NBA

Trade Grades: Jazz land Nickeil Alexander-Walker in three-team deal with Blazers and Spurs, per report

The Portland Trail Blazers, San Antonio Spurs and Utah Jazz are making a three-team trade, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Utah will land Spurs forward Juancho Hernangomez and newly acquired Blazers guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker in the deal. Portland, meanwhile, will pick up former Jazz forward Joe Ingles (who’s out for the season) along with Elijah Hughes and a second-round pick from Utah. The Spurs will take on the expiring contract of Tomas Satoransky and get a second-round pick from the Jazz for their troubles.

Utah had previously shopped Ingles, an impending free agent, along with future draft capital for a difference-making perimeter defender. Instead, they land a promising young guard in Alexander-Walker who could potentially give them valuable minutes off of the bench, and another shooter for their front court in Hernangomez. Ingles will miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL, so replacing him while adding another meaningful piece should fortify Utah’s depth.

Portland landed Alexander-Walker in Tuesday’s CJ McCollum blockbuster, but the Blazers have quite a few young guards as is. Anfernee Simons and Josh Hart are already in place as supporting pieces around Damian Lillard, so the Blazers took the opportunity to move Alexander-Walker rather than relegate him to a limited role. 

San Antonio turns Hernangomez, who wasn’t playing much, into another ball-handler for its bench. Satoransky — who was also in Tuesday’s Pelicans-Blazers deal — isn’t a major difference-maker, but he should be able to provide spot minutes off of the bench. Picking up another second-round pick doesn’t hurt either. Here’s how all three teams graded in the deal.

Utah receives:

Jazz trade grade: C

On the surface, this isn’t a bad trade. Ingles is out for the year, and Wojnarowski reports that he could be a candidate to return to Utah in free agency. That would almost certainly come at a reduced price given his injury. All things considered, getting a forward who has sometimes been playable and a guard with real upside is probably better than doing nothing. Alexander-Walker’s youth is a genuine asset even if he can’t help this year’s team. Utah’s eight highest-paid players not named Donovan Mitchell are 28 or older. The Jazz sorely needed some young blood, and their developmental infrastructure will likely serve Alexander-Walker well.

But opportunity cost is as important as literal cost for a team like Utah. The Jazz desperately need to improve their perimeter defense. This trade doesn’t do that, and it also makes it substantially harder for them to do so. Ingles’ expiring salary would have been key to matching the money necessary on any major acquisition, presumably with a future first-round pick attached. Now that Ingles is gone, though, matching money is going to be very difficult. Alexander-Walker and Hernangomez cannot be aggregated together from a salary perspective in future trades, so if the Jazz plan to add someone making starter money, they’d have to trade away another core piece. More likely, they’re looking into acquiring someone with a lower salary. Keep an eye on Kenrich Williams, who would help, but wouldn’t be as exciting as some of the other players the Jazz have reportedly targeted.

Portland receives:

Blazers trade grade: B

Financially speaking, this is a pretty good piece of business for Portland. As I’ve covered, the cap space the Blazers had created with their earlier trades was essentially fictional. Assuming they planned to keep Hart, Simons and Jusuf Nurkic, they were really only looking at around $4 million in space. Getting off of Alexander-Walker for next season could get them to around $8M, but that number could grow pretty quickly. Finding a taker for Eric Bledsoe would save them another $3.9 million, giving them more than the mid-level exception to spend even while retaining their own major free agents. That could be valuable in an offseason with very limited space. Yet if Portland chooses to operate above the cap, this deal could still prove beneficial by giving them Bird rights on Ingles. He’s a valuable role player when healthy, so the Blazers could re-sign him at a reasonable price, let him recover, and then get him back midway through next season. No matter what path they take financially, they’ve given themselves more flexibility. That’s a good bit of business. 

It’s just worth wondering what Alexander-Walker could have been for them. With Simons and Hart in place, there weren’t exactly going to be minutes and touches to spare when Lillard returns. His shooting numbers have been borderline disastrous this season for a nominal scorer, and if Portland believes he just doesn’t have an NBA future, getting off of him now makes sense. Still, it’s a bit strange to see a tanking team give up on a third-year player with as much upside as Alexander-Walker before even seeing him wear their uniform. If he does turn it around in Utah, this deal is going to look pretty bad for the Blazers.

San Antonio receives:

Spurs trade grade: B+

The Spurs are really just acting as a banker here. Satoransky has a $10 million salary this season. Hernangomez is closer to $6 million, but that figure could get closer the $7 million if he hits a few incentives. When you factor in proration, the Spurs essentially just committed to paying Satoransky somewhere between $1M-2M more than Hernangomez will make the rest of the way. Neither is guaranteed a penny next season, but for eating that extra cash right now, the Spurs picked up a free second-round pick for their troubles. That’s a nice way to spend ownership’s cash. The upside is obviously quite limited, but free picks are free picks.


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