How Good of a Match is Mike Conley with Donovan Mitchell?

Clark Schmutz , 2019-06-24 01:25:51

Every Jazz fan had an opinion about how to replace Ricky Rubio. Many are thrilled to see Mike Conley in a Jazz uniform. Others preferred D’Angelo Russell. A few probably even wanted Rubio to return. Hi mom. But what if we could statistically rate every starting guard and get an idea of how they would fit with the Jazz and specifically with Donovan Mitchell? On paper, Conley is a slick fit with both Mitchell and the Jazz, but what do the numbers suggest?

This is not some catch all numerical evaluation. Every evaluator of talent, or data, has biases and ways they interpret results. But if I could create the perfect back court mate for Donovan Mitchell, that player would have the ability to do 3 things: create good shots, both for himself and his teammates, hit open spot up shots when Donovan Mitchell is forcing help with his ball handling and drives, and be a versatile and talented defender who wouldn’t force Mitchell to always defend the opposing teams best guard. Does Mike Conley check those boxes?

Despite rumors that these two might swap cities, Rubio remains a Jazzman. (Rick Bowmer via grizzlies.com)

Those three aspects are not absolute “musts,” but they allow Donovan Mitchell to play to his strengths while enhancing the ability of the team as a whole. If James Harden magically became a Jazzman tomorrow, there is no question that the Jazz would be much much better. But it would most likely be at the expense of Mitchell’s offensive repertoire, much as Chris Paul has taken a back seat when he joined the Rockets two offseasons ago. The same is true for Steph Curry. Curry would improve the Jazz leaps and bounds, but there would also be large defensive concessions made by the Jazz and Mitchell. Harden and Curry are the best guards the Jazz could add this offseason, but they might not be the best fits. Editor’s note: The Jazz would gladly welcome Harden or Curry tomorrow in this fantasy.

Methods to the Madness

To determine Mike Conley’s, and others’ relative ability to create offense for themselves and teammates, I used cleaningtheglass.com and synergysportstech.com to find the percentile ranks of each starting guard in these areas: Usage, assists per usage; effective field goal % on non-assisted shots, the percentage of non-assisted shots, and the percentage of foul shots drawn over the last 3 seasons.  Take D’Angelo Russell for example: He is in the 97th percentile of usage, the 70th percentile for assists, the 69th percentile for effective field goal percentage of non assisted baskets, the 86th percentile for amount of unassisted baskets and the 9th percentile for free throws drawn. So 97+70+69+86+9= 331. Divide that by 5 and you get an average percentile of 66.2, which is 6.62 on a 10 point scale for shot creation.

The spot up score is the percentile of spot up shots made on the last 500 spot up shots. Pretty straight forward.

The defensive score was the toughest score to come up with, but it’s a percentile rank of the players based on defensive real plus minus stats, on-off defensive measures, and individual defensive matchup rankings.

Without further ado, here are the numbers, without comment or bias:

Before the Conley trade, I had hoped to use this evaluation to find the best guard to pair with Donovan Mitchell. Even though the trade took away the necessity of such an exercise, here is my list of best fit’s with Donovan Mitchell, who are also semi-realistic:

1. Jrue Holiday

2. Kyle Lowry

3. Tomas Satoransky

4. Mike Conley

5. Malcolm Brogdon

6. Patrick Beverly

7. Darren Collison

Holiday is young, has a reasonable contract, and checks off all the boxes, except for shooting. He’s also currently unavailable. Lowry is like Mike Conley, with a more versatile defensive toolbox. His size allows him to switch onto defenders that Mike Conley simply can’t. Satoransky and Brogdon are both great spot up shooters, average defenders, but lack in the creation department. They are both restricted free agents and I would bet my mortgage that Brogdon gets a significantly bigger contract this summer. Satoransky isn’t a perfect fit with the Jazz, but he would have been a sneaky good one.  Beverly, who I love at $8-12 million a year, is fantastic, but doesn’t create offense. He may command significantly more money than that, however. Darren Collison is also better than he gets credit for, but he has to be wide open to shoot and is slight of frame.

Mike Conley’s Fit

Mike Conley is an elite guard when it comes to being able to create for himself and others. He was in the 87th percentile for overall usage, and he drew foul shots on nearly 13% of his shots, which is a top 5 mark for point guards in the league. Ricky Rubio was pretty decent at drawing fouls, but both he and Donovan Mitchell only drew foul shots on 9% of their shot attempts. Add in Conley’s experience in running pick and rolls and he starts to look like one of the best guards in the league in being able to run the offense for the Jazz, while not dominating the ball.

