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Five power forward options in free agency

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Milwaukee, WI – MARCH 20: Jabari Parker #12 of the Milwaukee Bucks shoots the ball against the Utah Jazz on March 20, 2016 at the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 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. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)

As the NBA Draft has drawn to a close, all focus can now be placed firmly on free agency. Here are five power gorwards of interest for the Utah Jazz.

With the 2018 NBA Draft firmly in the rear view mirror, we can now shift our focus to free agency and contemplate which established players can best help this Utah Jazz team into contention. The Utah Jazz are on the cusp of breaking through as a true contender, and they are going to face many difficult decisions this off-season.

In preparation for free agency, we at The J-Notes have been doing special pieces focused on the top five free agents at every position. You can read the others via the links below:

Today, we will be focusing on potential power forwards for the Jazz to target in free agency. As far as positions of need go, this may be the most intriguing this off-season. The decision on whether to keep Derrick Favors has been talked about at nauseum over the past few months. If you are going to talk about not re-signing Derrick Favors though, you have to discuss alternative options at his position.

We’ll talk about five players the Jazz should consider at the power forward position for next season, including the option of keeping Derrick Favors.

Let me just add, I am a huge fan of Aaron Gordon, and I think he would be terrific with the Jazz. That being said, I think it will take a max contract (that the Jazz won’t be willing to offer), and I expect the Magic would match it regardless. So I did not include him on this list.



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'Focus is to sign Derrick Favors' in free agency

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The Utah Jazz will reportedly make retaining unrestricted free agent power forward Derrick Favors a major focus this offseason.

There have been a lot of questions surrounding the Utah Jazz heading into this summer’s upcoming free agency. Will they aim to make a big splash in a trade or free agent signing? What positions will they look to upgrade? What moves do they need to make in order to continue their upwards trajectory but not handicap themselves financially?

Seeing how all of these are worked out will be absolutely fascinating to behold. But another question to go along with those is, what are the Utah Jazz going to do with their own free agents? Principal among them, the most valuable of their free agents, Derrick Favors?

Favors’ career with the Utah Jazz has been a good one, albeit an interesting one. He’s been reported to be on the trade block several times in the last couple years. There have seemingly always been questions about his fit alongside Rudy Gobert in an ever transforming league.

Leading up to this past trade deadline in February, speculation was that the Jazz ‘needed’ to trade Favors so that he didn’t leave them for nothing this summer, considering he’d supposedly made his intentions clear that he planned to do so.

Yet, after all the noise, it appears instead that Derrick Favors would like to remain with the Utah Jazz despite being an unrestricted free agent. He’s said as much both on social media and loud and clear in person. While the Jazz organization has clearly loved having Favors around as well, the question has been, is their priority to hold onto him, or look to replace his production with some other power forward option, possibly a playmaking stretch-four?

Well, according to Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune, it appears that we would have our answer. He recently tweeted out the following regarding Utah’s intentions with the free agency situation of Derrick Favors–

There you have it, Jazz fans. Utah’s focus this summer in free agency is bringing back Derrick Favors to be their power forward.

Now, this is still far from a done deal. Sure, Derrick Favors will have a hard time getting paid on the open market due to how tight money is this summer. But he’ll still want to make sure the Jazz are taking care of him financially and they’ll have to do so. Also, say he tests his market and a surprise team emerges that wants his services, things could change rapidly.

However, considering that at one point, there was belief of a zero percent chance that Derrick Favors would be back next season, I’d say those odds have jumped massively. Since Favors wants the Jazz and the Jazz apparently want Favors, I’d go as far as to say that it’s more likely than not that we’ll see the big man back in a Jazz uniform for the 2018-19 season, if not much longer.

And, quite truthfully, that’s exciting. I know many Jazz fans have salivated over the thought of potentially adding a stretch-four type or a young gun such as Aaron Gordon or Jabari Parker, but the fact of the matter is that Favors has been great for this team and personifies what it means to be a Jazzman. He works hard, hustles, gives his all night in and night out and is willing to sacrifice for the betterment of the team.

He’s shown on countless occasions including this past season that he’ll sacrifice playing time when it makes more sense for others to be on the floor in his spot such as Rudy Gobert or Jae Crowder. They have likewise done the same for him. He’s an excellent piece on the court and in the locker room as a great teammate and someone who has helped the Jazz chemistry become as tight-knit as it is.

Favors also has clearly developed a strong relationship with both Ricky Rubio and Donovan Mitchell. Having that connection with his backcourt is something that can’t be understated. In short, Favors isn’t without his flaws, but he’s a great fit for the Jazz that still allows them versatility since he’s so willing to take a step back if a situation calls for a smaller lineup or if Rudy needs to simply close out at center.

That kind of personality is hard to find and, along with his incredible skills, makes Favors absolutely worth re-signing.

The free agency period officially starts on July 1 and there’s bound to be a lot of madness both inside and especially outside of the Utah Jazz organization. However, with Utah making retaining Derrick Favors a clear priority, I expect we’ll get a resolution on that situation relatively quickly.

Be sure to stay glued to TheJNotes.com for further updates as we’ll be sure to keep you posted on all the latest Derrick Favors and other free agency news.



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Key dates for the NBA offseason, draft and free agency

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An overview of important dates related to the draft, free agency, trades and more on the Utah Jazz’s 2018 offseason calendar.

Although many would point to the summer of 2019 as Utah Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey’s time to shine, he and his brain trust will undoubtedly explore every avenue for improving the team this offseason, if they can do so.

You never know — the next great Jazzman could be had at next week’s NBA Draft. Or perhaps the trade and free agency markets prove more fruitful than anticipated. Whatever Lindsey and Co. decide to do, the moves made this summer could alter the course of the franchise forever.

Or not. The Jazz could essentially stand pat and wait for next year. But hey…it’s mid-June right now and anything is possible, right?

To that end, here’s a look at some key dates to keep in mind as the Jazz attempt to navigate their way through the offseason and emerge on the other side better than they were last season.

June 21 
2018 NBA Draft — The Jazz will select at No. 21 in the first round, after which they won’t pick again until the back-end of the second round at No. 52.

June 25
2018 NBA Awards — This is when we’ll find out if Rudy Gobert is the Defensive Player of the Year and whether or not Quin Snyder will nab Coach of the Year honors.

Of course, the big race for Jazz fans has been the Rookie of the Year battle between Donovan Mitchell and Ben Simmons. However, Simmons is a heavy favorite to take home the trophy.

June 29
Qualifying offer deadlines for point guards Dante Exum and Raul Neto — In order to make them restricted free agents, the Jazz will have to tender qualifying offers of $6.6 million and $1.8 million to Exum and Neto respectively.

There’s a chance that Exum may just sign his and play out next season. If he did so and stayed healthy and productive, he’d likely do much better for himself on the market during the summer of 2019.

July 1
This is the official starting date of the 2018-19 NBA league year, so there will be a lot going on in Jazzland.

Firstly, the July moratorium begins. It’s the negotiation period during which teams and free agents can begin reaching verbal agreements. That said, teams can’t actually sign most free agents or make trades. The big exception there is that restricted free agents can sign offer sheets or accept their qualifying offers.

Other exceptions include rookie-scale contracts, some minimum salary contracts and two-way contracts.

In addition to all of that, the Jazz will have to make a decision on Thabo Sefolosha. His $5.5 million salary will guarantee for the ’18-19 season.

July 2-5
Utah Jazz Summer League — Get the full Jazz summer league schedule HERE.

July 6
Moratorium ends at 10:00am MT — This is when the Jazz and the league’s other 29 teams can officially begin signing players and/or extending contracts. The two-day period for matching offer sheets on restricted free agents signed during the moratorium kicks in at this point.

Looking at players currently on Utah’s roster, the no-trade restriction on David Stockton expires.

July 6-17
Las Vegas Summer League

July 9
More contract decisions for the Jazz — the contracts of Jonas Jerebko ($4.2 million) and Ekpe Udoh ($3.4 million) both become guaranteed for ’18-19. Sidenote: At this point, the Jazz would be able to use their full salary numbers (as well as Sefolosha’s) for trades, if they’re so inclined.

July 13
This is the final day for teams to withdraw any unsigned qualifying offers they’ve tendered to RFAs.

The events that follow will fall well into the heart of next season, but will likely have bearing on moves the Jazz make this summer…

January 10, 2019
Another day for contract guarantees — Royce O’Neale’s $1.4 million and Stockton’s $1.5 million officially hit the books. O’Neale is a shoe-in for a spot on next year’s squad.

February 8
Trade exceptions for Joe Johnson and Rodney Hood expire — The exceptions the Jazz created with their moves at the trade deadline last February could come into play this offseason to bridge salary gaps in potential deals should the Jazz decide to work the trade market.

Johnson’s exception is valued at just over $3.7 million, while Hood’s is $2.4 million.



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Should the Utah Jazz pursue Thaddeus Young if he hits free agency?

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Indiana Pacers power forward Thaddeus Young could be available in free agency this summer. Would the Utah Jazz be wise to pursue him?

Recently my J-Notes colleague John Keeffer wrote an interesting piece observing the impending free agency of Utah Jazz forward/center Derrick Favors. In trying to make a plan of whether or not the Jazz should do all they can to hold onto Favs or look to replace him, John raised the question, “If not Favors, then who?”

It’s certainly a good question to ask before fans get too hasty presuming that maybe it’s time to move on from Favors. While a playmaking stretch-four has seemingly been on the Jazz wish list for quite some time, it’s important to consider all the factors of who the Jazz could realistically replace Favors with. And if they do replace him, would it really be an upgrade?

Of course, the Jazz may find themselves with no choice but to move on from Favors. He is an unrestricted free agent after all and could very well decide to join a new team. While personally I’d like to see D-Favs remain a member of the Jazz, for these intents and purposes let’s assume that either Favors chooses to move on from Utah or Utah chooses to move on from him.

If that ends up being the case, what then? Do they allow the likes of Jae Crowder and Thabo Sefolosha to simply fill the gap at the four? Or do they look to add some new blood in free agency?

If they went that second route, one name that could be intriguing for them to consider would be Indiana Pacers power forward Thaddeus Young. Young has a skill set and style that would seemingly make him an awesome fit for the Jazz, and the opportunity to pursue him became much more realistic this week as it was announced on Monday that Young is seriously considering declining his player option for the 2018-19 season.

