Utah Jazz made right choice by going trade route over free agency

Jared Woodcox , 2019-06-29 17:59:39
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Recent occurrences have proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Utah Jazz made the right choice trading for Mike Conley rather than waiting for free agency.

Heading into this summer, Utah Jazz fans were giddy with excitement thinking about their possibilities this offseason. Between ample financial flexibility and a winning culture that could definitely turn some heads, many presumed that the free agent market could finally be a rich one for Utah.

Free agency has yet to start and the Jazz could still aim to make somewhat of a splash beginning this Sunday. However, rather than wait until and depend on free agency to make their big move, the Jazz struck early and went a surer route by adding their guy in the trade market – Mike Conley.

It’s been reported that Mike Conley was Utah’s number one target anyway, so maybe going after him via trade was more an action of them getting who they most wanted rather than just going the safe route. However, based on how a few things have turned out so far this offseason, it’s clear that using the trade method to add talent rather than relying on free agency was without a doubt the Jazz’s best option.

Because, first off, let’s be honest with ourselves. Utah has never been a top free agent destination. For years the Jazz have struggled to lure in talent that way. Yes, they have a promising core with Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert as well as a great culture, brilliant coaching, and exceptional ownership which could all help to attract a player. But even that is far from a guarantee. Had the Jazz put all their eggs in the free agency basket, they may have very well swung and missed.

Instead, they left no doubt by trading for Conley, who is now under contract in Utah for the next two seasons. And after seeing how things have played out so far this summer with a handful of prospective free agents, it’s obvious Utah’s decision was absolutely the right one.

What I mean is, the free agent point guard pool is quickly drying up, and while hindsight is always 20-20 and I suppose we’ll never know what would’ve happened or become available if Utah hadn’t added Conley, it sure looks like they would have been very much an odd man out in free agency if they’d waited around. First off, according to several reports, Kemba Walker – a one-time dream target for Jazz fans – is almost certainly going to the Boston Celtics.

Previously it looked like he was going to stay in Charlotte, but as contract talks have apparently soured, it appears that Kemba will leave his long-time home behind and part for a larger market where he can play alongside a young and exciting team, a great head coach and remain in the Eastern Conference which provides a clearer path to the NBA Finals.

Meanwhile, another free agent target that Jazz fans were excited about was D’Angelo Russell. For quite a while, it looked as if Kyrie Irving was set on joining the Brooklyn Nets, which would likely force the Nets to renounce Russell and make him an unrestricted free agent. Considering that Russell and Mitchell are good friends, there was speculation that the Jazz could make a play there to bulk up their backcourt.

Instead, Kyrie’s future is as up in the air as could be, with rumors that he’s looking to rejoin LeBron James as the third part of the Los Angeles Lakers’ new Big 3, that he could team up with Kevin Durant in New York and everything in between. In short, there’s no telling where Irving could end up in the coming week.

In fact, the uncertainty has grown so much, that the Nets went ahead and extended a qualifying offer to D’Angelo Russell, solidifying his status as a restricted free agent. Due to Utah’s cap situation and free agency history, there’s no way they would have ever extended an offer sheet to D’Lo, as it would have forced them to renounce Favors for an unsure thing and tied up their cap space while the Nets made a decision on him.

In other words, Russell would have joined Kemba as unavailable for the Jazz if they’d waited until free agency. Even if the Jazz had been interested in him as a restricted free agent, recent reports indicate that he’s now aiming to meet with the Minnesota Timberwolves to potentially join an even closer friend in Karl-Anthony Towns. Between Russell, Walker and Irving (who was never an option but his decision still had an impact), that’s three free agent point guards that the Jazz would have missed on.

Last of all, just to further prove the unstable nature of free agency, another free agent point guard surprisingly came off the board on Friday night as former Indiana Pacer Darren Collison announced his retirement. Now, I’m not saying that Collison was a Jazz target, but he very well might have been as a solid vet and a great three-point shooter.

If Utah hadn’t traded for Conley and instead had gone the route of adding a stretch-four in free agency or trying to add multiple positions with their cap space, it’s entirely feasible that Collison could have been on their list. Even if he wasn’t at all, him leaving the NBA takes yet another point guard off the board, meaning someone else available will likely earn the roster spot and money that would have otherwise been reserved for Collison.

Collison, who declared that he would be retiring to dedicate more time and effort to his faith as a Jehovah’s Witness and to spending time with his family, just shrunk the free agent point guard pool even further. While he wasn’t necessarily a top target for Utah, the less options out there in general, the tougher it gets for a team to add its guy.

In other words, Collison’s shocking decision just adds further proof to how incredibly unpredictable free agency can be. Factor in that the Jazz have also long struggled to attract top talent via free agency and it becomes crystal clear – they did the right thing by adding talent via a trade, which was a sure thing, rather than taking a potentially devastating risk in free agency.

That’s even more true when you consider that as great as players like Kemba Walker and D’Angelo Russell are, Mike Conley may very well be the best fit for the Jazz and the top option they could have landed. He appears ecstatic to be playing in Utah, he’s a grizzled and tough defender, he’ll be a superb mentor for Donovan Mitchell and he’ll fit the Jazz’s DNA in every way.

Next: Utah Jazz should keep Derrick Favors until the trade deadline (if not longer)

Some may grumble about Utah’s perceived unwillingness to take big risks, but in this instance, they absolutely did the right thing by getting the most ideal player they could, Mike Conley, in the safest way possible. Risks are only wise when they’re calculated and have a big reward, and based on all the evidence we’ve seen thus far, waiting for free agency would have been little more than a foolish chance that likely would have left the Jazz empty-handed.

Props to Dennis Lindsey, Justin Zanik and Co. for taking the savvy approach that should pay major dividends in the 2019-20 season and beyond.

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Dan Clayton

Dan Clayton , 2019-06-29 16:10:32
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Call it the spreadsheet before the storm, the math before the mayhem. 

We’ve never seen anything like the craziness that’s about to unfold when NBA free agency begins on Sunday evening. The sheer number of available players and possible outcomes makes this an unprecedented, complicated game of musical chairs that could leave the league looking completely different. Nearly half of the 450 players who finished last season on a roster are (or could be) free agents.

As this scattered free-for-all takes shape, it’s important to know where the money is. We’ve compiled a look at every team’s cap situation, sorted by the most flexibility teams can create without trading away salary, assuming a $109 million salary cap.

Of course, that caveat — max flexibility without trades — looms large. As we’ve repeatedly seen in the NBA marketplace, teams can get creative about carving out more flexibility than appears to exist, so never forget when looking at this list that “where there’s a will, there’s often a way.” 

The exact amount of flexibility a team will create depends on decisions they make regarding any non-guaranteed salaries on their roster, as well as their plans with incumbent free agents. If they want to keep the rights to re-sign players, they have to reserve varied amounts (called cap holds) on their salary sheet. But we’ll go through each team’s situation by the maximum amount of spending power they could hypothetically create by moving away from all of their free agents and non-guaranteed players.

We start with four high-variance teams whose cap situations are the most interesting. The short version here is that these four clubs would probably prefer NOT having cap flexibility, because if they have it, it likely means that they’ve lost star players. 