On top of that Conley has shot 40% on spot up 3 pointers over the last 500 attempts, which is in the 60th percentile for guards. There are better spot up shooters in the league, but only a handful of guards rival Conley in terms of both creation and spot up shooting.

Is Mike Conley a Good Defender?

According to the defensive stats I consulted, Mike Conley rates as a below average defensive guard. This would seem to fly in the face of conventional wisdom. Multiple national basketball guys on TV this week have called Conley a great perimeter defender. If you look at the ratings above, you might also notice that Klay Thompson rates poorly defensively. This is almost assuredly due to the fact that he (along with most of his teammates) hasn’t been trying all that hard from possession to possession. Thompson is also a careless off ball defender at times and the numbers reflect that. But during the playoffs when man to man defense is at a premium, Thompson is at his best. 

On film Conley does appear to be an average to above average defender, although his size and age are cause for some concern. It’s also hard to be engaged defensively on a team you know isn’t competing for anything meaningful. But I’m also comfortable saying that Conley’s defense is not as great as its reputation. Is Conley’s defense fading a bit because he plays on a perennial loser, or because he’s small and aging? The bottom line is that if a guard were to have a deficiency in any of the three areas presented, defense would be the best for this otherwise defensive squad. And if the Jazz can be a top defense with Ricky Rubio, it can almost assuredly do the same with Mike Conley.

The Bottom Bottom Line

This was a good trade for the Jazz at the right time. It will end up costing them Brandon Clarke, Grayson Allen, Kyle Korver, Jae Crowder and whoever the Grizzlies take in 2022. Unless Clarke or the 2022 pick, or Grayson Allen become perennial All-Stars, this trade will favor the Jazz. Mike Conley makes the Jazz better for what they gave up for him. And depending on what other moves are made this offseason to enhance the roster, the trade for Mike Conley could make the Jazz real title contenders for the first time in 21 seasons.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clark Schmutz is a Jazz fan living in North Carolina who has been blogging about the Jazz for 8 years. Just like with religion, politics and good deals on the internet, Clark likes to talk NBA basketball to find more truth and learning. Find him on twitter @clarkpojo.


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Adding Conley a huge win, but keeping Favors is monumental

Jared Woodcox , 2019-06-23 21:39:08

Adding Mike Conley was a huge win for the Utah Jazz. But doing so while also keeping Derrick Favors was almost unbelievably fortunate.

The Utah Jazz could do little more this offseason than fill out their roster with scrubs from the local YMCA and it would still be considered an absolute success. By adding prolific point guard Mike Conley, who should fit the team’s style and culture like a glove, to an already talented roster, this team looks poised to take a major leap in the West next season.

After coming off the best statistical season of his career in 2018-19 in Memphis which saw him post 21.1 points per game to go along with 6.4 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 1.3 steals on solid efficiency from the field, Conley will almost certainly be a largely impactful addition for the Jazz. For a deeper dive on how his style of play will be a match made in heaven in Utah, be sure to check out my piece on the matter here.

But by sending away Jae Crowder, Kyle Korver, Grayson Allen and a pair of first-round picks for Mike Conley, the Jazz did more than hit the jackpot by adding a talented point guard who should fit perfectly. They also hit a grand slam by managing to hold onto starting power forward Derrick Favors.

For weeks, the speculation was that for the Jazz to be able to pull off any sort of meaningful trade, they’d need to include Derrick in the mix. After all, with a non-guaranteed contract and the fact that he’s easily one of Utah’s top-five best players, he was among their best assets. Figure in as well that – in the case of Conley specifically – the Jazz would be taking on significant salary, and many figured it would just make sense to part ways with Favors to alleviate some financial stress.

However, front office wizards Dennis Lindsey, Justin Zanik and Co. worked their magic and managed to keep a hold of Favors while still adding their primary target – Mike Conley. This is highly significant for the Jazz as Derrick Favors has been crucial to Utah’s success both in the regular season and the playoffs, and keeping him on board no doubt strengthens the Jazz moving forward. That’s even more true with Conley now set to run the point.

Despite logging fewer minutes than he deserves or is capable of, Favors has been ideal for the Jazz as he’s always perfectly accepted his role and done the things that have been asked of him without question. By backing up Rudy Gobert at the center spot, he provides Utah with 48 minutes of unyielding defense and rim protection. He is also more capable of defending fours out to the perimeter, which makes him an essential piece of Utah’s versatile defense.

Not only that, but Favs is a rebounder extraordinaire whose sheer hustle and grit have gone as far as to turn the tide in playoff series – just ask the 2017 LA Clippers and 2018 OKC Thunder about that as he was revolutionary in both postseason matchups.

As Dennis Lindsey said to close out the 2018-19 season, Derrick Favors isn’t a part of the problem in Utah – a problem that has involved a shortage of spacing and shooting prowess – instead, he’s a part of the solution.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s the answer as a deep-ball threat despite consistent effort to add a 3-pointer to his game and unrelenting hopes from fans that he can follow in the perimeter shooting footsteps of big man Brook Lopez. What it means is that Favors brings so many intangibles – defense, extra possessions, rebounding, versatility on both ends of the floor, hustle, energy, etc. – that he has marked himself as a crucial piece of this Jazz roster.

Add in that he’ll now have the luxury of playing with the best point guard to suit up in a Jazz uniform since the days of Deron Williams, and Derrick is likely to be even more effective this season. No longer will Utah be plagued by a starting lineup that only has two shooting threats in Donovan Mitchell and Joe Ingles as Mike Conley will now fill that void in an immense way.

The added space that will provide will give Favors more opportunities in the mid-range and better chances as the roll man attacking the rim in the pick and roll. Despite adding a star-caliber point guard and the best player in the trade by obtaining Mike Conley, the Jazz also kept one of their best players on the roster. And that right there was a huge (and in many ways largely unexpected) win.

Not only was keeping hold of Derrick Favors while snagging Conley massive for the Jazz because of how talented Derrick is, but it could be significant for another reason. Favors yet remains one of Utah’s best trade assets, so holding on to him rather than dealing him could potentially allow the Jazz to add another star or near-star player.

Now, the odds of this are very much slim giving the tricky financial spot Utah is in, but there are possible avenues where it could happen. I recently wrote about as much in relation to the Jazz potentially being able to deal Favors and Exum to clear way to bring in Tobias Harris, who has expressed strong interest in the Jazz. Unfortunately, before you get your hopes up too high, it’s unlikely at best that such will be plausible.

Any sort of transaction along those lines would require finding three teams willing to cooperate, including Philadelphia. It would also require one of either Philadelphia and another team to be interested in taking on one or both of Favors and Exum. Favors is a great piece, but still has to be in the right fit, of course. And Exum, well, he’s about as risky as they come given his injury history.

To be frank, I’ll be shocked if either one of those two players suit up for any other team besides the Jazz to start next season, and that’s perfectly fine. Keeping Derrick Favors was obviously a high priority for Jazz brass this summer and they found a way to do it. Whether he’s now able to hit the floor along newcomer Conley and the rest of his teammates (which makes a ton of sense and is most likely) or if he’s used to bring in additional pieces, the fact that the Jazz kept him in the trade is nothing short of monumental.

No matter how you look at it or how the remaining pieces shake out this summer, the Jazz have managed to add one of the league’s best point guards while keeping a strong and daunting roster intact, which includes Derrick Favors, who could have an even better season in 2019-20 with an enhanced point guard in tow.

The Jazz obviously aren’t done yet this summer as they need to fill out their roster and have a roughly $4.8 million Room exception they can use to bring in additional talent. That said, no matter how they close things out before season’s start in October, they’ve already won the offseason in a big, bad way by adding Mike Conley and keeping big man Derrick Favors.

Next: Three Mike Conley stats that should have Utah Jazz fans feeling giddy

This squad has set itself up to compete with the best of the best in the West. Next season can’t get here soon enough.

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Three Mike Conley stats that should have Utah Jazz fans feeling giddy

Jared Woodcox , 2019-06-23 20:48:42

MEMPHIS, TN – MARCH 23: Mike Conley #11 of the Memphis Grizzlies looks on during the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at FedExForum on March 23, 2019 in Memphis, Tennessee. Minnesota won 112-99. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using the photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

The numbers don’t lie – Mike Conley ought to be an exceptional fit with the Utah Jazz for several exciting reasons.

No matter what happens the rest of the summer, it’s already been a successful offseason for the Utah Jazz. By pulling off a blockbuster deal to bring in point guard Mike Conley, the team figures to be significantly improved in 2019-20 and may have even elevated themselves to a higher echelon in the loaded Western Conference.