Young fit seamlessly with the Indiana Pacers and was a key part of their shocking 2017-18 season. However, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowksi, Young is contemplating turning down his $13.7 million contract for next season to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Woj also mentioned that his motivation in doing so would be to pursue a long-term contract while in the prime of his career.

Some are surprised by this potential move because they question whether or not Young will receive offers that net him more money than what he would otherwise make this upcoming season. In a market that is strapped for cash, there’s a very good chance that Young may struggle to get more than the $13.7 million he was owed. Then again, perhaps he has an inside scoop or is OK taking somewhat less if it means he can get locked into the security of a long-term contract now.

Also, let’s not forget that he has yet to actually make the decision. The report that surfaced on Monday was simply that he is “seriously contemplating” opting out. He has until June 29th to make a choice and may very well decide to keep the safe money.

Even if Thad does opt out, he may also be doing so with the intention to stay with the Indiana Pacers. As I mentioned, he’s fit seamlessly there and has been an awesome piece both on the court and in the locker room for an exciting Indiana team. The Pacers also have ample cap space and could easily afford to retain him.

That, however, leads to yet another question. In some ways, Indiana’s situation with Young is similar to Utah’s with Favors. Sure, he’s been a great piece and they’d love to keep him, but both teams have to decide if keeping Young/Favors is what’s really going to help elevate them to the next level or if they’d be better off looking to make an upgrade at the four and using the money that would otherwise be wrapped up in the incumbent on a new player.

If Young gets the sense that the Pacers want to move on from him, potentially pursuing a younger playmaking four type such as restricted free agent Aaron Gordon to take his spot and match the timeline of the rest of their core, that could very well explain why he would want to opt out and hit unrestricted free agency. Of course, that’s merely some hypothetical speculation, I could also see Indy wanting to keep Thad around to preserve their chemistry that led to their over-achieving season.

But getting this back to the Jazz, if the reports hold true and Thad does indeed opt out, presumably with the thought of joining a new team rather than re-signing in Indy, should he be on Utah’s radar?

In terms of his personality and demeanor, it appears that he would be an excellent fit with the Jazz. He’s a team-first kind of guy that is willing to cede minutes and opportunities to others when necessary. He’s a hard worker and relentless hustler who would bring a solid edge to the Jazz.

He’s a versatile defender who the Jazz could switch onto multiple positions. He was great against Kevin Love in the first round of the 2018 NBA Playoffs and had good moments against LeBron James as well. He averaged nearly two steals per game this past season which is exceptional for a player his size. He’s also a pretty decent rebounder – he grabbed 6.3 per game last season – but certainly still has room to grow there.

Offensively, Thad isn’t a lights-out shooter from deep, but he is easily ahead of Favors in that regard and has the potential to be an ideal fit in Utah’s offense. He shot just 32 percent from deep this past season, but went an impressive 38.1 percent the season before. He certainly commands respect from the perimeter and if worked into Utah’s offense, he could become even more of a threat from long range.

Thad’s low free throw shooting percentage – he went just 59.8 percent this past season – is somewhat concerning. And at times he falls victim to missing easy shots at the rim, but there are several aspects of his game that I really like. I think he’d coexist extremely well alongside Rudy Gobert, would be absolutely selfless in terms of focusing on team success rather than his own numbers and has the potential to be a valuable stretch-four threat.

Now in terms of whether the Jazz should pursue him or not, these are my initial thoughts. First of all, his price and contract length would be a huge question. If he’s hoping to make more than $13.7 million on a long-term contract, then the Jazz might be wise to avoid taking on a sizable deal for a player that will soon be 30 years old.

Not only that, but I don’t feel like the Jazz should aim to let Favors go with the intention of signing Young. Young shouldn’t be viewed as a replacement for Favors, but rather as a backup plan in case Favors leaves. If the Jazz can’t re-sign Favors, then I’d be one hundred percent interested in them taking a long, hard look at Thad. After all, they’d need someone to make up for the loss of Favors’ production.

But if Utah was able to retain Favors, I’d say that’s a better plan than going for Young. There are things I like more about Thad’s game than Derrick’s, but he’s not enough of an upgrade for Utah to push out a younger guy in Favs who has developed an excellent chemistry and familiarity with this team and clearly plays his part well as a great fit.

If the Jazz were aiming to move on from Favors, I’d hope it would be to bring in someone a little more enticing and perhaps with a higher ceiling than Thad. On the other hand, if Favors left and Utah didn’t have a different replacement in mind, I’d be all for them then pursuing Young.

A lot remains to be determined this offseason before the Utah Jazz can start to make concrete plans. It will be absolutely intriguing to see what comes of Derrick Favors and depending on his decision, where the Jazz go from there. If Thaddeus Young joins the ranks of free agency, it will simply add yet another intriguing player for the Jazz to potentially pursue as they aim to take another leap forward towards title contention.



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Five wings the team should target in free agency

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As we get closer and closer to free agency, the Utah Jazz will look to bring in quality players who can help them make the leap into contention. Today we’ll look at realistic shooting wings.

The Utah Jazz were able to prove during the 2017-18 season that they are on the brink of breaking through in the West. After a rough start to the year, they finish with a 29-6 record down the stretch, and even won their first-round playoff series against a team with two All-Stars.

If not for the injury trouble they had to deal with, the Jazz were legitimately a 55-win team. According to ManGamesLost.com, the Jazz lost the most wins due to injury this past season. They calculated the number at 12.9, which would have the Jazz as a 60-win team.

60 wins definitely seems like a stretch, but it stands to reason that this Jazz team could have finished comfortably as the three seed in the West if injuries had not intervened.

So, other than staying healthy, what’s it going to take for the Jazz to jump into that upper echelon of NBA teams?

The most pressing concern for the Jazz this offseason should be to target 3-point shooting. It became clear during the playoff loss to the Houston Rockets that they’re simply going to be outgunned by the top teams in the league. The next focus should be to find further depth at the wing position.

Given the defensive culture that the Utah Jazz have cultivated, it makes sense that they would target a high-end shooter, who can also be a plus on the defensive end. They don’t necessarily need a starter level player, but someone who can contribute off the bench.

Let’s take a look at a few of the best candidates!



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Greg Monroe could be a good fit in free agency

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Greg Monroe is going to be an unrestricted free agent next season, and the Utah Jazz would be wise to put him on their list of potential targets.

The Utah Jazz are primed to be players in the free agency market this upcoming offseason, and with Derrick Favors becoming a free agent himself, finding someone to slot next to Rudy Gobert will be a priority. Should the Jazz decide to let Favors walk, there are numerous options available on the market; however, many of them are restricted free agents.

Jabari Parker and Aaron Gordon are two frequently mentioned names,  but they are both restricted and would come with a hefty price tag. While either Parker or Gordon would be exciting signings, people tend to forget that there are still serviceable, and cheaper options available. That’s where Greg Monroe comes into play.

The Story of the Migrating Moose

Greg “Moose” Monroe had a bit of a weird season last year, as he bounced between three teams. He started off in Milwaukee with the Bucks, where he had been for the previous two seasons. His minutes began to dip as time went on, and he was eventually relegated to a bench role. Along with his minutes, his numbers took a hit, which doesn’t look good on paper.

However, if you look at his per 36, you’ll see that statistically, he was right around his career marks.

After only playing in five games for Milwaukee last year, Monroe was traded, along with two conditional picks, to the Phoenix Suns for point guard Eric Bledsoe. While with the Suns, Monroe’s minutes were erratic, but he still managed to be relatively productive. Eventually, the tanking Suns decided that it was best to part with the veteran big man. Monroe then signed with the Celtics in early February, and he remains there as Boston continues through the playoffs.

As mentioned before, this season was a bit tumultuous for Monroe, as he was traded to one team, who eventually released him, and then signed with his current club. All this movement between systems did affect his stats, but Monroe is still an offensively efficient player.

The question is, will Boston re-sign him? It’s looking more and more like they won’t, as he’s played sparingly throughout the playoffs. While that might hurt Monroe when negotiating his new contract, it does make it more likely that he could be an option for the Jazz. All that said, the real question is, what does the future hold for Greg Monroe?

Should he test free agency, the Jazz might be the answer. Let’s look at the pros and cons of Moose potentially joining Utah.

The Pros

  • He will more than likely be cheaper than other free agent options. This is an important point, as many players on the market are going to command large contracts. Moose’s lack of playing time recently, paired with the fact that he doesn’t stretch the floor like some other big men, could lead to a cheaper deal.
  • He can play both the power forward and center. This is where things get tricky. Yes, Monroe can play both positions, but his inability to hit the three is arguably his greatest downfall. He’s taken 12 threes in his entire career and has made a whopping zero. Unless he goes through a massive transformation, it’s safe to assume that the long ball will not be a part of his game. That said, Monroe doesn’t need to be a stretch four starter if his contract is affordable enough. He could very well be a serviceable backup to Gobert if nothing else.
  • Monroe can provide efficient, interior scoring and is an underrated passer. He can bang in the paint with the best of them, and he does so at an exceptional clip. His scoring abilities are well-documented, and he could help either the Jazz first or second unit. The other part of his game that’s strong, and underrated, is his passing. He wasn’t asked to move the ball much in Milwaukee, but he thrives when given the opportunity. Monroe can kick it out to shooters from the paint and provide additional spacing for players on the wing.
  • Lastly, he’s an excellent Pictionary player. (Note: The final drawing is by far the best)

The Cons

  • Moose’s speed undoubtedly leaves much to be desired, and his reputation as being lead-footed isn’t unwarranted. That said, Utah’s system might mask that issue. The Jazz did increase their pace factor by over four points last season compared to 2016-17 season (from 91.6 to 95.7), but that was still 25th in the league. Should he play backup center, this deficiency would more than likely not be a huge issue.
  • As mentioned before, his inability to stretch the floor is a significant hindrance. The Jazz ideally need a stretch four, and Moose doesn’t fit that bill. The thing is, he doesn’t need to. If Monroe is cheap enough, then the Jazz could still sign another player to fill that void. It’s possible even to bring back Favors and sign Monroe, but much of that will be dictated by the free agency market.
  • His interior defense can be a liability. While Moose has averaged over one steal per game during his career, he is far from being an exceptional defender. However, this is a weakness that could be hidden by an elite Jazz defensive system. Utah’s defensive rating topped the league, and that very well could conceal Monroe’s defensive deficiencies. That said, while Monroe isn’t an elite defender, he isn’t abysmal either.