After looking at these four, we’ll check on the rest of the league’s spending power.

Golden State Warriors

The Warriors are one of those high-variance teams: they could wind up with a non-max salary slot (just under $20M) to spend, or they could wind up well over the tax and in fact with the most expensive salary-plus-tax personnel bills in NBA history.

The reality is, they’ll only have money to spend if everything goes wrong: that is, if Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson both decide to leave. And even if that happens, GSW would still have to waive Shaun Livingston by July 101, not bring DeMarcus Cousins back, and opt against keeping the rights to restricted free agents like Quinn Cook and Jordan Bell.

In all likelihood, the 5-time reigning West champs will operate above the cap this summer, but the fact that they could change gears depending on what Klay and KD decide makes their situation interesting.


There are a lot of ways the Pacers’ cap situation can play out, with five key free agents whose cap holds are in the 8-figure range.

It sounds like they’re ready to move on from Thaddeus Young and Tyreke Evans, and Darren Collison somewhat shockingly announced his retirement on Friday. But Cory Joseph and Bojan Bogdanovic also both have cap holds in the teens. If both walk or if Indy cuts ties, they could create as much as roughly $35M in space. If they keep both at market-value they’ll be an exceptions team.

The Pacers also reportedly have some of that money set aside for Jazz free agent Ricky Rubio, whose market value will likely be in the low to mid teens. Landing Rubio and retaining even one of the Bogey/CoJo duo would dry up most of their spending power.


The Bucks’ situation is interesting for the same reason as the Warriors: if things go the right way for them, they will be an exceptions team and maybe a cash-strapped team paying the tax.

The Bucks can get up to the mid-30s in cap space, but if they do, it means that all of Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez, Malcolm Brogdon and Nikola Mirotic have departed. They already sacrificed George Hill to the salary cap gods – only $1M of his salary was guaranteed. That’s a huge chunk of the rotation that helped them to the league’s best record, so the best outcome for them would be to never sniff the hypothetical space and instead retain as many of their key roles players as possible.


The Sixers are right there with the Pacers as one of hardest cap situations to predict. Butler, Tobias Harris and JJ Redick have cap holds totaling nearly $70M, so the fate of those unrestricted free agents could well be the difference between Philly having the option to carve out almost $60M in space – or being a tax team with almost no spending tools.

If those three starters leave them hanging, Philly can quickly retool their cap sheet and go after a marquee replacement. But until the fates of those players are decided, Philly’s resources are tied up in free agent holds.

Now let’s check on the rest of the league, in alphabetically sorted tiers based on potential spending power.

Potential Big Spenders

Brooklyn, Boston, Dallas, both L.A. teams, Memphis, New Orleans, New York and Sacramento can all create enough cap room to offer something very close to a max salary, or in some cases, multiple max salaries. These are the teams who will seek to control the market at the very top.

  • The Nets are a major cap space team, with the ability to create up to nearly $70M. Obviously the rumor is that some of that is earmarked for Kyrie Irving, and at least for now, they’re reserving $21M so they can retain matching rights on D’Angelo Russell.
  • Technically the Celtics can create as much as $35M by revoking free agent rights, but it seems unlikely they’ll renounce Terry Rozier (who’s restricted). Still, Kyrie Irving’s and Al Horford’s likely departures mean that Boston can get to $26M or so and still keep Rozier’s Bird rights) alive with a $9M cap hold.
  • The Mavs need to set aside $17M on their cap sheet to preserve the rights to restricted free agent Kristaps Porzingis, but if they cleared all other holds and non-guaranteed salary, they could still get up to nearly $31M in space.
  • The Clippers are going to play a big role in solving the free agency riddle this summer. They can spend as much as $57M if they renounce/cut everybody who’s not guaranteed, and obviously they are hoping to win the Kawhi Leonard sweepstakes. If they do, they’ll still have a decent chunk to spend, and if they don’t, they’ll be begging somebody to take that large pile of cash.
  • Now that the Lakers have dumped three small salaries and convince Anthony Davis to decline a $4M trade kicker that his contract entitles him to, they can create up to about $32M in space.
  • The Grizzlies will be a cap space player after the Mike Conley trade gave them the option of creating up to about $30M of space. However, if they decide to keep Avery Bradley and Kyle Korver, whose salaries are only partially guaranteed, they’ll only have about half of that.
  • The Pelicans can get to roughly $30M in cap space after they complete the trade with the Lakers on July 6, which is perhaps why they didn’t extend qualifying offers to make Stanley Johnson and Check Diallo restricted free agents.
  • The Knicks can create two max salary slots if they want to – or they could keep the rights to some of their free agents and non-guaranteed players and still have a boatload of available cash.
  • The Kings can get up to around $60M in space, but likely will opt to keep some player rights intact instead. Harrison Barnes’ large cap hold ($32.7M) should motivate them to negotiate a new deal quickly. If they get him tucked away in the low 20s, they can still create a max slot by renouncing all other FAs.

Potential Medium Spenders

Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Orlando, Phoenix and Utah all still have the means to create a significant chunk of cap room, but not quite a max slot.

  • The Hawks will operate as a cap space team, but they have already committed most of it by agreeing to take on Allen Crabbe and Solomon Hill. They can still create up to $15M or so in space if they renounce/waive all FA/NG guys.
  • The Bulls can create a non-max slot (just under $20M) by releasing rights to Robin Lopez and some minimum-salary free agents.
  • The Nuggets can get up to about $17M in space, but if they retain Paul Millsap (or if Trey Lyles gets a raise to stay) they’ll likely wind up an exceptions team.
  • The Magic can create non-max cap room of $19-20M, but only if they rescind Nikola Vucevic, Terrence Ross, Khem Birch and others. Since word is that they’re trying hard to quickly lock up Vooch (whose cap hold is $19M), we can presume that they’re planning to operate as an exceptions team.
  • The Suns will be a cap space team, but already committed small chunks when they agreed to acquire Aron Baynes and Dario Saric in draft-day deals. They can still get up to the low 20s in theory, although the $9.6M cap hold for restricted free agent Kelly Oubre Jr. will drop that number down into the mid-teens until they decide to sever ties.
  • The Jazz have committed their cap space in the Mike Conley deal, but even after swinging that deal, they could open up close to $19M by waiving all other non-guaranteed salary. They’re most likely not waiving Royce O’Neale or Georges Niang, though, so the realistic cap slot they can open without more trades is about $17-18M.

Exception Teams

Barring trades, Charlotte, Detroit, Minnesota, San Antonio, Toronto and Washington will be operating over the cap this summer, but all of them could hang on to their full suite of non-taxpayer exceptions, like the $9.2M mid-level, the bi-annual exception, any remaining trade exceptions and more.

  • Without a trade, the Hornets will be an exceptions team even if Kemba Walker bolts. They can technically create cap space in an amount close to the full MLE, but at that point it’s better for them to keep the MLE, various player rights, and their other exceptions – like a $7.8M TPE left over from Dwight Howard that they can use through July 6.
  • The Pistons will be over the cap, but could spend add as much as ~$15M to their current guaranteed salary without triggering the tax.
  • The Timberwolves are at the cap with just their top seven guaranteed salaries, so they will almost certainly operate as an exceptions team.
  • Even if the Spurs renounced all FA/NG guys, they’d still be close enough to the cap (within ~$5M) that it would be more advantageous for them to keep their exceptions.
  • Marc Gasol opting in ensured that the Raptors will operate as an over-the-cap team, even if they move on from all other FA/NG players. If Leonard stays put, that pushes them over the tax – but obviously that’s a tax bill the reigning champs would prefer to pay.
  • The Wizards will operate over the cap. After swallowing three salaries from the Lakers, the spending power they could create by waiving/rescinding guys is only $5-6M, or less than exceptions money. And they’d probably like to keep the rights to Tomas Satoransky and Bobby Portis anyway.

Strapped for cash

At least as it stands without trades, Cleveland, Houston, Miami, Oklahoma City and Portland all have very limited spending power. All are right at the luxury tax line or over, which means they’ll be operating with smaller exceptions and more restrictive trade rules.

  • The Cavs are flirting with the tax based on their guaranteed salary, so unless a trade is made, they’ll have only taxpayer exceptions to work with.
  • The Rockets are over the cap with just their five guaranteed salaries. They could technically use the full MLE, but doing so would hard-cap them. That said, this is one franchise that frequently finds ways to make stuff happen, even when it appears that their eyes are bigger than their stomach. That might be the case again this year, as they’re plotting to land Jimmy Butler via a sign-and-trade – an avenue that would also leave them with a hard cap for the next 12 months.
  • The Heat are above the cap and tax with their current guaranteed money. They could open up a little breathing room under the tax by stretching the $15.6M they owe Ryan Anderson, but that would have salary cap implications for 2020-21 and 2021-22. (Zach Lowe says this is another team that would like to construct a S&T to land Butler.)
  • The Thunder are over the tax by ~$14M with only 10 guaranteed players, so they will be functioning over the tax, barring a trade.
  • The Blazers’ 11 guaranteed salaries have them within $3M of the luxury tax, so they’ll be dealing with taxpayer exceptions this season, barring trades. And that’s before solving for key 2018-19 contributors like Al-Farouq Aminu, Rodney Hood, Seth Curry and Enes Kanter, all unrestricted free agents.

We’ll keep an eye on how things develop and update this list throughout free agency as we keep track of where the money is and how it could get divvied up to the more than 200 potential free agents this offseason.


Dan Clayton

Dan covered Utah Jazz basketball from up close for more than 10 years, including as a radio analyst for the team’s Spanish-language broadcasts from 2010 to 2014. The born-and-raised Utahn now lives in New York City.

Dan Clayton

Dan Clayton

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Predicting where ex Jazzmen end up in free agency

Josh Padmore , 2019-06-29 15:17:04
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HOUSTON, TX – APRIL 24: Ricky Rubio #3 of the Utah Jazz reacts in the second half during Game Five of the first round of the 2019 NBA Western Conference Playoffs between the Houston Rockets and the Utah Jazz at Toyota Center on April 24, 2019 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

With the 2019 NBA free agency officially starting on Sunday, I figured it’d be fun to predict where some former Utah Jazz players could end up playing next season.

Some fans may disregard former players of their favorite team once they part ways. I, for one, enjoy supporting and rooting for said players, even when they’re on different teams. Unless, of course, the partnership ended on a sour note. Yes, like Gordon Hayward‘s did with the Utah Jazz.

There’s plenty of former Jazzmen that are ready to hit the open market. Follow along as I predict where some of them will be playing next year, beginning with one who most recently started at point guard for the Utah Jazz!

Ricky Rubio Utah Jazz (Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)

Ricky Rubio

We all know that Ricky Rubio‘s time in Utah has come to an end, after the addition of Mike Conley. Despite an up-and-down two years with the Jazz, Rubio will have many suitors as he explores free agency for the first time in his NBA career.

Teams like the Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers and Phoenix Suns have all reportedly expressed interest in the Spaniard.

A report recently came out that Rubio was ‘envious’ of his good friend Marc Gasol, who won a championship with the Toronto Raptors. Rubio wants to win big. For that reason alone, of the three teams listed, I predict Rubio will sign with the…

Prediction: Indiana Pacers

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15 realistic free agency options post-Conley trade

Ryan Aston , 2019-06-25 22:01:09
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Mike Conley Wesley Matthews

MEMPHIS, TN – OCTOBER 26: Mike Conley #11 of the Memphis Grizzlies drives to the basket against Wesley Matthews #23 of the Dallas Mavericks at the FedEx Forum on October 26, 2017 in Memphis, Tennessee. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

The suddenly cash-strapped Utah Jazz still have work to do in free agency to build their roster following the Mike Conley trade.

For the last several months preceding NBA Draft Week, much of the hoops-related talk in the 801 has centered upon the Utah Jazz’s possible pursuit of a big-name free agent on the open market.

Instead of leaving their fate in the hands of players who may or may not want to come to Utah, though, Jazz brass elected to strike early, finally executing the oft-discussed trade with the Memphis Grizzlies for point-man Mike Conley.

Make no mistake about it — it was an exciting move, and a winning one at that. In Conley, the Jazz now have a lockdown defender, pick-and-roll maestro, knockdown shooter and 21-point scorer to pair with Donovan Mitchell in the backcourt. As a result, it’s hard not to consider the team a dark horse title contender next season.

For those of us who were hyped about the free agent frenzy, though, the summer lost a lot of its luster in the wake of the Conley deal. That’s no complaint, mind you; the Jazz have already become an offseason winner with that single move.

But the idea that names like Tobias Harris, D’Angelo Russell and Kemba Walker are off the table after we spent so long talking about them is weird.

That said, free agency still holds the potential for Jazzland fireworks in the lower tiers of the market. The Conley trade depleted the team’s roster in a big, bad way and, while they don’t have a ton of money to spare at this point, the Jazz find themselves with several spots to fill ahead of opening night.

Financially, we’re talking about minimum contracts and the room exception (which will fall at just under $5 million next season). So the Jazz don’t have a ton of wiggle room with which to build their bench. However, there are actually a slew of players who can bring something to the table under those constraints.

With that in mind, and in an effort to get hyped about the potential of July, here’s my list of 15 realistic free agent targets for the Jazz post-Conley trade…

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Latest Brooklyn Nets news could be good sign for Utah Jazz free agency

Jared Woodcox , 2019-06-07 02:28:49
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The Brooklyn Nets appear to be creating cap space to add Kyrie Irving this summer which could help other attractive free agents shake loose for the Utah Jazz.

The NBA Finals have been exciting thus far as the Toronto Raptors have taken a 2-1 lead over the favorite Golden State Warriors who have been ravaged by injuries. As fun as it is to see a closely contested Finals, as a Utah Jazz fan, or a fan of the other 27 teams not still in action, I’m sure I don’t stand alone in feeling quite a bit of anxiety for the offseason and the ensuing draft and free agency period to finally be here.

After all, the offseason always brings about new hope for an exciting season to come. And depending how the summer goes for the Utah Jazz, they very well could move up to an entirely different level in the Western Conference. With that being the case, it’s understandably difficult to find patience even with an exciting NBA Finals underway.

And that became even more the case on Thursday as some compelling NBA news surfaced that could very well have an impact on the Jazz’s summer plans.

The news I’m referring to involves the Brooklyn Nets who, as first reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, conducted a trade with the Atlanta Hawks. The deal sent Allen Crabbe, the No. 17 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft and a protected 2020 first round pick to Atlanta in exchange for Taurean Prince and a 2021 second-round pick.

What does this buy the Nets? Well, outside of picking up a promising young stretch-four player in Prince, it also gives them the flexibility to add not one, but two max contracts this offseason. Because of this move, speculation that the Brooklyn Nets are confident in their ability to land a big-time free agent ramped up significantly. And the belief that Kyrie Irving will be heading there in the offseason gained significant steam as well.

In fact, Woj also reported that the Nets are serious about acquiring Irving and beating every other team to the free agent market, and that meanwhile Irving is also quite serious about joining the Nets. Because of the impeccable amount of space Brooklyn has opened up now, they could add Irving on a max contract while also re-signing All-Star D’Angelo Russell or they could renounce Russell and add a separate additional star. Presumably Kevin Durant is their main target, but that could be a tough goal to reach.

However, it’s not hard to see what makes the Nets attractive. They had a solid 2018-19 season which resulted in their first playoff appearance since 2015. They have a promising young core and a solid group of role players. They’ve established a winning culture much above that of opposing free agent destinations such as the New York Knicks or Los Angeles Lakers. And perhaps most enticing of all is head coach Kenny Atkinson who is a brilliant mind and one of the more underrated coaches in the league.

That’s all fine and good for the Brooklyn Nets, but since when do we care about them getting better and adding high profile free agents? I’m sure by now you’re wondering, so what does this mean for the Utah Jazz? Well, let me tell you.

This is big news for the Jazz because it’s looking more and more likely that Kyrie Irving will be heading to Brooklyn, taking up one of their two potential max slots this summer. That in and of itself is no big deal because Irving was never realistically considering Utah. However, it just so happens that two other players that could have been interested in Brooklyn are also very much on Utah’s radar. And if Kyrie takes one of their max spots, then the Nets can only feasibly add one of those two.

The two guys I’m referring to are D’Angelo Russell and Tobias Harris. Russell is currently a restricted free agent and it is entirely possible that the Nets could try to pair him with Irving. Tobias Harris is another player who’s likely set to earn a max contract and many presumed that Brooklyn could be high on his list.

But if the Nets add Kyrie, then they can only add one of Tobias or D’Angelo alongside him. Not both. Meaning while some may have thought Harris could have gone to the Nets to join Russell, eliminating two Jazz targets in one fell swoop, now if the Kyrie rumors are to be believed, the Nets can only get one or the other.

That means the Jazz may very well have a realistic shot at nabbing whichever one doesn’t go/stay in Brooklyn. Harris or Russell may very well be available as unrestricted free agents and up for the taking if Utah can just lure them in. Or, if the Nets succeed in their wish and add Kevin Durant or some other free agent star to go alongside Irving, Utah could pursue both Harris and Russell with space to add one or the other.

That would be absolutely incredible as either one would fill an immense need for the Jazz – adding an additional playmaker who can get into the paint, command the defense’s attention and create his own shot. Though they play different positions, they’d each allow the Jazz to make the proper adjustments to move closer to becoming the team they so desperately want to be.

Of course, there are still a lot of hypotheticals and assumptions being made here. Kyrie to Brooklyn feels very probable, but we’re still barely into the month of June and free agency doesn’t officially begin until June 30th meaning a ton could happen or change between now and then. Not only that, but even if both Harris and Russell shake loose, by no means is that a guarantee that they’re going to Utah. In fact, not even close.

All it would mean is that one team – in this hypothetical instance, the Nets – would be crossed off their list of destinations. Utah would still have to beat out several other appealing teams with cap space including the LA Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks, Indiana Pacers and Dallas Mavericks, to name a few, as free agent suitors.

That’s a daunting group to go up against and it won’t be easy for Utah to emerge victorious. Nevertheless, the presumption that Brooklyn is clearing space and will likely prioritize adding Irving is still good news for the Jazz. Because if all that comes together, it will certainly improve their odds of adding a high-profile free agent that they so desperately need.

Next: Utah Jazz notes: Mitchell/USA Basketball buzz, Hornacek to the Lakers?

And when you’re facing a lengthy history of struggling to attract any semblance of gifted free agents, an increase in the odds is about all you can hope for. Here’s to hoping the rumors ring true, Kyrie goes to Brooklyn, and a promising free agent therefore shakes free and is won over by the compelling free agent case pitched by the Utah Jazz this summer.

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Could Kemba Walker missing playoffs help Utah Jazz free agency pursuit?

Jared Woodcox , 2019-04-13 17:58:36
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With the Charlotte Hornets missing the playoffs, Kemba Walker may very well be looking elsewhere in free agency. If so, the Utah Jazz should absolutely step in and pursue his services.

Although the playoffs are upon us and the Utah Jazz may have a lot to prove about the makeup of the team and what needs they truly have going forward, I don’t think it’s a stretch at all to say that we already know that the Jazz need another piece if they hope to truly compete for a championship. Some would say they need a playmaking four. Others a new point guard. Some still may wish for simply a third scoring option regardless of position or if they’re star level or not.

I think there’s an argument to be had for each of those cases. And once free agency draws nearer, perhaps I’ll dive in to pros and cons of all three. But for now, with the playoffs beginning this weekend, I’ll instead focus on a more pertinent story line having to do solely with a potential upgrade at point guard.

Said story line has nothing to do with a current Utah Jazz player. In fact, you could say it has nothing to do with the team at all, at least not yet. However, it’s still something worth keeping an eye on.

While 16 NBA teams now find themselves in the thrill of qualifying for playoff contention, there are also 14 other squads facing the sting of missing out of postseason action. For some, such as the Cleveland Cavaliers, New York Knicks or Phoenix Suns, this reality set in long ago, meaning the end of the season didn’t really come as that much of a shock.

But for other teams, namely in this instance the Charlotte Hornets, the pain of missing out on postseason action didn’t become a reality until the final day of the regular season. Charlotte’s odds were a long shot throughout the final month of regular season action and the last day was no different. They needed both a win over the Orlando Magic and a Detroit Pistons loss to the New York Knicks to make it in. Unfortunately for them, neither happened. And in all honesty, it was amazing they had kept their chances alive for as long as they did.

That falling short of the playoffs perhaps hurts worse for Hornets star Kemba Walker than it does for any other player in the NBA. In Charlotte’s final game, Walker did everything he could to keep the dream alive. He finished with 43 points on 64 percent shooting from the field and 44.4 percent shooting from deep. It was an absolutely brilliant performance. But ultimately, it wasn’t enough.

It wasn’t enough.

Those three words could perfectly describe Kemba’s 2018-19 season. Despite being an NBA All-Star starter, putting up a career season and doing everything within his capability to give his team a fighting chance at the playoffs, they still fell short.

In that final contest, Charlotte’s two highest paid players, Nicolas Batum and Bismack Biyombo, combined for just six points (Biyombo scored all six). The next two highest paid players, Marvin Williams and Cody Zeller, weren’t in action. The fifth, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist logged one minute and zero points. Next comes Kemba. Kemba did everything. Gave his heart and soul. But again, it wasn’t enough.

That game was a microcosm of the entire season for Charlotte. Sure, guys like Jeremy Lamb, Dwayne Bacon, Malik Monk and Miles Bridges all showed promise at one point or another. There’s a lot to like about some of the young talent on the squad. But pretending like they have a championship in their near future (or even a deep playoff run, to be frank) as currently constructed, is pure foolishness.

And therein lies an enormous dilemma for Kemba. He is one of the most likable guys in the NBA, not just because of his spectacular play on the court or his story of overcoming the odds to become a brilliant player, but because he’s an absolutely solid person off the basketball court. A part of that great personality is his loyalty, and he’s shown nothing but dedication to Charlotte and a determination to elevate that team to the greatest heights he can muster.

That loyalty is a big part of what has made Kemba so great and so loved. But it’s also likely what will make his upcoming free agency decision so hard.

Leading up to this season and throughout the early part of what many figured to be a promising year for the Hornets last fall, Walker showed nothing but love for the city of Charlotte, enthusiasm about the team’s chances and a determination to build something special in Buzz City. He further solidified himself in Hornets lore as arguably the best player to don the purple and teal by becoming the franchise’s all-time leading scorer this season. He’s publicly and verbally expressed that Charlotte is where he wants to stay in the past.

But suddenly, as a part of a team that underperformed and missed the playoffs, it’s hard not to wonder if Kemba is suddenly starting to have second thoughts. Following the Hornets’ elimination from postseason qualification, Walker was full of emotion and shed little light on his future in Charlotte. Per ESPN—

“I have no feeling right now, I don’t know,” Walker said of his impending decision in free agency this summer. “Honestly, I don’t know what to expect. I guess it’s a lot of different emotions bottled up into one. I’m not sure. I don’t know.”

When asked further about what he will consider in the offseason, he also added the following–

“I mean, obviously I do want to be competitive because I want to be able to play in the playoffs,” Walker said. “So I want to think that would have some influence” on my decision.

I have no doubt that in an ideal scenario, Walker would want to stay in his beloved Charlotte. He’s nothing short of a legend there, admired by all. However, given their current situation, it’s hard to see them going anywhere, even by keeping him. Hornets management hasn’t been able to put a winning roster around Kemba, and the way the team’s salaries are currently allocated, if they extend a max contract to Walker, they’ll have nothing left to bolster the roster.

In other words, if Kemba stays, that decision to remain in Charlotte will essentially seal their fate of mediocrity. The contracts of guys I mentioned earlier – Batum, Biyombo, Williams, Zeller and Kidd-Gilchrist – look like absolute albatrosses now. Sure, some are up sooner than others, but the fact remains that the Hornets don’t have much they can do this offseason other than re-sign Walker to a hefty contract.

And while of course a team is always going to want to keep its best player, there’s also an argument to be had that doing so wouldn’t be in the best interest of either party. The Hornets team wouldn’t have the financial flexibility to improve while Walker wouldn’t have the support he needs to reach his winning and playoff aspirations.

So therein lies the crossroads. Had Walker’s squad made the playoffs on his shoulders, he may be feeling more optimistic about returning and continuing to build the Hornets from within. Now that they’ve missed the postseason for the third straight season as well as the 14th time out of the last 17 seasons, and considering that they haven’t been to the second round since 2002, the chance to go to a winner has to be weighing heavily on his mind.

As such, this is exactly where we can see plenty of free agent suitors emerging to make a pitch to Kemba targeted at his desire to win. In other words, here is where we say, enter the Utah Jazz.

It wasn’t long ago that acquiring Kemba in free agency looked like a long-shot, not just for the Jazz, but for any team, as the overwhelming presumption was that Walker would be staying put in Charlotte. Now, though, with his team out of playoff contention after he laid everything on the line for 82 games (and, yes, he remained healthy and started all 82 games this season), it’s becoming entirely believable that he’ll start to look elsewhere for a more promising opportunity.

That doesn’t mean that the Jazz will have the leg-up on the opposition. There are plenty of other suitors that present enticing scenarios, glitzy markets, great chances to win or all of the above. Teams like the LA Clippers, Indiana Pacers, Dallas Mavericks, New York Knicks or Los Angeles Lakers all could propose interesting cases for Kemba’s services.

But if the Jazz decide that the point guard spot is where they want to bulk up, they would be foolish not to go after Walker. They can pitch him the opportunity to play for a team that’s made the playoffs as many times in the past three years as the Hornets have in a decade and a half, and has made the second round as many times as Charlotte has since 2000.

He’d have the chance to have the most prolific backcourt running-mate he’s ever played with in Donovan Mitchell, and a perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate in Rudy Gobert backing him up at the rim. Meanwhile, Utah’s depth and coaching prowess would serve as further enticements of a wonderful situation for Walker.

Not only that, but the Salt Lake community is one that would embrace Walker in a similar fashion to that of Charlotte, without a lot of the drama and unwanted attention that come in larger markets. From a lifestyle perspective, Kemba could expect a lot of similarities, but with a much better chance to compete and thrive in the postseason.

As I’m sure you can tell, I’d be ecstatic if the Jazz were able to add Kemba. But in all honesty, my heart would also break for the city of Charlotte and Hornets fans. Being a life-long fan of a small market team myself, I obviously know how hard it is to watch players leave and pursue other opportunities.

But in this instance, if basing off social media reaction is any indication, it feels like Hornets fans, though they’d obviously be heartbroken, would understand. They also see the dilemma the team is in regarding re-signing Kemba and staying mediocre or letting him go and starting anew. They also likely understand that after all Walker has done for the franchise and brought to the community, he certainly deserves a shot to win at the highest level.

That’s not to say it wouldn’t be devastating if he left. I know it would be and I’m not downplaying that one bit. No Hornets fan WANTS to see Kemba go, but based on how the situation has been commented on by a wide portion of the fanbase on social media, it seems there would certainly be an understanding if he sought a fresh opportunity.

Calculate all that together and I truly think Utah has a legitimate shot at landing Kemba Walker in free agency. He’s clearly thinking about where he can go to put himself in a winning situation above all else. The Jazz have a compelling argument they can present him. There’s honestly a lot to like about the match.

That said, by no means do I believe Utah is the favorite. They’ve struggled to land big-time free agents in the past, why would Kemba be the one to break the mold? Not only that, but perhaps Dennis Lindsey has other plans in mind that don’t involve extending a max contract to Walker, which would make all of this a moot point anyway.

Nevertheless, for a team in Utah’s situation to get better and become a true title contender, they’re at the point where they have to start taking risks. Going after Kemba Walker would absolutely fit in that category.

