The Cavaliers reportedly had an agreement in place with Kyle Korver when the shooting guard signed a three-year deal with Cleveland in 2017. If LeBron James decided to leave in free agency after the 2017-18 season, the Cavs would either trade or buy out Korver before the start of the 2018-19 campaign.
Well, it took 20 games too long, but Cleveland’s front office finally held up its end of the bargain. The Cavs agreed to trade Korver to the Jazz in exchange for Alec Burks and two second-round picks, as first reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on Wednesday night. There was plenty of interest in Korver around the league, especially in Philadelphia, but Utah’s sudden move came as a bit of a surprise — even to Korver himself.
This won’t have the same impact on the NBA as Jimmy Butler joining the 76ers, but it’s worth looking at how the early-season trade will impact a couple franchises with very different goals. Here are the full details on the Jazz-Cavs swap, plus initial grades for both sides.
Kyle Korver trade grades
Jazz receive: Kyle Korver
Cavs receive: Alec Burks, two future second-round picks (Utah’s pick in 2020 and Washington’s pick in 2021)
Korver is one of the top 3-point shooting specialists in the NBA, and that’s exactly what this Jazz squad needs. Utah is shooting 31.9 percent from beyond the arc as a team, the third-worst mark in the league ahead of only the Hawks and Thunder. The Jazz are are also a bottom-five group in offensive rating (104.5).
All of the Jazz’s outside threats have dropped off this season, including Joe Ingles, who posted exceptional numbers on catch-and-shoot opportunities last season.
|Jazz 3-point shooting %||2017-18||2018-19|
Simply putting Korver on the floor should give his new teammates more breathing room. Korver is a 43.2 percent 3-point shooter for his career, but he is somehow hitting at an even higher rate this season (46.3). Jazz head coach Quin Snyder can use Korver’s movement with pindown screens and cutting actions to draw defenders away from the basket.
Rudy Gobert is already the top roll man in the game (6.7 points per game off pick-and-roll plays). Just imagine the scoring chances he’ll see with Korver dragging big men out of the paint.
At age 37, Korver can struggle as an on-ball defender. However, the Jazz should be able to minimize his deficiencies on that end. They haven’t lived up to expectations so far, but the Jazz did look more like last year’s defensive unit in their win over the Nets on Wednesday night. Plus, Korver will be happy to see any sort of help or rotations after what he’s experienced in Cleveland.
Losing the draft picks won’t mean much in the grand scheme of things (unless the Cavs find the next Manu Ginobili in the second round), but removing Burks from the lineup will hurt a bit because he can make plays in isolation, an element severely lacking outside of Mitchell. He was only logging 15.8 minutes per game, though, and it didn’t ever click for him in Utah. (Injuries are partially responsible for that.)
POWER RANKINGS: Slumping Jazz can blame offense for fall
Financially, the trade saves the Jazz $3 million this season and creates a trade exception worth $4 million. Korver is under contract through next season, but his $7.5 million salary is only partially guaranteed for $3.44 million. (It becomes fully guaranteed if he isn’t waived by July 7.) Korver’s future will come down to how the Jazz wish to approach 2019 free agency, as the front office could attempt to clear out space by waiving or trading Korver and letting Rubio and Derrick Favors go.
In the short term, the Jazz are taking a risk in assuming Korver will remain healthy and perform at a high level. Considering the miles on his body, there’s always the possibility he could see a sudden and steep decline. And while he is a nice addition, Korver won’t fix all of Utah’s problems.
Still, Korver should provide more spacing for a rising star in Mitchell and generate opportunities for others because of how much opposing defenses fear his shooting ability. The Jazz saw a huge weakness emerging as they stumbled out of the gates to a 10-12 record, and they didn’t wait too long to address it.
Removing Korver from the equation is another step in what should be an all-out rebuild. At 4-16 overall, the Cavs are a lottery lock, and veterans like Korver, J.R. Smith and George Hill don’t make sense to keep with Cleveland’s new timeline in their post-LeBron James world.
Burks isn’t exactly a young prospect at age 27, but he could take advantage of a larger role. He has shown flashes of a balanced offensive game with the ability to score at multiple levels off the dribble. For a team relying heavily on rookie Collin Sexton and Jordan “It’s Jordan Clarkson time” Clarkson, it might not be a bad idea to let Burks act as the primary initiator on a few possessions.
Of course, acquiring Burks could just be a precursor to another trade from general manager Koby Altman later in the season.
The Cavs would have the ability to combine Burks’ salary with another player like Smith or Hill in a deal prior to the trade deadline. It’s all about adding to the asset pile, and Burks is not only an intriguing option on the court but also an expiring contract on the books. (Remember, Korver was due some amount of money.) And if the Cavs do ultimately decide they want to keep Burks, they hold his Bird rights, allowing the team to go over the salary cap to re-sign him.
Cleveland’s front office can now use those new draft picks to select young players they like or bundle them as part of another trade. The Wizards’ selection could be high in the second round if they break up the John Wall-Bradley Beal-Otto Porter core. Will Altman find a steal there?
It’s unclear how the Cavs plan to utilize Burks and the draft picks, but for the moment, they turned Korver into multiple rebuilding pieces. Maybe the Cavs could have held out a little longer to start a true bidding war before the February deadline, but this is a good haul for Korver, and it shows the front office will do right by its players.
This is a nice win for Cleveland. That’s important in a season bound to be filled with plenty of losses.