What should the Jazz do?

First, they need to determine what they want to do with Derrick Favors. They have to figure out how much money they’re willing to commit to him, if any, and then prioritize how they want to fill the other holes on their roster.

The thing with Greg Monroe is that he could very well be signed on the cheap and play behind both Favors and Gobert. Having Moose off the bench would be a massive boon to the second unit, especially when it comes to keeping pressure on opposing defenses.

In the end, it all comes down to money, but the Jazz should definitely watch the market and consider bringing a Moose to Salt Lake City.



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Dan Clayton

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There were way too many meaty questions in this week’s Q&A to get to them all at once. Part one went up earlier, focusing on the roles and free agency questions for Derrick Favors and Dante Exum. 

Now, we continue on, with more great reader questions on the Jazz’s hot streak, Royce O’Neale’s future, free agency, draft and more. Enjoy!

Basketball questions

What is the common denominator of this win streak? Just Rudy (Gobert)? The combination or him and Favors? (Ricky) Rubio? All of the above? @arcandrew90

They’re just playing really good, unselfish basketball. There’s very little ego in how the Jazz are playing. Guys are passing up good shots to create better shots for their teammates, and they’re on the same page defensively. It’s way bigger than one guy, but Gobert makes such a massive difference. Beyond his MVP-level impact on defense, his presence just frees guys up to be who they are instead of worrying about filling a void. Take Favors for example: his strength on defense is that he’s versatile. He can protect the paint at an above-average, quasi-Rudy level, but he can also cut off a ball handler on the high pick-and-roll or switch onto a wing. When Gobert is playing, Favors doesn’t have to worry about trying to replicate Gobert — he can just be what he is, which is a pretty damn good player. (And it obviously helps when Rubio is shooting and attacking like he is.)

How good the Jazz would be now and over the next few years had Gordon Hayward stayed? Would a core of G, Rudy, and Donovan Mitchell with solid role players be a title contender in 2-3 years? @tombagjr

If you could somehow take this current version of the Mitchell-led Jazz and inject 2016-17 Hayward into the mix, I think they’d be at least a secondary contender almost immediately, right? I mean, they were a 51-team and a Western Conference semifinalist before Mitchell and despite a slew of injuries.

But the butterfly effect makes it tough to answer your version of the question; if Hayward had stayed, who knows if Mitchell would have gotten the opportunities that have led to his early stardom. Remember, he struggled a lot early. Utah’s goals and needs would have been different if Hayward were around, and it’s likely that he wouldn’t have enjoyed quite as much of a runway to work through his learning curve. He eventually would have figured out his way to unleashing all that talent, but you never know: so much of success in the NBA is about getting the right opportunity.

Other Jazz players

What is O’Neale’s contract situation? I hope it doesn’t turn into the Wesley Matthews scenario. @Jeffrizzle23

When the Jazz brought Matthews to their 2009 training camp as an undrafted free agent, they had a tight cap situation and consequently offered him just a one-year contract. That backfired the following summer, when Portland used the fact that Utah didn’t have Matthews’ Bird rights to construct an offer that the Jazz couldn’t match without dipping into their salary cap exceptions.

This time around, Utah had more options. They signed O’Neale using their cap space, so they were able to offer a three-year contract with non-guaranteed second and third seasons. If they keep him all three years — and at the current rate, they will — then they’ll have full Bird rights to re-sign the Baylor product, as well as the ability to retain him through matching rights. They’re in a good position to keep O’Neale for as long as they want him.

Do you think that the Jazz do what they need to (within fiscal reason) to retain Raul Neto? @jstuart87

Neto has acquitted himself well every time the Jazz have called upon him. He has some limitations because of his size, but he’s smart, tough and always engaged. On top of that, he’s one of Gobert’s closest friends. For those reasons, I’m sure they’d love to keep him around, but that’s where we come to the “fiscal reason” part of your question. Because they have Rubio and Mitchell under contract and possess the inside lane on re-signing Exum, Neto mostly makes sense as a deep bench option. Because of that, it would be hard to justify much more than a minimum-salary deal. And Neto might want to shop around to see if another team has a bigger role for him. I’d still say the Jazz are the team most likely to employ him next season.

Nigel Williams-Goss is playing great. Do you have any intel on if they are likely to sign him next year? @Suspicious_Sal

The Gonzaga product is average 17 points and seven assists for Partizan Belgrade, an OK team in an OK league. I haven’t heard a peep about whether the Jazz’s No. 55 pick from last June is on the radar for this season. But again, with Rubio, Mitchell, Exum and Neto all in the mix, I’m not sure the Jazz have a need at his position at the moment. Of course, we need to see how the summer plays out for RFAs Exum and Neto.