However, as seems to be the case for most fanbases, but especially among the ever-divided Jazz faithful, there are always split opinions when it comes to adding new players or making changes. The Mike Conley trade has been no exception as some fans are wishing the Jazz had experimented deeper in free agency before making the trade, while others have gone as far as to say the Jazz gave up too much.

Those groups seem to be the minority, though, as I believe the overwhelming sentiment has been that the Mike Conley addition was a home run. I, quite frankly, agree completely as it’s clear that he was the Utah Jazz’s principal target and that they accomplished exactly what they set out to do by acquiring him. I’m ecstatic to have Conley on the roster next season and believe he makes Utah significantly better.

But in case there are any of you out there who are still feeling skeptical about adding Mike Conley to the Jazz mix, I hope to help alleviate those concerns. In fact, my goal is to transform that skepticism into optimism and then downright excitement.

Conley should be an incredible fit with the Utah Jazz, but don’t take my word alone for it, let’s let the numbers do the talking. Here are three Mike Conley stats that should have Jazz fans feeling giddy about his impact and fit next season.



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For the right price, Khem Birch could be a great addition for the Utah Jazz

Josh Padmore , 2019-06-23 15:29:48

Orlando Magic center Khem Birch is set to hit free agency in July. He’ll likely be a restricted free agent, with many teams in pursuit. One of those teams should be the Utah Jazz, if the price is right.

Khem Birch has written himself a nice story en route to earning an NBA career. Undrafted in 2014, the former UNLV star had three stints between the G-League, Greece and Turkey before finally getting his NBA opportunity.

When Birch was signed by the Orlando Magic, Jeff Weltman (Magic President) noted that he kept tabs on him while he played overseas. Weltman said that many NBA teams were eyeing him, and that the addition was like adding a first round draft pick.

Once notified that he made the team, Birch was teary-eyed. Since then, Birch has established himself as a solid backup center for Orlando. Last season, the 26-year old averaged about five points and four rebounds per game. He connected on 60 percent of his field goals and 70 percent of his free throws. He raised his play in the playoffs, averaging five points, six rebounds and one block per game.

Orlando has until the end of the month to extend Birch a qualifying offer. If they do, he’ll become a restricted free agent, meaning the Magic can match any offer. If they don’t, Birch will have free liberty about where he wants to play. As I said previously, Orlando is likely to extend him the qualifying offer.

In a recent article from Shams Charania of The Athletic (subscription required), he stated that the Magic will try to re-sign Birch, but will face competition from other teams. He only listed one specific team that could be in pursuit of Birch: the Philadelphia 76ers. However, I think the Jazz should also target Birch, as he’d be a perfect backup to Rudy Gobert.

Shot-blocking is the biggest strength of Birch’s game. If you sign Birch, and play him behind Gobert, you’ll have elite shot-blocking for all 48 minutes of a game. Birch has also etched himself into the hearts of Magic fans for his willingness to play hard. You can’t ask for much more from your backup five.

I think Birch would be a huge addition to the Jazz, who are looking to be the team to come out of the West. Financially, it could get tricky, though. It’s unclear how much money Birch will be looking at, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets upwards of $5 million annually. That would be just over Utah’s remaining Room exception of $4.8 million, which could make things challenging depending on what other offers Birch receives. Utah is going to need to fill out their bench smartly, so they’ll have to be very tactful about who they spend their money on.

Next: Utah Jazz: Post-Conley trade roster adds intrigue to summer league

If you can get him at the right price, Dennis Lindsey should be all over Khem Birch. He’d be an upgrade over Ekpe Udoh and would let the inexperienced Tony Bradley develop as a third string player.



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Post-Conley trade roster adds intrigue to summer league

Ryan Aston , 2019-06-23 03:35:08

With a roster in flux and holes to fill, the Utah Jazz’s summer league activities may reach a higher level of importance than in most years.

With the 2019 NBA Draft officially on the books, free agency and summer league play are suddenly fast approaching. The former begins on June 30 at 4 PM MT; where the Utah Jazz are concerned, chances are we won’t be seeing any Day 1 fireworks with the team having already made the big move to bring in Mike Conley.

Summer league, on the other hand, could take on a whole new meaning for the Jazz band.

For the most part, summer play has essentially been little more than a chance for the team to get its handful of young guys in the gym for a couple of weeks mid-summer. Whatever went down largely had little bearing on the team’s main roster.

In the wake of the Conley deal, however, the Jazz currently find themselves with several open roster spots and not a lot of money to fill them.

Things get particularly interesting if the Jazz have designs on getting to the 15-man maximum ahead of opening night. Not counting Derrick Favors (non-guaranteed), but assuming low-cost vets Royce O’Neale, Georges Niang and Raul Neto all return, they only have nine players ready to roll for next season.

Sure, they’ll be aggressive on the open market beforehand. And there are even some pie in the sky scenarios where they delay closing out on the Conley deal or engage in some sign-and-trade shenanigans with someone on the market and ship out Favors post-guarantee date, so they can make a free agency splash within the rules of the CBA.

Barring exploitation of the soft cap, though, there’s a real possibility that multiple players donning Jazz jerseys this summer will be actually be duking it out with a real shot at playing in the Association on the line.

First and foremost, Jazz draftees Jarrell Brantley, Justin Wright-Foreman and Miye Oni will have the opportunity to join Utah’s long list of historical, second-round steals. After all, Dennis Lindsey and Justin Zanik didn’t pull off multiple trades to come away with three prospects at the tail end of the draft for kicks.

Jazz brass was looking for players — and all three of these guys have length and scoring ability that impressed at the collegiate level, even if they were balling out against lesser competition.

They’re not the only ones looking to make names for themselves, either.

Former first-round pick Tony Bradley should be part of the action, and we may just be approaching do or die time for his NBA career after he was unable to land a spot over his first two years in the league.

Meanwhile, Willie Reed could make a legitimate play to become Rudy Gobert‘s back-up. According to HoopsHype’s Alex Kennedy, the former Salt Lake City Stars standout and No. 1 pick in the G-League draft will play.

On draft night, multiple other players were linked to the Jazz’s summer league outfit right out of the gate. Namely, Indiana forward Juwan Morgan (as reported by The Athletic’s Michael Scotto), Stanford big man Josh Sharma (Jeremy Woo/SI) and San Francisco point-man Frankie Ferarri (Jordan Schultz/ESPN).

The names will continue to come over the next handful of days, but regardless of who else joins the fold, summer league could be must-see TV thanks to the roster situation, even without a 2019 first-round pick on the Jazz squad.

At the least, the current landscape has added some intrigue to what is typically something of a ho-hum affair. Instead of the usual cavalcade of EuroLeague guys taking on future contractors, CPAs, Taco Bell shift managers, etc., we could have a situation featuring multiple roster spots on a possible title contender at stake.

Next: Free agency rumors: Tobias Harris and Bobby Portis interested in the Utah Jazz

The Salt Lake City Summer League tips off on July 1 and runs through July 3. The Jazz will resume summer play at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, which runs from July 6-15.

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Tobias Harris, Bobby Portis interested in Utah Jazz

Jared Woodcox , 2019-06-23 02:32:26

Two free agent power forwards – Tobias Harris and Bobby Portis – are interested in joining the Utah Jazz. What, if anything, should the Jazz do in response?

Now that the NBA Draft has come and gone, all attention of NBA fans will turn towards one highly crucial date – June 30th at 6:00 PM Eastern Time, the start of free agency. This summer’s free agent pool is stacked with unbelievable talent. Names like Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler and Kemba Walker all come to mind as among those available.

Unfortunately, while it’s nearly unthinkable that the Jazz would be able to woo any of those guys into their midst (ignoring their current financial status even – we’ll get into that in a bit), in somewhat surprising fashion, it appears one big name apparently does have strong interest in joining up with the Jazz band. The player I speak of is one who has purportedly been on Utah’s radar for a while – none other than stretch-four Tobias Harris.

Harris may not quite be in the exact same tier as those other guys that I mentioned, but he’s still pretty dang close. Tobias put up 20 points per game this past season while converting on just over 39 percent of his 3-point attempts. He shot over 40 percent from deep his entire time with the LA Clippers and has been a prolific scorer and shot-creator throughout his career.

The report that he’d be interested in suiting up for the Jazz came from the ever-reliable Tony Jones of The Athletic. In a tweet on Friday, he had the following to say:

Wait a second… A high-profile free agent has strong interest in the Jazz??!! That’s not a phrase you hear every day.

That in and of itself is exciting. Factor in that Tobias’ stretch-four ability and his play-making skills would make him a dream fit in Utah’s offense, and it’s not hard to see why it would make sense for all sides. Adding Harris to the Jazz would certainly elevate them to an entirely different level and could very well be the most productive location for Harris of his career due to an exceptional supporting cast and the brilliant schemes of head coach Quin Snyder.

Unfortunately, after trading for Mike Conley, the Utah Jazz are extremely limited in cap space, having little more than just a Room exception valued at $4.8 million and the option to sign their draft picks and veteran’s minimum players. Obviously, that’s not nearly enough for a player that could make in the ballpark of $30 million per year to remain with the Philadelphia 76ers.

There are a few scenarios where the Jazz could add him, but every one of them that’s feasible (though still not very realistic) would involve letting go of Derrick Favors and Dante Exum. Some of you out there may be thinking, well, if getting rid of those two is all it would take to add a near-star like Tobias, then what the heck are we waiting for? Unfortunately, it’s not anywhere close to that easy.

Salt City Hoops’ Dan Clayton did an incredible job of summing up those options and I highly recommend you check out his piece via the tweet below to dive into it:

Essentially, outside of getting Harris to take a massive discount to sign with the Jazz, which isn’t likely even with cap space cleared by parting ways with Favors and Exum, they’d have to get multiple parties to cooperate to have any chance of landing Tobias. In a sign-and-trade scenario with Philly, they’d have to involve another team and get them, the Sixers and Tobias to agree to the terms. That feels like the longest of shots.

There is a path where they renounce all their free agents, waive Derrick Favors and Raul Neto, then slightly modify the Mike Conley trade to involve another team and deal Dante Exum as well, but once again you’d be looking for a lot of external cooperation from teams who may have no motivation to do so and who owe the Jazz no favors (no pun intended).

In other words, even the so-called ‘feasible’ options are far from plausible or realistic. As much as it stings to say it, it’s not worth Jazz fans getting too giddy about Harris coming to Utah. It’s probably not happening as nice as it might be to dream.

Even if there was a way to get all the stars to align in terms of clearing the appropriate space and making the right trades, while Harris has a strong interest in joining the Jazz, Tony Jones also made it clear that such doesn’t mean they’re necessarily his first choice. Harris reportedly would prefer to join the Brooklyn Nets, but if they hone in on and land two other stars – for example Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving – then he’d be forced to look elsewhere. Elsewhere could then be Salt Lake City, but that’s impossible to determine at this point if that’s even his number two choice.

Even if Harris did want that, and the other requirements could fall into place, the Jazz might feel iffy about parting ways with a lot of their current depth for him. Though Tobias is the ‘sexy’ choice over Derrick Favors and the other role players that the Jazz would have to give up, Derrick’s impact is far too often overlooked and he’s far superior on defense and on the boards.

That said, I’m nearly certain that the Jazz will at least pursue the various paths available to them to acquire Tobias Harris. He’d be a dynamic fit in Utah’s offense and a starting lineup of Mike Conley, Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles, Tobias Harris and Rudy Gobert would be a sight to behold.

If the choice were up to me to either add Harris or keep Favors and Exum, as hard as it would be to part ways with Favors and all he brings (and, quite frankly, the many things he does better than Harris including defensively), I’d go with adding Harris. A playmaker of his caliber would be invaluable for the Jazz. And he’d provide a fourth star-caliber player on Utah’s roster.

Lastly on the Tobias side of things – for those of you out there that wish the Jazz had foregone trading for Conley and added Harris instead, I’ll remind you that Conley was Utah’s top choice and they got him for a very clear reason. He’s an even better fit than Tobias, especially next to Donovan, and trading for him made him a sure thing. Adding Harris in free agency is and never was a guarantee. Not only that, but upgrading Ricky Rubio‘s position and keeping Favors was a better option than upgrading Favors’ position and keeping Rubio.

However, while Harris is unlikely to land in Utah despite an interest, another impending free agent power forward has expressed significant interest in joining the Jazz as well – Bobby Portis.

Of course, Portis is nowhere near as big of a name as Tobias Harris, but he still could be serviceable for the Jazz and is certainly more realistic from a financial standpoint. He put up 14.2 points per game in 26 minutes of action while shooting just shy of 40 percent from deep this past season. He did so while making just $2.5 million this past season, which makes adding him feel much more reasonable for the cash-strapped Jazz.

