Many believe there's virtually no chance the Jazz will re-sign both Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap this summer, and Millsap admits the uncertainty of impending free agency crept into his mind during the season, as Mike Sorensen of the Deseret News writes. "That’s me being honest," Millsap said. "It’s a tough thing to try to put it in the back of your head and not think about it. For the most part, I felt like we did a good job of handling it and the coaches did too." Free agents in the playoffs face even more pressure as they chase a title and their next contract at the same time, and as we watch to see who can take that kind of heat, here's the latest from around the Association:
Earlier, we heard that Tyrone Corbin's job was safe after GM Dennis Lindsey showed public support for the Jazz head coach. Brad Rock of the Deseret News examines the situation a step further, noting that Utah had finished off the season winning nine of their remaining 12 games in addition to Corbin's ability to do so with much of the roster's status up in the air for next season and beyond. Here's more of what we've heard out of Salt Lake City tonight:
The Bulls might not have Derrick Rose, but they proved again Thursday that they can beat anybody, giving the Knicks their first loss after 13 wins in a row. This comes just a few weeks after Chicago stopped the Heat's epic 27-game streak, and it seems like the Bulls will be a tough out no matter who they draw in the playoffs. There's plenty of intrigue involving off-court matters as well, and here's the latest:
I examined Al Jefferson's free agent stock this weekend, and since his future seems tied to Paul Millsap, it makes sense to follow with a look at the other Jazz big man who could be on the move. The Jazz will likely re-sign one, but not the other, according to Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio, and the majority of Hoops Rumors readers who answered last night's poll believe Utah should keep Jefferson over Millsap. Utah has dropped few, if any, hints about which they're more likely to keep, but it seems safe to assume there's at least a 50-50 chance Millsap is playing elsewhere next season.
Millsap could just as easily have been playing on another team already if it weren't for the desire of the Miller family, owners of the Jazz, to stay competitive this season rather than break up the team's core via trade. The Jazz and Pacers reportedly discussed a deal that would send Millsap and Alec Burks to Indiana in exchange for Danny Granger and Lance Stephenson, though I'm not sure how seriously the Pacers would have pursued that swap, since Millsap and David West play the same position. It might have been a hedge against losing West in free agency, since the Pacers will only have Early Bird rights on West this summer, instead of the full Bird rights they would have had on Millsap if they traded for him. If West bolts in the offseason, Indiana could still turn to Millsap, and perhaps the Pacers would view Millsap as an upgrade.
West has said he wants to return to the Pacers, but if he has a change of heart, he and Millsap will likely compete for top billing among free agent power forwards. Much as there are similarities between Millsap and Jefferson, West and Millsap are also hard to differentiate. Millsap grabs a half-rebound more per game than West, and though Millsap is only averaging 15.0 points per contest to West's 17.3, that's offset by West's more frequent shot attempts. Their PERs are separated by two-tenths of a point. Where Millsap has the edge is in age, since, at 28, he's four and a half years younger than the 32-year-old West.
That means fewer teams could have reserverations about signing Millsap to a four-year deal, the most years he could get if he leaves Utah. The key is finding a team with enough cap room to accomodate what will likely be an eight-figure annual salary. The Clippers had interest in Millsap at the deadline, but their cap space appears targeted for Chris Paul, and I don't think they want to pair Millsap with Blake Griffin, another power forward, long-term. That's also why the Wolves, who also engaged in Millsap trade talks with the Jazz earlier this season, don't make sense as long as Kevin Love is around.
The Blazers were reportedly eyeing Millsap at the deadline, too, and they seem a somewhat more plausible destination. Portland, under previous management, signed Millsap to an offer sheet back in 2009. LaMarcus Aldridge occupies the power forward position for the Blazers, but at 6'11", he could shift to center if the team lets free agent J.J. Hickson go. Portland will have only about $43.2MM in commitments this summer, which should leave plenty of room to go after Millsap.
The Nets seemed eager to deal for Millsap at different points this year, but they're poised to be well into the tax this offseason, with no room to add any marquee free agents. The Jazz would like to work a sign-and-trade involving either Millsap or Jefferson, but the Nets won't be able to engage in a sign-and-trade for Millsap or anyone else, since the new CBA bars taxpayers from acquiring players via sign-and-trade beginning this summer.