Roster for final 26

With the Thabo (Sefolosha) exception, the Jazz can offer more than the pro-rated exceptions most teams can pay. Do you think there are any buyout free agents worth pursuing with that extra money before March 1? @KantsImperative

If you’re adding someone at this point, he’s going to have to take minutes from somebody in the Jazz rotation. So I don’t think you outbid on a guy just because you can; it would have to be someone who was an actual upgrade at a rotation spot. Is Rashad Vaughn or Tony Allen better than O’Neale or Joe Ingles? Is Josh McRoberts better than Jonas Jerebko or Jae Crowder? I think the answer is no for now, but they’ll certainly keep an eye out if anybody they really like winds up on the market.

I’m glad to see Naz Long is getting a second chance. I imagine that we have a few 10-day contracts before the March 1 playoff signing deadline, do you see a long-term signing to fill out the 15th spot? Boris Diaw? @KantsImperative

Same answer as above. Whose minutes is Diaw taking if he comes back to Utah? It feels like the Jazz are at a point where they really like their rotation, and they still have Exum coming back at some point. You could bring a guy in as an insurance policy, but that could mess with chemistry, and the chemistry seems pretty good right now. It’s far more likely that they take shots on guys with 10-days, and if they like somebody enough, they’ll sign him to a deal that includes a non-guaranteed option for next season.

For what it’s worth, the March 1 isn’t a deadline to sign guys for them to playoff eligible for your team — it’s the date that guys must be waived by in order to be playoff eligible for a different team. The Jazz can sign someone well into April and they’ll still be eligible for a playoff roster, as long as the player wasn’t on an NBA team after March 1. 

Free agency

Let’s say hypothetically Jabari Parker or Aaron Gordon came up to Lindsey this summer and said I’d love to play for your team, please give me a max contract. Could the Jazz get there, would they, should they, if so how would they go about it? @utahjazzman47

At this point, the Jazz can’t open up a 2018 max slot ($25 million and change for the two you mentioned) without trading salary. If they traded Alec Burks, re-signed Exum starting at $10M, cut all three of the Thabo/Jonas/Ekpe trio and rescinded rights to Neto and Favors, they are still $5M short. Trade Crowder? Trade Rubio? You can mess around with scenarios here. 

Now, would they do it if a stud like that wanted to play in Utah? Absolutely. But it would require some sacrifices, like letting Exum walk, or trading Rubio/Crowder in addition to Burks (without taking salary back).

Will the Jazz go after Paul George this summer and could they realistically sign favors exum and Paul George this summer. @goxenrider

If you read the last answer about how hard it would be for Utah to clear $25 million. Now consider that George’s max salary is in a higher bucket: just over $30 million. I’m sure the Jazz would make whatever deals necessary to get to his max if PG-13 told them “I’m in if you find me $30M.” But it’s probably not the best idea to bank on a top-20 player falling out of the sky — especially one who is expected by most knowledgeable people to be picking between LA and Oklahoma City.

With the impending cap crunch, do you foresee a scenario similar to the current MLB one where many top free agents remained unsigned long into the offseason as players/agents are adjust to the new landscape? @kja2064

Disclaimer: I don’t follow the MLB. That said, we saw something like that with Tristan Thompson last season, JR Smith the season before that, and with restricted free agents quite often. I’m sure that player agents have a spreadsheet like mine and they are realistic about the amount of money out there. So I think reps will give good advice to clients to they don’t hold out for the birds in the bush and wind up losing the one in the hand. 

What one (somewhat realistic) piece, available in the next two years, would you add to this team to make it a championship contender? *cough cough Kawhi cough* @arcandrew90

Wait, we’re calling Kawhi Leonard a realistic option? I’m not sure I see it, but maybe the Jazz are confident they could sell him on their culture and defense. I think it’s more likely going to be someone not quite as high-profile. The guy I keep using as an example is Khris Middleton, because he’s not quite a superstar in terms of profile, but he does everything you want your third guy to be able to do. I have no idea if Middleton will ever leave Milwaukee or if he’s interested in Utah, but that might be the tier where Utah has a more realistic shot.

Draft-related

What’s the probability for the Jazz to trade up in the draft and which assets do you think they would have to give up along with our first round pick to vault upward? (Similar in the vein of Trey Lyles + #24 pick last year.) @getsit

Dennis Lindsey’s favorite kind of trade! Utah has gotten back to where it only has its own draft picks remaining (until 2021, when they start to get some extra second rounders), so it’s likely going to be a player-pick combination, as with Lyles. Which player depends on how far they want to move up. A 1st + a role player won’t really get you that far. A 1st plus Mitchell or Gobert would get the Jazz some top-10 offers, but those two are probably off the table. Rubio and Jae Crowder both have basketball value, and Crowder’s contract makes him a great asset. 

The Jazz could also use the non-guaranteed contracts of last year’s veteran acquisitions to offer a trade where they take bad salary back in exchange for a higher pick. That can sometimes get you into the top 10, especially if you’re willing to attach a rotation-quality player.

What can the Jazz do to get Luka Dončić in the draft? I understand it would be a near impossibility but he would fit the Jazz perfectly for the next 15 years. Swap four future first round picks and take on a bad contract? @thomasjamespe

Short of getting a general manager of a top-five team very, very drunk and then floating trade ideas… not much.

