Best trade in franchise history with the Philadelphia 76ers
The John Stockton and Karl Malone era of Utah Jazz basketball was the indisputable best era in franchise history. This is not a controversial take; it is practically irrefutable. The highlight of the dynamic duo came in 1996-97, when the Jazz finished 64-18 and advanced to the NBA Finals.
Stockton and Malone aren’t just the two best players in Utah Jazz history. They both have a strong case for being the best player to ever hold their respective positions in NBA history. Still, they couldn’t carry the Jazz to the back-to-back NBA Finals trips on their own. As the 1993-94 season approached, the club struck a deal with the Philadelphia 76ers to provide the necessary reinforcements.
At the time, this exchange looked like a solid comeback for both teams. Jeff Malone may be one of the forgotten players in history, but he wasn’t a scrub. He obtains the unique distinction of being the second best Malone in the history of Utah Jazz.
At the time, he was starting his season at 32 and was arguably in decline. He was coming off a season where he averaged 16.2 points per game – a solid score, but relatively far from the 20.2 per game he averaged in Salt Lake City in 1991-92.
Unfortunately for the 76ers, the talented off guard was about to suffer one of the steepest drops imaginable. Malone would average 5.8 points per game during the 1995-96 season, having accumulated 18.4 points per night from 19 games the previous season.
Meanwhile, Jeff Hornacek was a bespoke third man for dynamic pick-and-roll duo Utah Jazz. From his first 1993-94 season in Utah until his retirement in 1999-00, he hit a target below 40% of a three-point range precisely once. Undeniably, The Paperboy would have thrived in modern gaming. It’s inconceivable that a constant 40% three-point shooter would average 1.9 attempts per game throughout his career in today’s NBA.
Hornacek has found ways to make exceptional contributions to Salt Lake City regardless. His best scoring season for the Utah Jazz came in 1994-95, when he averaged 16.5 points per game for the team. During this time, he remained a staunch defenseman throughout his career, posting a remarkable defensive rating of 100 during his season at the age of 35 in 1998-99.
In total, the trade generated 55 Win Shares (WS) for the Utah Jazz and a modest 1.6 for the 76ers. It was an exchange which had the appearances of an equal exchange when it occurred, but which in retrospect was one-sided.
Casual NBA watchers around the world remember Stockon / Malone’s remarkably successful era of Utah Jazz basketball. Die-hard Salt Lake City fans know that Jeff Hornacek’s ground spacing and defense were integral to the success of the era.