Next: Utah Jazz & rest of NBA: Playoff Preview and Predictions

But due to recent events, namely Charlotte falling just short of the postseason in disappointing fashion, this may be an opportunity like one they’ve rarely seen before. This may be a chance to land a free agent that takes this Utah team to a whole new level. It may be a chance to put Walker in an ideal situation and thrust the Jazz into championship contention.

It’s a chance that the Utah Jazz absolutely have to pursue and, if possible, take.

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Favors, Jerebko Lead the Way in Jazz’s Rout of Nuggets

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With no games on the Saturday or Sunday, it seemed like a good opportunity for a Salt City Hoops Q&A. To my surprise, only question came in about the team as presently constituted1. The rest focused on potential future Jazzmen, including G-Leaguers, trade targets, or free agents. 

On to the questions!


What would have to happen to replace Derrick Favors in the starting lineup? – @caseygreer2

Casey chimes in with the only question about the Jazz on the court, as opposed to a potential personnel move, so he’s first in line.

First off, Favors is a huge asset to the Utah Jazz. It’s hard to imagine the Jazz being able to find a more talented backup center for the minutes Rudy Gobert rests or (God forbid) any games Gobert misses. On the current roster, those minutes would be taken by the steady but offensively limited Ekpe Udoh, or in theory second-year man Tony Bradley, who has yet to play 10 NBA games or 30 NBA minutes.

That said, fans often question Favors’ fit in the starting lineup, probably with good reason. Advanced stats make it pretty clear that the starting lineup is outplayed pretty handily by the Rubio-Mitchell-Ingles-Crowder-Gobert combo, and it’s not really close. Starters have tallied a 0.6 net rating to date, while the same lineup with Crowder in for Favors scores a 17.5 net rating. Across the board, the numbers favor a Favors-less, Crowder-ful team on the floor. Shooting is better and the ball moves better; only rebounding percentage is slightly better with the Favors lineup.

So what has to happen for Crowder to get the start and for Favors to come off the bench? Honestly, I’m surprised it hasn’t happened already, given what I perceive as Quin Snyder’s affinity for a stretch four on the floor. Last season Crowder was new to the Jazz and less prepared physically, so not making the change then was understandable. This season the sample size is still fairly small. At some point, if the results stay the same or close, I think Snyder makes the change unless he feels like he would lose Favors in the process.

I have more thoughts about how that rotation might work, but if I get into that, this will become an entire column, not an answer to a single question.


Do the Jazz have any rights to (SLC Stars forward) Willie Reed? Or does he just play for the Stars? – @deige22

In short, he just plays for the Stars. Only NBA assignees (Tony Bradley in the Jazz/Stars case) or players with Two-Way Contracts (Naz Mitrou-Long and Tyler Cavanaugh) have contracts with the NBA affiliate. As such they are only eligible to be called up by that affiliate, not by other teams.

The vast majority of G-League players sign a contract with the league, not the NBA affiliate, and this is the case with G-League draft picks like Reed. The Stars have no exclusive right to call him up to the Jazz; any NBA team that wants to call Reed up can do so. That said, the Stars selected him, so the Jazz may have had some interest in evaluating him up close. They seem somewhat pleased with the pick, having filmed his introductions with the front office and interviewing him during a Jazz game2. If the Jazz want to retain Reed longer term, they could opt to offer Reed either a Two-Way Contract or a full NBA contract (presumably for the minimum salary, although the Jazz could use an exception to offer more). Either option would require the Jazz to clear a roster spot.

In his first three games, Reed has likely turned some heads somewhere in the league, averaging 30.7 ppg on .755 FG%, 13.7 rpg and 1.3 bpg. If he keeps that up for long, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see someone call him up. He’s very long (although not a stretch four or five – a potential strike against him in today’s NBA), and he has NBA experience.


What’s the next significant move the Jazz make and when? – @Jazzies12

There are a couple ways to answer this question. The first is that any move Dennis Lindsey makes could be significant. When the Jazz claimed Joe Ingles off waivers, nobody called that a significant move, and yet he has been proven to be an NBA starter and a huge asset for the Jazz. In hindsight, that was a significant move.

That said, I assume you mean a SIGNIFICANT move, like bringing in a high-level player who is already proven and a good fit, then adding the Jazz development and system like a cherry on top. The short answer is that it could happen any time. There could be a blockbuster trade tomorrow (but I doubt it), or there could be a move at the deadline that qualifies as significant. In my opinion, the best chance for a significant move is a free agent pickup during the offseason, and we’ll talk about that more later.


When is Favors eligible to be traded (not that I want that – he played really well yesterday – just curious on options)? – @trueblueclint

That’s a simple answer, so I won’t belabor this one. Because Derrick Favors was signed with Larry Bird rights and the Jazz are over the salary cap, Favors can’t be traded until January 153.


I’m really curious about trade ideas, mostly dealing with Favors or Alec Burks. Seems like expiring contracts don’t carry the same weight they used to. I feel like the Jazz need more shooting, any thoughts on who and what they’d cost? – @dallas_sawyer

It is true that expiring contracts haven’t been as valuable in recent years as they once were, but with a larger crop of good free agents in 2019, we might see a shift.

Even with Burks’ resurgence this year, I sense that the Jazz and Burks will part ways next July 2019, when he will be an unrestricted free agent. It may be his decision or the team’s, or it may very well be mutual. If I’m reading those tea leaves correctly, it would make sense to move Burks if the Jazz get a chance to gain some kind of asset, as long as that asset doesn’t hamper future flexibility.

Favors is a different story. I don’t know if the Jazz will pick up the guarantee for the second year of Favors’ contract, but the harsh reality is that the Jazz need him for the reasons stated above. The Jazz might survive without power forward Derrick Favors, but they really need backup center Derrick Favors. He shouldn’t be traded unless it improves the team, and that would have to include a capable backup center either coming back in the deal or joining the team some other way.

Finally, I agree the Jazz could use a little more consistent shooting, but improving shooting via trade doesn’t necessarily equate to improving the team. For example, the worst three-point shooters so far have been Ricky Rubio and Dante Exum. Any shooter the Jazz acquire in a deal likely doesn’t take minutes from either player, but from a someone who is shooting better (like Burks at .579 from three). Donovan Mitchell is also shooting a subpar percentage, but I’m pretty sure I don’t want to sit him so that a career great shooter like Kyle Korver can launch some threes. For the moment, I think shooting improvement comes from in-season improvement, but obviously that assessment could change if it continues to be a problem at the 20, 30 or 40-game mark.


Do you think the Jazz are real players in free agency, or should they focus on the trade deadline to build next year’s roster like they did last season? – @JamonWinegar

Everything I’ve read (no inside information from me, sorry!) tells me that Plan A is free agency. The Jazz feel like they can be players not at the very top of the free agent list, but in the range where they can still get a player they want. More on those types of players later.

In order to abandon Plan A in February in favor of a deadline deal, the Jazz would want to get a similar type of player with a reasonable amount of time left on a contract. If they can’t do that, I think they wait and roll the dice in the summer. There’s an exception for deals involving taking on expiring contracts, as those don’t affect Plan A.


