Would a good player come to Utah? Dennis Lindsey thinks maybe: “If I’m a veteran, I can start to see the pieces, not only be significant, but starting fitting together.”

But perhaps the most intriguing possibility raised by Lindsey today was this one: “We can be a serious player during the draft to take in a veteran to speed up our timeline.” The Jazz could offer their own likely top 10 pick, and/or other future assets, to entirely absorb a big-money player for a team that wanted a fresh start.[ref]Some possibilities here, completely made up just by looking at long-term salaries around the league: Kemba Walker, Chandler Parsons, Mike Conley, Chris Bosh, Nikola Pekovic, Jrue Holiday, Carmelo Anthony, Nikola Vucevic, Eric Bledsoe, Nicolas Batum, Rudy Gay, DeMarcus Cousins, Tony Parker, Kyle Lowry, Marcin Gortat.[/ref] By doing this, the Jazz might acquire a better player than going through the traditional draft and free agency route.


All in all, though, it was a momentous deal. While none of the individual pieces is the tremendously valuable type that you’d hope in return for the former 3rd pick, having a multitude of assets gives the Jazz flexibility to make a big move, possibly this summer, to take the leap as a contending team. It may seem like the assets returned today only further push Utah’s contention timeline down the road, but in reality, it may give them freedom to make the moves needed to win as soon as next season. In the end, with Kanter’s return uncertain at best, the Jazz received significant assets with which to play.


  1. Yo Momma's Pancakes

    I’m still going to pooh-pooh 2nd round picks. The way the Jazz handled the last one showed pretty poor asset management. A top 35 pick in a deep draft for a future 50ish pick sometime down the line. Bleh.

    1. Peter

      It’s actually a little better than that: from that trade Utah gets the better pick of Boston or Toronto’s 2016 2nd rounder. That’s probably mid-40s.

  2. cw

    Good article. It seems obvious that the jazz didn’t want to pay what Kanter was going to get in the summer and got what they could get in trade. The bigger issue is, missing on top 3 picks is a huge setback for a team. You don’t get those very often and to end up with nothing is a huge missed opportunity. For instance they could have drafted Jonas Valenciunas, Klay Thompson, or Kawaii Leonard.

  3. gotag

    When everything we got back either could have been bought with cash or 2nd round draft picks. It kinda feels like FO didn’t have any desire to bring Kanter back at all, otherwise why trade him for peanuts?

  4. Paul Johnson

    If the Jazz could somehow pick up Nikola Pekovic in a draft day deal–that would clearly be an upgrade replacement for Kanter. Pekovic has very similar skills and athleticism as Kanter, but is about 10 times stronger than Kanter (or any other player in the NBA)–which makes him a better defender than Kanter.

    I think this trade shows a basic organizational weakness within the Jazz that may impair the team’s success in the future. This trade demonstrates that Jazz management is extremely low risk averse–and has no tolerance whatsoever–when it comes to any kind of actual or potential organizational dissonance.

    From all indications, Kanter has never caused any kind of locker room discord or problems with the team, and was a hard worker both on and off the floor; the Jazz had the ability to force Kanter to play for the Jazz for at least 3 more years after this season (as a RFA)–for no more than the usual premium the Jazz are always required to pay to a free agent as a small market team, and in a year when a reasonable contract overpay would be swallowed up by the additional cap space that will naturally come with the new TV deal. Kanter also has a valuable skill set that the Jazz have in no other player.

    However, apparently, because of Kanter’s comments and his agent’s comments, the Jazz felt that he might become a problem for the Jazz organization in the future, if he did not get the opportunity to continue to start, and did not get the opportunity to “become a star” with the Jazz. Therefore, the Jazz desperately traded him for what amounts to nothing more than a “mess of pottage,” despite his obvious above-average talent, great size, and young age. Moreover, they traded him to a team within their own division, which means that if he blows up and does become a star, it could come back to haunt them for many years to come in relation to getting to the play-offs and having success in the play-offs.

    From an objective viewpoint, that was not a rational trade on the part of the Jazz for severalreasons.

    And, this is not a new phenomenon with the Jazz. The Jazz demonstrated that same institutional paranoia and intolerance in the manner in which it treated CJ Miles (who complained about Corbin’s communication skills in locker clean-out), in the manner in which it treated Raja Bell (who also complained about Corbin’s communication skills in locker clean out), in the manner in which it treated Paul Millsap (who clearly wanted to continue to be a starter for the Jazz, rather than come off the bench), and even in the manner in which it treated Ty Corbin (who should not have been retained for more than a year and a half, tops).

    The only player whom the Jazz allowed to engage in dissonant behavior was Karl Malone–and he was a superstar, whom the Jazz could not have survived without, so they swallowed their immense pride, and made it work, despite many, many embarrassing comments made by Malone to the press. However, Malone never let his comments to the press affect his performance on the court.

    From all indications, Kanter has never let his dissatisfaction with his treatment by the Jazz affect his performance on the court.

    I think it may seriously hamper the progress of the Jazz, if they continue to make (poor) decisions about players, based on only a possibility that a player might cause some dissonance within the organization.

    1. Don

      By all measurements, Kanter was a negative while on the floor. The Jazz were more successful with him on the bench. Snyder knew this, and left him sitting so often that Kanter requested to leave.

      You can’t fault Jazz management for playing the players that give them the best chance to win (I’m not talking about Ty’s disastrous mistakes with Kanter). Jazz fans saw a good kid, strong, good shooting and a board eater. But the numbers just didn’t add up.

      If they had, we would have received something significant in return.

    2. Spencer


      I think your post proved a good point. But I think the point was opposite of what you tried to prove. That is: If a player has a great attitude and a desire to be a part of things, then they are given a great chance to prove they can play, but if they have a bit of a high-maintenance attitude, they better be going to the Hall of Fame, or they are not worth it.

      I love that management philosophy. I apply it in my business. It is a winning recipe. Ask San Antonio. Pop says it like this, “we like players who are over themselves.”

      CJ Miles and Raja Bell are great examples of people whose opinion of their own value was much higher than it really was as was proven by what happened after they left. Namely, Bell could not find a job and Miles has been as valuable as a d-league call up even with immense opportunities.

      Kanter is different here because he is better than them, but he is also not thinking rationally about his real value. That said, I believe that Kanter could not have landed in a better situation. All they really need from him is a post presence offensively and rebounding to balance their immense perimeter talent.

      My analysis, a big win for both parties. (although I am not sure they will pay to resign him either, if the price tags gets to 10million.)

      The only other positive way I saw this playing out was for the Jazz to match any offer, have him here another year and then trade him for essentially the same thing. I was okay with either way. More likely, they would have lost him this summer for nothing.

    3. Kimball

      Pek? Just no. Never. The guy is in the same personal production group as Big Al and Kanter — he’s a great talent that puts up numbers and would have been a force in the 80s or 90s. However, he simply does not fit in today’s NBA and will never be a key piece of any great team. He lacks the speed to be effective on D, except when pure muscle is required, which is far less common these days. Moreover, I feel like we’re in good shape at the 4/5 with Favors/Gobert starting and inexpensive, productive backups, which may soon include an additional euro 7’2″ player.

      Pek will always get $10M+ for his production and he will never deliver $10M or anything close to that of winning basketball. Stay away please.

    4. JockStrap

      Gobert is simply a more dominant player where the Jazz needed it. they already have a low post presence offensively in Favors, so they didn’t need Kanter. Booker is is also a better all around player on both sides of the court plus more athletic. Kanter is a offensive player only. Now with Kanter gone it gives Rudy more minutes, which progresses him more. I think it was a great move for the future of the team.

  5. Don

    Lets hope that this is an addition by subtraction situation. We all know of his defensive issues (he was improving), but his unwillingness to pass the ball, EVER, continuously broke down Snyder’s offense. Either Kanter or Snyder had to go.

    As you mentioned, his +/-, as well as advanced stats, showed that the Jazz were better off when he was not on the court. NBA team are not stupid (mostly), and they had to be more aware than loyal Jazz fans that Kanter, despite his talent, wasn’t worth more than 2 turtle hens and a partridge in a pear tree.

  6. Tramayne

    I’ve always been ok with trading Kanter because his lack of desire to play defense. Playing defense is a mind set and Kanter didn’t have the mind set or the will to play defense. However, I am little annoyed by continually stacking up big men when what the Jazz really need are wings that can shoot the ball. With Rudy and Derrick playing the Jazz are playing respectable defense, but they’re having a hard time matching their opponents in scoring when their opponents puts a tough guard on Hayward and stacks the paint and dares the Jazz guards to shoot from the perimeter. I was hoping that the Jazz would’ve traded Kanter for Nik Stauskas and picked up a big to back up Gobert in the draft, I don’t think Evans or Jarrett will be able to hold their on in the second unit, but perhaps Ante Tomic will agree to a contract with the Jazz this summer to back up Gobert, any news on that?

  7. LKA

    Good post.Clearlythe most informative post out there. As I see the comments there are way too many armchair know it alls out there. People need to give time a chance. I remember when Stockton was drafted many fans said “Who is this?” They were all ready to hang Jazz management. But the cream rose to the top didn’t it. And probably the sweetest cream the Jazz will ever know.

  8. Robin Rodd

    I find Lindsey’s words about offering our top ten pick and future assets to absorb a big contract a bit frightening. I understand that the list of possible players is somewhat off the top of the head, but other than Bledsoe there is no one there I would get excited by (Bosh and Cousins clearly aren’t going anywhere). I would be more excited about the prospect of packaging picks, as we have done before with Deron Williams, to move up in the draft. But great post.

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