I’ve done some research in the past on what it usually takes to get a team to surrender a top-five pick. Picks that high almost never move, and when they do, it’s usually for a can’t-miss star. Ready to sacrifice Rudy Gobert or Donovan Mitchell to get Luka? If not, there’s probably no way to get him aside from getting lucky at the draft lottery.

Thanks again for all the 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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Weekly Q&A Part One: Free Agency Lies Ahead for Favors, Exum

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Gregory Shamus via ESPN

The trade deadline passed and Derrick Favors is still with the Jazz. Fans of the franchise would like to for how long.

Leading up to the deadline, we started each week with a Q&A session to answer reader questions about the Jazz’s objectives and asset situation. Now that the roster is basically set post-deadline, here’s one more set of queries about their pieces, decisions and cap rules going forward. Far and away, the most popular questions this week had to do with Favors and restricted free agent-to-be Dante Exum, so we’ll start there.

There were a ton of questions this time around, so this mailbag installment will be posted in two parts. Check back later for the rest of the questions.

Favors & Exum

Let’s say the Net Rating for the Favors-Rudy Gobert pairing comes back go earth a bit over the next couple months, but continues to be very effective. What odds do you give the Jazz of re-signing him? What would that contract look like? @JamonWinegar

It’s been so rewarding to see Favors healthy. What’s the ballpark on his contract? In any other year, 3 years, $55 million or 4 at $70 million seems likely, but this year? @TheBMax

Without a doubt, this just became the most intriguing question about the Jazz’s summer, and it will only get more interesting as the Jazz continue to roll. It sounds more and more like Favors is open to coming back, so it’s probably more a question of whether the Jazz want to continue to play at least part of every game with two bigs. The answer has felt like a pretty emphatic no in the last couple of years under Quin Snyder, but right now the Jazz are rolling whatever team they have in front of them. There has to be at least a consideration of keeping him.

The problem is that the Jazz might not want to tie up 2019 money, in the hopes that if they keep some flexibility, they’ll eventually be able to add a third impact star next to Gobert and Donovan Mitchell. So they might prefer a shorter term deal while they keep their powder dry — whether that means a one-year contract with Favors or a fill-in option. 

But it’s really hard to read Favors’ market. On the one hand, Favors is probably going to be a top 10-15 free agent, or perhaps even higher if you account for guys who may opt in or those whose teams control their destiny with matching rights. Even though only a few teams will have eight-figure cap space, that money could make its way to the Jazz forward, especially if the top few guys stay home rather than go claim the cap space in the market place. Or… it could go the other way. LeBron, Boogie, and Paul George could all walk, DeAndre Jordan could opt out, and an RFA or two could wriggle loose, and suddenly the money dries up FAST.

If I had to guess, I still think Favors will get a starting salary of at least $12ish and possibly as high as $15-18 million. But with so few market actors controlling the spending ability, it could swing either way in a hurry.

(One quick side note here: because there will be more teams wanting starter-level free agents than can sign them, we might see the sign-and-trade mechanism make a little comeback this summer.)

Assuming Exum gets 3 or 4 years at $9-12 million per year, how much room do the Jazz have under cap to keep Favs? @TheBMax

The Jazz don’t need cap room to keep Favors. Because he is their own guy and hasn’t switched teams in over three years, the Jazz can sign him to any amount up to his max ($30 million) with a salary cap exception known as Bird rights.

I’m not seeing a lot of good stretch 4 options this upcoming summer. Do you see any that I’m missing? If not, what are the odds we hang on to Favs? @caseygreer

Yeah, there aren’t a lot, and the few that fit that bill AND are decidedly starter-quality are restricted free agents. I like Thaddeus Young if he opts out, but he’s a downgrade from Fav in overall terms. There are more guys if you widen the criteria to include fringe starters, and there are RFAs who fit the bill if the Jazz are willing (and able) to overpay for one. The other thing to keep in mind is that there are still guys who could potentially be had via trade. The Cavs could try another reload with Kevin Love this summer, for example. But yeah, there just aren’t that many stretch bigs who are starter-level players just hanging around, and that’s another reason why Fav staying has to be at least a possibility.

If they do let Favors walk, does Jae Crowder take over at the 4 and what type of player becomes a priority with cap $? @richmurphy1232

Do you think Favors will stay? I could see it going either way with having Crowder on the team now. @TheAccountant90

Whether or not Favors leaves, I’m not sure it behooves the Jazz to treat the newly-acquired Crowder as a full-time four. A lot of the value he provides is as a wing stopper, and there are smart people watching the Cleveland situation who felt like they neutered some of his value by having him guard fours so often so that LeBron wouldn’t have to. I think the ideal role for Jae is like what we’re seen in his first two Jazz games: a lot of minutes at the 3 where he guards the best perimeter player, and a few minutes of smallball action when the team switches to 4-out or even 5-out basketball.

After the Lou Williams deal & no teams going after the high-salaried bigs at what kind of $ numbers do you project we will be able to resign Exum and Favors? @Sporkaccione1

Spork is referring to Williams’ extension, where the Clips’ leading scorer accepted a three-year addition to his current deal for an extra $24 million (just $17.5M guaranteed). Over time, Lou’s deal will prove an underpay — maybe he just wanted to be in one place after playing for six different teams since 2012. That said, it is a sign that players are starting to freak out about all this talk about the money not being there. As explained above, a lot of it comes down to how many top FAs stay put where they can sign using Bird rights and without drying up the available cap money. (And there were plenty of teams interested in high-salary bigs at the trade deadline, just no major deals that ultimately went down. Both Favors and Jordan were highly sought after.)