The Rockets, Spurs, Hawks and Bucks are likely to be the only teams among those headed to the playoffs this year with the cap room to add a maximum salary player in the offseason. Unlike Jefferson, I don't believe there's any way Millsap will be able to command a max contract, but I think he could wind up with a starting salary of anywhere from $12MM to $15MM, depending on his priorities. He could probably sign for the higher amount with a non-contender, while a playoff team might convince him to bring his price down to the low end of that range. If the Jazz don't bring him back, I expect Millsap, who's used to winning in Utah, to sign with a team that can continue to give him a chance to compete.
After keeping both Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap at the trade deadline, Utah is expected to re-sign one of them, but not the other, when they both hit unrestricted free agency this summer, reports Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio. The Jazz will likely pursue a sign-and-trade for whichever of the pair they don't keep, Amico adds.
Removing one of the team's starting big men would open up playing time for Derrick Favors, who'll be in the final year of his rookie-scale contract next season and is up for an extension this summer. The Jazz also have center Enes Kanter, who's a recent No. 3 overall pick, just like Favors. Utah's front office is notoriously tight-lipped, and there was plenty of conflicting information before the trade deadline about whether the team was more likely to deal away Jefferson or Millsap. It turned out to be neither, though it would be even more surprising to see the Jazz keep both of them through the summer.
Jefferson makes nearly twice as much as Millsap this season, but they could be in line for similar deals in free agency. They're putting up matching 20.6 PERs this year, and the 28-year-olds are separated in age by just a month and six days. Jefferson, at 6'10", has the ability to play center that the 6'8" Millsap lacks, and the paucity of true centers figures to make Jefferson slightly more sought-after on the market.
The Jazz have Bird rights on both players and can outbid other teams, and they figure to have about $25.3MM in commitments this summer, leaving plenty of cap space to pursue other free agents if they let either Millsap or Jefferson go. They could use some of that room to accomodate whomever they can get back in a sign-and-trade, but their potential sign-and-trade partners will be somewhat limited under provisions of the new collective bargaining agreement that kick in this offseason. Taxpaying teams can't acquire anyone via sign-and-trade, so the Lakers, for instance, who brought in Steve Nash on a sign-and-trade last summer, couldn't do so this year without shedding other salaries to get below the tax line.
Zach Lowe of Grantland leads off his weekly Tuesday column with a lengthy look at the Jazz, a team he calls "the most interesting franchise in the league right now." As Utah approaches an offseason in which it could potentially open up about $30MM in cap space, Lowe shares a few notes of interest on the club:
With the trade deadline behind us, some teams are already looking toward this summer's free agent class. Here is a roundup of the latest buzz on that front:
The Utah Jazz did not move Paul Millsap before the February 21 trade deadline, but Alex Kennedy of HoopsWorld reports that they discussed deals for the forward with the Indiana Pacers and Los Angeles Clippers, neither of which ended up coming to fruition.
Kennedy tweets that the Jazz and Pacers discussed a trade that would have sent Millsap and Alec Burks to Indiana for Danny Granger and Lance Stephenson. In a separate tweet, Kennedy reports that the Jazz and Clippers discussed a trade of Millsap and DeMarre Carroll for Eric Bledsoe and Lamar Odom.
Millsap, 27, is averaging 15.2 PPG and 7.4 RPG this season. He will be an unrestricted free agent in July.
The latest news and notes from around the Northwest Division on Tuesday evening:
So far, the responses to this morning's poll suggest that, outside of the Hawks' decision to keep Josh Smith, no team's inactivity at the deadline was more surprising than Utah's. In Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson, the Jazz had a pair of productive bigs on expiring contracts, and the expectation was that at least one of the two would be moved. However, GM Dennis Lindsey told reporters, including Jody Genessy of the Deseret News, that he felt the club was negotiating from a position of strength, and wasn't under any pressure to make a deal.
Here's more and the Jazz and a few of their Northwest Division rivals: