Spurs front-runners to land Al Jefferson?

Ronald Martinez

A report surfaced today that San Antonio could be the leading player in a trade pursuit of Utah's Big Al.

I'm not generally a big trade rumor guy, basically because that's all they usually are -- rumors. The "would you do this or that?" scenarios seem pointless to me unless there are actual legs to the story. But with this one, there actually might be.

If there are, they'd be big ol', sexy, long legs.

Chris Sheridan of Sheridan Hoops reported about an hour ago that the San Antonio Spurs are the front-runners to land Jazz big man Al Jefferson, if indeed he is traded. Utah is currently sitting in the seventh spot in the West -- just a game and a half ahead of ninth-place Portland -- and is stacked in the frontcourt with some definite weaknesses in the backcourt. With Paul Millsap, Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors also in tow alongside Jefferson, the Jazz have a logjam at a position where they feature quite a bit of talent. There has been speculation over the last two years that the team would, at some point, look to move one of their interior players.

Jefferson comes with a hefty price tag -- $15 million this season -- and his contract expires after this year, so Utah risks losing him to free agency if they do not act prior to February's deadline. The Spurs' frontcourt has improved with Tiago Splitter's elevated level of play, but adding a borderline All-Star like Jefferson to the mix would be a welcomed supplement to the Big 3 as San Antonio approaches a potential playoff rematch with the likes of the Los Angeles Clippers or Oklahoma City Thunder.

As Sheridan wrote, Utah doesn't have delusions of grandeur in terms of title chances this season, but is in dire need of a point guard with Mo Williams, Gordon Hayward (though he's not a point guard, obviously) and Earl Watson on the shelf. The Spurs have three point guards on the roster -- which is basically pointless given Gary Neal's role on the team -- and could theoretically part ways with Nando De Colo or, more likely, Patty Mills. (Cory Joseph could potentially be in that mix as well, though Mills would be more readily available to contribute immediately.) Remember, former Spurs assistant GM Dennis Lindsey is now a prominent part of the Utah front office and has a familiarity level with Mills. On top of that, Spurs current assistant GM is Scott Layden, formerly of the Jazz. As a source told Sheridan, these two teams are on very good terms internally.

To make it all work out, the Spurs would conceivably have to send Splitter with Mills in the deal, unless a gift was sent from the heavens and the Jazz would ask for Matt Bonner or DeJuan Blair. (We all love you, Matt...but Big Al though.)

Note: Mills would have to give his consent on the trade given his Early Bird Rights standing. The Spurs would also most likely have to throw in a Euro-stash prospect ... possibly Erazem Lorbek.

But then comes the difficult part: asking the Jazz to take on Stephen Jackson. The Spurs' backup small forward loves his role in San Antonio, and playing in any other uniform other than the Spurs' doesn't seem to be an interest of his. As I talked about with Andrew McNeill over at 48 Minutes of Hell, Jack's contract is a great potential trade piece, but the guy who signed it might not be the most cooperative in a deal like this.

As always, Spurs fans, take it with a grain of salt. There isn't a more zipped-up organization in the league when it comes to releasing trade rumors and such, and given Jefferson's expiring contract situation, pulling the trigger would be quite difficult. It will almost assuredly be easier to sign Splitter in the offseason than it would be to re-up with Big Al, but if the Jazz agree to something like this and the Spurs decide to make a big final push this season, who knows...

Regardless, given the relationship between the two teams, this certainly could be more than just your average rumor.

Wadda ya think, guys? How would Big Al look in the silver and black?


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