Do you think the Jazz will go after Tobias Harris or Khris Middleton in free agency? – @newbymiles89

I think both players are on Lindsey’s radar, and are exactly the type of player the Jazz expect to compete for next July, not the Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving tier. Both are 20-point scorers, but are somewhat under the radar, Middleton due to playing with the Greek Freak, and Harris because he’s been around the league a bit. Given a choice, I’d pick Middleton, but nothing happens in a vacuum, and Harris isn’t a bad consolation prize.


Thanks to everyone for the questions! We’ll do this again in a few weeks!

Ken’s connection to the Jazz started in the mid 1980s in the old Salt Palace and hasn’t really missed a beat since. Ken lives in the Phoenix area, where he and his wife operate their own business. Ken tweets at @k_clayt.

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The J-Notes' post-free agency West power rankings

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Utah Jazz Donovan Mitchell Klay Thompson

SALT LAKE CITY, UT – JANUARY 30: Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Utah Jazz looks to shoot in front of the defense by Klay Thompson #11 of the Golden State Warriors during the first half of a game at Vivint Smart Home Arena on January 30, 2018 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images)

How do the Utah Jazz currently stack up against the best squads in the Western Conference? Will the same roster yield better results?

August is upon us and the NBA’s free agent frenzy is in the rear-view mirror. Of course, if you’re a fan of the Utah Jazz, there was never any frenzy to speak of.

In the end, the Jazz band stood pat. Derrick Favors, Dante Exum, Thabo Sefolosha, Ekpe Udoh and Raul Neto will all be back next season. In fact, the only new face on the team’s 15-man opening night roster figures to be rookie Grayson Allen. Clearly, continuity was the keystone for the team’s offseason plans.

Meanwhile, the rest of the West saw some major changes; none bigger than the Los Angeles Lakers’ move to bring LeBron James into the fold. Elsewhere, in San Antonio, the Kawhi Leonard situation came to a close with the Spurs moving the former NBA Finals MVP to the Toronto Raptors for DeMar DeRozan.

So, given the new landscape of the conference, where do the Jazz sit among the West’s pantheon of teams? For my money, their spot is right near the top.

Here’s how the Western Conference looks to me in the wake of all that went down last month…

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Free Agency frenzy, Jazz stand pat, SL recap

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@john_keeffer and @jaredwoodcox.

Also, be sure to keep up to date with the Three-Point Threat Podcast via Twitter, iTunes, Google Play, Spreaker and!

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Dan Clayton

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We’re not even two days into free agency, and already there is clarity on the Jazz’s roster plans, cap situation, and immediate future.

Derrick Favors agreed to a two-year, $36 million deal on Monday afternoon. That leaves the Jazz with just their own free agent rights and salary cap exceptions as they finish shaping their 2018-19 roster. But that leaves some questions: How do those work? Who’s Utah’s competition? What’s the latest on restricted free agent Dante Exum? We dive in with our latest offseason Q&A.

Some of these questions were submitted before the Favors decision was announced, so I took the liberty of reframing a couple of them so that they’d still be applicable. 

Who has cap space left?


This stuff can change by the hour, and it’s also difficult to know which free agents’ rights are still being held by a team and which aren’t. So I’m going to answer in terms of who can still create cap space by renouncing guys. Current as of 6:13 EDT on 7/2.

Big money: Atlanta, Chicago and Sacramento can all still create $20 million or more of room without trades.

Medium money:

  • If Brooklyn orders its transactions right, it can spend about $7M more before signing Joe Harris to his new deal and signing Ed Davis (Room MLE of $4.4M) and Nik Stauskas (min) using exceptions. That number will go up if they buy out Dwight Howard.
  • Philadelphia has about $13M left, plus the Room MLE.

Exceptions teams: With Thabo Sefolosha’s guarantee and Favors’ agreement to sign, the Jazz now don’t have the option of operating like an under-the-cap team, but their MLE is intact. The Clippers can create $14M or so if they waive/rescind everybody, but it’s more likely they’ll keep at least one of Patrick Beverley ($5M non-guaranteed) or Avery Bradley (UFA), at which point they might as well operate as an exceptions team.

In addition to those two, Charlotte, Cleveland, Memphis, Miami, New Orleans and Orlando have the full MLE intact. Denver, GSW, Houston, OKC, Portland1, Toronto and Washington have their taxpayer MLE intact.

Mostly done spending: Detroit (Glenn Robinson), Milwaukee (Ersan Ilyasova), New York (Mario Hezonja), San Antonio (Marco Belinelli) and Minnesota (Anthony Tolliver) have all used a portion of their MLE. Dallas has a small amount of cap room left, but plans to use it to re-sign Dirk Nowitzki. Phoenix spent its cap space on Trevor Ariza, but still has the Room MLE (and can waive guys to open up $5-8M more in room). The Lakers have committed all but about $5M of their cap space, even if they order Lance Stephenson’s signing (at the Room MLE) last. Indiana spent the last of its space on Tyreke Evans, but has the Room MLE.

Can MLE be aggregated with cap space or other assets?


No, none of the salary cap exceptions can be combined with cap space (or with other exceptions). The only time when that sort of aggregation is legal is when compiling salaries for trade matching purposes (within certain guidelines).

How can the Jazz use their trade exceptions?


They can only use them to acquire players whose entire salary would fit inside each exception: The $2.4M from Hood or the $3.7M left over from Johnson. They can’t be used to sign players, they can’t be combined to create one $7.1M exception, and they can’t be lumped together with the MLE or anything else. It’s basically just to acquire a single player.

Which is why the reality is that most trade exceptions expire unused, especially smaller ones like these. There’s a small chance the Jazz could use a TPE to take back an additional player in a trade if the team they’re trading with wanted to dump more salary. For example, trade Thabo ($5.25M) for a player making up to $9.2M and then take another player making $3.7M or less into one of the TPEs. Something like that could help a team trying to reduce payroll.

Do you think we’ll see a 5-out lineup by the Jazz with Jae Crowder and Sefolosha as the “bigs”?


Maybe in unique situations, depending on what an opponent is doing. But I think by and large, if you re-sign Favors it’s because you plan on him using most of the backup center minutes. 

For what it’s worth, even with Gobert missing 27 games last season, the Jazz didn’t have a single lineup that didn’t feature a center log more than seven minutes all season. I just think Quin Snyder regards 5-out lineups as being more of a “break-glass-in-case-of-emergency” type ploy. Which makes sense to me when you have two guys who are above average paint protectors AND rim divers.

Crowder and Sefolosha seem to have similar (though not identical) skill sets. Who do you envision gets more minutes of the two, and what factors might influence Snyder’s decisions on that matter?


At least at first, it will be Crowder. Sefolosha is a 33-year-old coming off a major injury, and also has to serve a short suspension to start the season. So out of the gate, it will be Crowder, but shot selection and defense will probably determine a lot of it over the course of the season. Sefolosha can do a bit more with the ball in his hands, but Crowder has more natural athleticism. The reality is that we’ll see plenty of both guys. It helps that both of them are legitimately multi-positional players, so Snyder will find a way to deploy them.

