The Jazz have reportedly agreed to trade Trey Lyles and the No. 24 pick in the NBA draft (Tyler Lydon) to the Nuggets in exchange for the No. 13 pick (Donovan Mitchell).
Who won the trade? We break down both sides of the deal. Let's dive in.
Utah Jazz: B
Most NBA deals concern far more than just those players directly involved. That Utah was willing to ship off Trey Lyles, a talented if inconsistent big with two years’ experience under Quin Snyder, might suggest something small about the future of Derrick Favors. If the Jazz were to trade Favors (acting on long-floating interest and rumor around the league) for anything but another big, Lyles seemed a possible candidate to slide into his starting spot. Utah is already stuck juggling the free agencies of Gordon Hayward and George Hill. Landing a power forward replacement on the open market might be one acquisition too many for a team strapped by cap holds. Utah would always have the option of making Joe Johnson a full-time four, but ideally Lyles could have given the Jazz another regular option whether they kept Favors in the fold or not.
That said, it’s easy to see why Utah would be interested in Mitchell. Snyder’s democratic offense makes perfect sense for a skilled combo guard. When working alongside playmakers like Hayward (assuming he returns), Johnson, or Rodney Hood, Mitchell will be able to attack off the catch without imposing. His flexibility on defense could ultimately make him a smart pairing for Dante Exum as well. Switching and cross-matching is all but necessary for guards who make deep playoff runs. Mitchell has the wingspan to make that work and the offensive game to potentially leapfrog Alec Burks in Utah’s rotation.
Denver Nuggets: C
Lyles has an interesting array of skills that never really materialized within Utah’s offense. There’s a fair argument that a simpler system might streamline his role in a way that brings out his best basketball. Denver will search for it. Adding another shaky defensive big doesn’t align with the Nuggets’ exact needs, though they could do worse in terms of the talent play here. At issue, however, is the cost. Lyles is two years removed from his own selection at No. 12 in the draft, meaning he’s two years close to his second contract than a rookie otherwise would be without much tangible benefit to his NBA experience.
It’s not exactly heartening that the Jazz—a team as diligent in evaluating its players as any—took a pass on Lyles after two years. but Lyles should be able to do better than his sophomore slump suggests. There’s the rough outline of a stretch big and a playmaker here. Players that fit both molds can be profoundly useful in the modern NBA, giving Lyles a pretty clear roadmap to NBA relevance. This is also where Lydon comes in. Denver effectively makes two attempts at landing the same type of fill-the-gaps big by using its acquired pick on the 21-year-old forward. Lydon has some game: a little range, a little touch, and the instincts to seek out comfortable spots on the floor. One can see what the Nuggets might like in Lydon, though why his (and Lyles’) archetype would be such a clear target isn’t immediately clear. Denver also has too many prospects as it is. Adding two players so similar offsets some of the risk involved but is also inherently counterproductive. What are the odds that both Lyles and Lydon become even vaguely meaningful pieces for the Nuggets?