The trouble is that Portis is a restricted free agent that could very well receive better offers, or, so long as the Washington Wizards don’t surprisingly renounce him, could very well find any offer thrown his way matched. Unless the Jazz strike out in all other avenues of free agency, it’s hard to see them tying up precious cap space in an offer sheet to Portis.

His deep-ball shooting and length definitely make him an intriguing target as a potential Jae Crowder replacement providing stretch minutes with Favors on the bench. However, there are questions about his defensive focus and quality as a teammate due to the infamous incident where he punched former teammate Nikola Mirotic in the face during practice as a member of the Chicago Bulls.

There are some things I really like about Portis – principally his shooting but I also think he has the potential to be a high-energy player whose length could work wonders on the defensive end with some coaching and furthered discipline. He’s also just 24 years old meaning he has plenty of room to improve and develop significantly. However, due to the aforementioned questions about him and his restricted free agent status, I’m not counting on him being added.

Regardless of if the Jazz are unable or unwilling to add either Tobias Harris or Bobby Portis in free agency, the fact that both players have expressed interest in joining up with the Utah squad should excite Jazz fans to no end. The Salt Lake City team has long been classified as an undesirable free agent destination and luring in talent has been an immense struggle.

However, as the Jazz have showcased their incredible culture, chemistry and work ethic, it’s clear that perception of the organization is changing. As players become more and more concerned about basketball fit and opportunities to compete in ideal situations, the Jazz could very well become a more desirable team in free agency. Ideally, this interest from the likes of Harris and Portis will signal a dramatic change in how teams view the Utah Jazz in free agency moving forward.

Next: Justin Wright-Foreman could be the most important 2019 Utah Jazz draftee

They could very well be two of the first major dominoes in finally destroying Utah’s stigma of being unable to attract free agents. Even if neither joins the team this upcoming summer, their desire to be here is an encouraging sign of things to come.

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Justin Wright-Foreman could be the most important 2019 Utah Jazz draftee

Josh Padmore , 2019-06-23 00:25:11

The Utah Jazz walked away from the 2019 NBA Draft with three new players. Justin Wright-Foreman, out of Hofstra, might be the most important one.

With the 53rd pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, the Utah Jazz select…

Some Jazz fans were wide awake at this pick, some asleep. Some Jazz fans were excited, some weren’t optimistic. After all, it is the 53rd pick. Can this player really help the team? Will he even make the team?

Justin Wright-Foreman, from Hofstra University…

Right away, I knew this was a great pick by the Jazz. Wright-Foreman is a professional bucket getter. He averaged 27 points per game during his Senior year at Hofstra, and shot 42.5 percent from downtown. Needless to say, Wright-Foreman can shoot it. That’s something the Jazz are looking to add. For that reason alone, Wright-Foreman was a good pick.

But, there’s much more I want to talk about regarding the generously listed 6-foot-1 point guard. The Jazz are in an interesting situation at the point guard position. They agreed to trade for Mike Conley, but might have to waive Raul Neto in order to finalize the deal. Neto is Utah’s third point guard, behind the injury-riddled Dante Exum.

Teams around the league have certainly noticed Neto’s solid and gritty play over the years for Utah. Since he’s on a perfectly fine contract, it wouldn’t be surprising at all to see a team claim Neto off waivers, if the Jazz waive him. All of that being said, the Jazz could very well be without Neto next season.

That’s where Wright-Foreman could help. Look at Quinn Cook of the Golden State Warriors, another professional bucket getter. He entered the league undrafted and eventually joined the Warriors. Cook played a role in helping the Warriors win the title in 2018, which Steve Kerr made sure he recognized.

Cook and Wright-Foreman are pretty similar. As I mentioned, they both get buckets, they both are point guards and they both are under-sized. Cook was undrafted, and Wright-Foreman had to wait hours for his name to be called on draft night.

What I lastly want to point out is the injury concerns of Conley and Exum. We all know Dante’s injury history. Unfortunately, the guy just can’t seem to stay on the floor. Conley has battled many injury-plagued seasons, but did make it through 70 games this year. During the 2017-18 season, though, Conley played in just 12 games.

Next: Utah Jazz go bananas at the back end of the 2019 NBA Draft

With those two’s injury history, Wright-Foreman could be an important piece to the Jazz if he makes the team. It will be a very important summer league for Justin. If he can earn himself a roster spot, I can see him making some noise during his rookie season.



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