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Offseason Outlook: Utah Jazz

Guaranteed Contracts


  • None

Non-Guaranteed Contracts

Free Agents / Cap Holds

Draft Picks

  • 1st Round (14th overall)
  • 1st Round (21st overall)
  • 2nd Round (46th overall)

Cap Outlook

  • Guaranteed Salary: $25,327,916
  • Options: $0
  • Non-Guaranteed Salary: $1,577,744
  • Cap Holds: $61,421,336
  • Total: $88,326,996

There's a school of thought that says no situation is worse for an NBA franchise than being annually stuck on the cusp of playoff contention — good enough to be in the mix for a postseason berth and perhaps good enough to even earn a spot, but not good enough to make a deep run. I'm not sure I totally buy that argument, but when a team gets stuck in that no man's land for years at a time, there comes a point when a drastic shift in one direction or the other may be necessary.

For the Jazz, that time may have arrived. Over the past eight seasons, Utah has placed between fourth and 11th in the Western Conference, earning a playoff berth in five of those eight years, but only advancing to the Western Finals once, back in 2006/07. The team's '12/13 season epitomzed the eight-year stretch, as Utah came within one game of making the postseason, finishing ninth in the Western Conference and scoring the worst pick in the lottery, 14th overall.

Years of landing those mid-first-round picks has made it difficult for the Jazz to add the impact players required to become a legit contender, but there are reasons to believe things could change for the team going forward. With Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Mo Williams, and Randy Foye among the veteran players ticketed for unrestricted free agency this offseason, it's possible, perhaps even likely, that the Jazz team we saw miss out on a playoff spot in '12/13 will be entirely different from the one we see take the floor in the fall. Marvin Williams is the only veteran still on the roster, while the club's other five players on guaranteed contracts have three years of experience or less.

With just over $25MM in guaranteed salaries, plus a pair of first-round picks (the Jazz have the Warriors' 21st overall pick in addition to their own), there will be plenty of options for the club this summer. The pursuit of a top-tier free agent like Dwight Howard or Chris Paul is unlikely, since none of those elite free agents have shown any inclination to sign with Utah. But the Jazz do have the inside track on Millsap and Jefferson, two players that probably rank among the top ten free agents available this summer.

Re-signing one or both of those free agent bigs may seem like more running in place for the Jazz, considering the limited postseason success they've had in recent years with Millsap and Jefferson leading the way. But with players Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter continuing to develop, a pair of first-round picks available to add prospects or use as trade chips, and the flexibility to add complementary players around the current core, the team could certainly believe there's room for continued improvement without making wholesale changes.

Another option would be to explore sign-and-trades for Millsap and Jefferson. The new CBA has de-incentivized sign-and-trade deals to a certain extent for both players and teams, but in specific scenarios, such a move can be mutually beneficial. If Utah could avoid adding any bad contracts, and was able to acquire a draft pick or two, or perhaps another young player, it would make sense for the club to at least explore sign-and-trade possibilities for its veteran free agents.

Letting Jefferson and Millsap walk to claim a huge chunk of cap space is another possibility for Utah, though as I alluded to earlier, even with room for a max contract, the Jazz are unlikely to recruit any impact free agents without overpaying. Pursuing a player like Josh Smith may make sense for a team like the Mavericks or Rockets, who already have another star in place, but someone like Smith probably wouldn't be a fit with Utah's young core.

It's more likely that the Jazz would use that hypothetical cap space the way the Cavs have for the last several years, accommodating salary-dumps and being rewarded with draft picks for their trouble. That sort of full-scale rebuild would allow the Jazz to give more minutes to their young players, figuring out which ones will be integral to the team's long-term plans. It would also likely mean a decline in the team's on-court results, which could lead to a higher lottery pick in 2014, perhaps even giving the club a chance to land a difference-maker like Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker.

With so much flexibility, the Jazz could go in any number of directions this summer, and the front office hasn't really tipped its hand on which way it's leaning. The safe play would be to re-sign one of Millsap or Jefferson, draft a point guard and a big, and perhaps target wing players in free agency or trades, hoping that further improvement from the young core would help the team return to the postseason. But for a club that has remained in the middle of the pack in the West for nearly a decade, a more extreme approach one way or the other has to at least be considered.

Additional notes:

  • If the Jazz keep the 14th and 21st picks, I expect them to take a point guard and a big man — perhaps Dennis Schroeder and Mason Plumlee, or Lucas Nogueira and Isaiah Canaan, as our Alex Lee suggests in his latest mock draft. If it's possible though, I'd prefer to see the team package its two first-rounders, perhaps with Alec Burks, to move up and take one of the top point guards in the draft — Trey Burke, Michael Carter-Williams, or C.J. McCollum.
  • Favors and Gordon Hayward will be extension-eligible this offseason, and when our Chuck Myron previewed extension candidates in the spring, he predicted that the team would reach an agreement with Favors, but not Hayward. I wouldn't be surprised if the Jazz worked out something with both players, but I expect them to try harder on Favors, since he'll be a strong candidate for a breakout year in 2013/14 if Jefferson and/or Millsap are gone. Utah could save itself a few dollars by getting him locked up early.

Cap footnotes:

  1. Williams had an early termination option for 2013/14, but has reportedly declined it, making his salary fully guaranteed for next season.
  2. McNeal's salary becomes fully guaranteed if he's not waived on or before October 31st.
  3. Murphy's salary becomes partially guaranteed for $75,000 if he's not waived on or before August 1st. He receives another $125,000 (for a $200,000 overall guarantee) if he's not waived on or before November 1st. His salary becomes fully guaranteed if he's not waived on or before January 7th, 2014.
  4. Jefferson's cap hold will be worth the maximum salary for a player with his experience (7-9 years). That amount is not yet known — the number listed was 2012/13's max salary, so it figures to be a little higher than that.

Storytellers Contracts and Sham Sports were used in the creation of this post.

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One thought on “Offseason Outlook: Utah Jazz

  1. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a Greg Ostertag reference. Who knew he was still present on a team’s roster in some form or another!

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