You may be looking back on the 2013 NBA Trade Deadline and asking yourself what Atlanta and Utah were thinking? Both teams have star caliber players heading towards unrestricted free agency and likely exits from the situations they are currently in. The conventional wisdom is you cash those guys out in trade before you lose them for nothing as free agents in July right?
The Atlanta Hawks worked the phones right up to the deadline. Sources close to the process say Atlanta pulled Josh Smith off the market at 2:52pm, just eight minutes before the trade deadline. They worked the marketplace for days leading up to the deadline only to find that the return on Josh Smith would have been negligible and more importantly would have almost insured that Atlanta, the current 5th seed in the East, would have been knocked out of the playoffs based on the talent they got back for Smith. Atlanta was unwilling to trade a playoff berth and the money that comes with it, for the luggage they could have returned for Smith.
The Utah Jazz found themselves in a similar situation. They had offers and interested suitors for both Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, however none of what was being offered in return would have bolstered their chance at the postseason and from the beginning of the season the Jazz have said making the playoffs is the most important objective the franchise has.
Both teams faced the harsh reality that NBA teams don’t help other NBA teams, especially when they are viewed as weak. The Memphis Grizzlies are a perfect example.
The Grizzlies tried desperately to trade Rudy Gay in early January only to find the marketplace keenly aware that Memphis had to make a deal to get under the luxury tax. The initial offers for Gay were borderline insulting, because other NBA teams knew that Memphis had to make a deal. It wasn’t until the Grizzlies made their deal with Cleveland to get the belief that Memphis had to do a “cap dump” out of the Rudy Gay equation. That is when real offers, including the deal with Toronto surfaced.
The Hawks and Jazz listened to similar offers on their would-be free agents and simply arrived at the conclusion that making the playoffs was more valuable than what teams were willing to give for their players. Both Utah and Atlanta are looking at massive amounts of cap room this summer, and with teams at the table offering contracts with massive dollars associated – both Atlanta and Utah opted for the playoffs now and possible cap space tomorrow rather than take back luggage and kill their postseason and their cap room.