Exum’s free agent number is even harder to pin down than Favors, because on top of everything else, he will have played something like 160 career games by the time he’s a free agent. Make no mistake: there are people out there who still believe in Exum. Will any of them have the ability to make him an offer? The NBA mantra around restricted free agents is that “it only takes one a**hole” to give your guy a massive offer and force you into a tough decision on matching.

Exum is a lottery talent whose elite tools have been on display when he has been able to suit up. Because of that, I’ve been telling people to expect the same type of contract that guys like Jrue Holiday, Kemba Walker, Steph Curry, Ty Lawson and others got before they were sure things. All of those guys struggled with inconsistency and/or injury early in their careers and still got contracts in the $10 to 12 million per year range. That said, other people have made convincing cases on why he might get less in this micro environment. I think his floor is the midlevel ($9M starting salary), but this is a pretty unique market environment. Even teams that have the full midlevel might not want to spend it because doing so hard-caps them for the season.

Could you see Favors returning on a richer than market value one year deal? Maintain 2019 summer flexibility for the Jazz, and let Favors hit the market with possibly more money to spread around a year later? @incoherentlemur

That’s a possibility. It could be good timing for him to hit a less cash-constricted 2019 market, and it could buy the Jazz a year. Again, a lot comes down to whether Snyder is willing to play him next to Gobert, because otherwise I think he’s just too good to be strictly a backup. Money is going to matter to Fav, but so is his role.

Best guest of how many minutes Dante Exum gets when he comes back, especially if jazz are rolling ?@Jazzyflyfish

Where does Exum fit into this team when he comes back? Who loses minutes because of him returning? @bhadley16

Oh there will definitely be minutes for Exum. The Jazz just have too many questions to answer when it comes to Dante, so they’re going to give him as much as he can handle in the few games that remain by the time he works his way back. My guess is that he’ll take over the Raul Neto minutes, plus we’ll see less Alec Burks so that Snyder can ensure a steady role for Royce O’Neale even after Exum’s back.

If Exum comes back and plays like the player we all hoped he would be, does that make Rubio expendable? I would view Exum as a starter and imagine he would too. @TheAccountant90

Probably somewhere down the line if Exum plays to the high end of his range… but the Jazz have a while before they need to worry about that. Let’s see Exum play a single minute of 5-on-5 before we assume Rubio is superfluous. Exum’s still not a sure thing, although I’m certainly a believer.

If they don’t resign Favors and they do resign Exum, what is the maximum cap space they can achieve? @Lonis_T

That depends on several decisions. If they make no trades to remove salary and if Exum signs at $10M, then they have somewhere between $10 million and $0, depending on what they decide to do with the guys whose salary is non-guaranteed. You can play with some different scenarios here.  

What is the total amount that can be paid to Exum and Favors next season without going into the tax? Assuming we keep everything basically as is. @lairddoman

Assuming a tax of $123 million, they can still manage to keep Exum and Favors at pretty liberal estimates. If nothing else about their roster changes other than adding a draft pick, they can still pay the two a combined $30 million or so before they start to head into tax territory. And I’m still of the opinion that they’ll move someone like Burks at some point for some added flexibility.

Good set-up for this one…

Can you explain cap and luxury tax? Is there penalty if you fall between cap and luxury tax point? Or just over the luxury tax? And haven’t the Jazz said, if they needed to, they’d pay luxury tax in the right situation, for a chance at a title? @deige22

Here are the basics:

  • The NBA has what is called a “soft” cap. This means there is a salary cap, but there is also a variety of exceptions teams can use to go over it.
  • Exceptions include the rights to re-sign your own free agents. You can always sign your own free agents, even if you are over the cap. 
  • Because the NBA has a soft cap, they needed some kind of deterrent to keep deep-pocketed owners from simply out-spending the small market teams. Teams that go well over the cap pay a tax of at least $1.50 for every dollar they spend over the luxury tax threshold. That money is then distributed to teams that didn’t trigger the tax.
  • There are also different tiers of luxury tax, as well a “repeater tax” meant to deter teams from habitually going over the tax threshold. At the highest levels, a dollar of salary can cost a team as much as $5 in luxury tax.
  • Certain exceptions are only available to teams who aren’t over the tax. Once a team uses those exceptions, they are then “hard-capped” for the season.

The Jazz used to avoid the luxury tax as a matter of principle. The late Larry Miller spent years lobbying for a robust profit-sharing system among NBA teams, and he felt like he would lose the moral high ground in that battle if he advocated for profit-sharing and then spent like crazy. It sounds as though the modern-day Jazz are less absolute about it, and would go into the tax if necessary to keep a contending team together. First things first, though: they have to build that contender.

We better leave it there for now. Part two of the Q&A will post later on today, with questions about the Jazz’s hot streak, Royce O’Neale, free agency and the draft.

Thanks for all the 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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The Jump crew discusses how DeMarcus Cousins’ injury changes his free agency.

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