It’s also worth mentioning that both of them are on great contracts and therefore would both be very tradable if the Jazz decide they have an embarrassment of riches at SF/PF and could address a need elsewhere.

If Favors decides to sign elsewhere, who do the Jazz go after since we’d be limited to the MLE?


This question was submitted before Fav committed to sign a 2-year, $36 million deal. 

If the Jazz sign Favors, Dante Exum and Raul Neto will that be it? Will they or could they make another move?


It sounds as though they’ll use all or part of the MLE to add a depth piece. They’re probably not getting a major impact piece at that level, but there a lot of really nice players available for all or part of the MLE this summer.


Who do the Jazz use the MLE on?


Which stretch 4s might Jazz be targeting?


Based on the market set thus far in FA, what remaining candidate(s) seems like a good fit for the MLE?


Grouping these similar questions together.

The depth chart after Favors re-signed is pretty chock full of rotation-quality guys. So you’re looking for someone who would upgrade a rotation spot. The most obvious spot is to find a shooting big to provide depth behind Favors and the tag-team of smallball 4s the Jazz have on their roster. That’s why names like Nemanja Bjelica and Davis Bertans keep coming up. Luc Mbah a Moute would be great, but he’s a little bit similar to Sef & Crowder as a big defensive wing who can play some stretch 4 as a corner spot-up guy. I think Bjelica might be the guy they’re monitoring. Which wouldn’t be great news for Jonas Jerebko and his non-guaranteed contract. 

What’s your thought on what level of contract that a team would have to offer Dante for the Jazz to not match it? I think, and could be wrong, the Jazz might be the highest on Dante’s upside as anyone!


I answered a similar question last week and my view on it hasn’t changed much. If they can get him in the high seven-figure range, it’s a no-brainer to match. In the $10-12M range they’d wince a little before matching. And if it gets up into the mid-teens, then the decision gets tougher. But I’m one of those people who still think Exum can be special in the NBA. Guys who have one elite skill have long NBA careers. Guys who do two things at an elite level have a really strong foundation to build on. Exum has the tools to be elite at perimeter defense, and elite at getting from point A to point B with the basketball. I wouldn’t give up on him. 

As for your final point, there are teams out there who still like Exum. I’m not sure if that will translate to an offer or not, but he still has believers.

Is there any value in trading for Carmelo Anthony? I get that he is on the downslope of his career but could be a stretch 4 we need and his defense could be mitigated by Rudy Gobert. Plus we would take a few draft picks for our trouble.


I don’t think the Jazz would have any interest in Melo. At -3.0 Wins Above Replacment (or, put differently, 3 losses above replacement), Melo was damn near the worst rotation player in the entire league last season. OKC played much better when he sat. Pretty much all he does anymore it hit shots, but at .503 true shooting, you’re actually making your offense WORSE every time he shoots. It’s just not a fit.

Also, not to pick on Casey here, but we need to revisit the whole “Gobert will cover for a bad defender” philosophy. Gobert certainly enables the Jazz’s perimeter defenders to play a certain way, but that doesn’t mean that he has magical dust he can sprinkle on a bad defender to make them good. That’s just not how the Jazz’s team defense is built. There’s a reason they took proven rotation-quality players like Rodney Hood, Joe Johnson and Alec Burks and gave their roles to the somewhat less-heralded Royce O’Neale, Crowder and Exum, respectively: the defense is elite when five guys know their jobs and stick to a system. When that system is working, it can turn good defenders into great ones, but if you put guys who don’t give a crap next to Gobert, they don’t just magically give a crap. And there’s a lot of evidence from the past two seasons to support that, which is why certain players (even good ones!) aren’t on the Jazz anymore.

Is there ANY chance that Milwaukee would not match on Jabari at the MLE? Also, could the Jazz sign Favors and Exum quickly (and lower than cap holds) and use whatever space they have left combined with the Room MLE on Jabari? 


1) I think Milwaukee would match at the MLE. I also think Jabari can probably find better offers than that somewhere. But we’ll see.

2) No, they can’t combine cap space with exceptions. And the Favors signing ensures that they’ll stay over the cap anyway.

If there’s a chance Love is available, do you think that changes how DL approaches (or approached) the meeting with Favors?


I’m sure they at least broached the topic of sign-and-trade scenarios when they met with Favors, but clearly they were more focused on getting him to stay.

The reality, though, is that the Jazz likely don’t have the assets to swing a Love trade. If the Cavs make Love available, it’s going to be a rebuilding trade. They’ll want young pieces and picks, and all of the Jazz’s assets in those categories are either of middling value or are off the table. 

(Now that Favors made his decision), do you expect more Jazz dominoes to fall? Or will that wait for Exum?


Now that we know for sure that the Jazz are an exceptions team, it doesn’t really matter if they make an MLE signing and then re-up Exum, or re-up Exum and then use the MLE. Obviously Utah would like to understand Exum’s price point so they don’t accidentally commit themselves to paying the tax, but by now they undoubtedly know what he’s asking for well enough to ballpark it. I think it’s more a question of those players holding out to see if the five teams who still have some flexibility — or the eight teams with the full MLE — want to make them a priority. For example, Bjelica isn’t going to sign for $5 million until his people have done due diligence with all of the MLE teams.

Any indication on your end that Tony Bradley is ready for some backup 5 minutes?


Let’s find out! Summer league starts in a few hours! (As for now, I’m still not counting on Bradley to be a rotation piece. But he can prove me wrong, starting tonight.)

If Isiah Thomas has no market, would you like to see the Jazz swing for the fences and try to sign him to the MLE and see if they can make it work? Have plenty of defense (especially if they back Dante), IT could be scoring punch we need, no?


With Ricky Rubio, Donovan Mitchell, Exum, Grayson Allen, O’Neale and even Joe Ingles getting some minutes at the two guard spots (and possibly Neto!), I’m just not sure I picture a big enough role for IT that it’s worth investing the full MLE. He was also a negative-value player last year by VORP. He just doesn’t really move the needle for me. 

How do Jerebko and Nemanja Bjelica compare on offense and defense?


Bjelica is probably just a bit more skilled overall. He can score the ball in more ways than Jonas, and he’s a little better as a ball mover. Defensively, Jerebko’s style is about hustle and disruption, whereas Bjelica is solid in more traditional defensive schemes. Neither guy has the lateral agility where you want them switching onto guards a ton, but both are good in hedge-and-recover situations, and Bjelica is probably a bit more solid guarding the low block. Bjelica is probably better overall, and in general probably fits Snyder’s vision of having multiple guys he trusts to make decisions with the ball. The Jazz also think Bjelica might have some unexplored potential after having an inconsistent role in Minnesota.

That does it for this week. We’ll probably do this one more time next week, depending on how active things still are and whether or not there are questions.

Dan Clayton

Dan covered Utah Jazz basketball for more than 10 years, including as a radio analyst for the team’s Spanish-language broadcasts from 2010 to 2014. He now lives and works in New York City, but contributes regularly to Salt City Hoops, FanRag and BBALLBreakdown.

Dan Clayton

Dan Clayton

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