Not much reaction around the league when the Utah Jazz made a trade to strengthen their bench last month, sending former lottery pick Dante Exum and a pair of second-round draft picks to Cleveland for streaky combo guard Jordan Clarkson.
Utah had been one of the league's bigger disappointments through the opening 25 games, especially after adding veteran point guard Mike Conley and 3-point shooter Bojan Bogdanovic in the offseason. But Conley got off to a slow start, and then suffered a hamstring injury which has kept him sidelined for several weeks.
Enter Clarkson, who was traded to Cleveland in a salary dump last season, but wasn't getting consistent playing time or shot attempts with the Cavs trying to develop young guards Collin Sexton and Darius Garland. Clarkson knew his days were numbered in Cleveland, and it looks like Utah is a perfect fit.
Quin Snyder has been bringing Clarkson off the bench and letting him finish games when the Jazz go with smaller lineups. Suddenly, Utah is avoiding the long scoring droughts that cost them games earlier in the season. The Jazz have reeled off nine straight wins after a come from behind victory over Washington on Sunday, moving into a tie for second place in the West.
Clarkson is averaging right around 15 points a game since coming to Utah, and gives Snyder more options with his ability to play point guard, shooting guard or small forward. When Conley returns, Clarkson can focus on being a second-unit scorer and versatile perimeter defender. Suddenly, the Jazz aren't so disappointing anymore and could be a tough out in the playoffs.
The Jazz-Cavs deal officially kicked off the NBA trade season, and we could see a number of moves by contending teams before the Feb. 6 deadline. But even if All-Star caliber players like Kevin Love, C.J. McCollum and Andre Drummond stay with their current teams, don't underestimate the impact that a quality bench player like Clarkson can have in the right system.
Now on to this week's power rankings.
NBA Power Rankings: Under the radar trade gets Jazz back in tune originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago