Jazz Notes: Free Agency, Conley, Rubio, Favors

The Jazz enter the offseason with more flexibility than most teams, but will need to decide how much of their roster they want to keep, writes Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake TribuneRicky Rubio, Thabo Sefolosha and Ekpe Udoh will all be free agents, while five other players – Derrick Favors, Kyle Korver, Georges Niang, Raul Neto and Royce O’Neale – have either partially guaranteed or non-guaranteed contracts for next season.

Larsen expects O’Neale ($1.618MM for 2019/20) and Niang ($1.645MM) to be brought back because they are bargains at their current price. He adds that if Sefolosha or Udoh returns, it will likely be at a reduced salary.

The Jazz can clear up to $36.8 million in cap room by letting that whole group go, enough to offer a max deal in free agency. No matter how much is available, the priority will be to find more outside shooting.

“Adding a sniper at any position is something we’re going to have to strongly evaluate,” GM Dennis Lindsey said.

There’s more news out of Utah:

  • Another option for the Jazz is to revisit trade talks with the Grizzlies regarding point guard Mike Conley, Larsen adds in the same story. The teams weren’t able to work out a deal before the February deadline, and the Jazz were upset with Memphis’ front office because so much of the rumored trade became public. “Unfortunately, a team leaked something, and it was unethical,” Lindsey said.
  • The Jazz will consider all possibilities at point guard this summer, sources tell Tony Jones of The Athletic. Those include bringing Rubio back, searching for a replacement in free agency or turning the position over to Donovan Mitchell.
  • Management was expecting this to be Favors’ final season with the team, but he played so well that they will consider picking up his $16.9MM deal for next year, Jones adds. A decision will have to be made by July 6.
  • Mitchell tells Eric Woodyard of The Deseret News he was frustrated by how the season turned out and plans to use the summer to get in better shape. “This is going to be huge for me just for my confidence standpoint and just to getting my mind, my body right and looking at guys and competing against guys like James Harden, Chris Paul and all those guys,” Mitchell said. “If I want to be like those guys, I’ve got to work and train like those guys and I think that’s where it starts.”
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7 thoughts on “Jazz Notes: Free Agency, Conley, Rubio, Favors

  1. Z-A

    Rubio’s backyard wrestling moves didn’t help against Harden, he tried to take his back but left the front open.

    • They would have rather forced Harden towards Gobert instead of giving up another 3

    • Alphabet Street

      That was obviously a strategy decided by the coaching staff, not just some freelancing Rubio came up with… Harden is the toughest player in the league to guard & the most logical play is usually to cut off his shot and force him to his weak hand, then have a big ready to help when he drives. It’s not perfect, but Gobert is about as good an interior presence as there is in the NBA, so UTA forcing Harden to drive and running Gobert at him was a totally reasonable move. Sure, it didn’t work. Which defensive strategies against Harden DO work? And, whatever gripes one has about Rubio, he’s a wildly underrated defender. This year (among players to avg at least 18 mpg), he was was 2nd in the NBA in deflections per 36, 3rd in loose balls recovered per 36 and tied with Paul George for the league lead in hustle stats per 36 (combined deflections and loose balls recovered). His defensive advanced stats are elite year after year. They’ve been down slightly in UTA, but he would still make at least 2nd-team all-D in a just world. For a stretch of multiple years, Rubio, Chris Paul and Patrick Beverly were #1-#3 in RPM among guards and just traded those #1-#3 spots every year. During that time, Rubio had different coaches, played in VERY different systems (Adelman vs Saunders vs Sam Mitchell) with almost a complete roster change happening around him, so this wasn’t due to some peculiarity of the stat or the rotations on Minny… it was just how well he defended year after year. Rubio can shoot poorly and always have a significant positive impact anyway… that’s rare for an NBA guard and makes it easy to undervalue him. However, he has value that goes way beyond his stats & I seriously doubt Conley would be an upgrade—and that’s not a knock on Conley, whom I think is about as good as the consensus opinon (which is basically “borderline all-star”). As weird as it sounds to many fans, Rubio is better than that, at least so far as positive impact… and positive impact is all that really matters.

      • Alphabet Street

        *That’s supposed to be #1-#3 in DEFENSIVE RPM among guards… not overall RPM, which had a few other players ahead of Rubio & Beverley.

  2. SilvioDante

    Look for Jabari Parker to sign w Utah at a fairly decent price for both player and team.

  3. Alphabet Street

    Utah should fully commit to their vision that brought in undervalued key pieces like Rubio and Ingles (along with obvious home runs in Gobert and Mitchell). They’re potentially in a great position going into next year, but the disappointing loss to HOU threatens to obscure that and trick them into making ill-advised big changes.

    If they blow up what they’ve built over the past couple of years to bring in a more conventional “star” like Conley and/or swap out too many rotation players they’re likely to mess up fit and chemistry, going backwards next year instead of taking the next step to 55+ wins and being a legit contender.

    A deceptively important move I really hope they make (but it seems like they might overlook) is bringing back Udoh for at least the next couple of years on a friendly contract, then playing him every game as Gobert’s primary backup. Udoh averaged per 36 #s of 13-10-3 with 3.5 blocks on 69% shooting last year & he tends to keep that level of production going as his minutes scale upwards, which is rare and impressive. Sure, Udoh isn’t flashy or a big scorer, but he’s a truly GREAT defender and he plays a similar enough style to Gobert that he can sub in for Gobert for 15-20 mpg without UTA having to make major changes to compensate for Gobert being off the court—which is one of those things that’s easy to not even notice, but huge in terms of impact. Udoh was the Euroleague DPOY a couple of years ago and he’s vastly improved since going overseas and returning vs. his mediocre early NBA seasons.

    As well as Favors played in some ways, Udoh gives them elite defense and good enough offense at a much less expensive price point + despite Favors having a really impressive season in many ways, the team was STILL consistently better with Crowder at the 4… Crowder’s ability to switch onto multiple positions on D and spread the court on O was much more of an advantage than his underwhelming box score #s would have indicated.

    Like Crowder (and Ingles), O’Neale is another player who fits this type and looks to have a bright future with sneaky high value. Then you have Rubio, who is an elite defender and playmaker (his shooting is obv a weakness, but he makes up for it in other ways + last season showed he can be serviceable from deep during a healthy year) and Mitchell, who is clearly the offensive MVP and future of the team—he could easily put up 25+ ppg for years to come, while increasing his efficiency with time and experience.

    Ingles is a very-nice-to-have glue-guy who can shoot, handle the ball, play solid D, etc. He might eventually move into a 6th man role as the team brings in another high-level sharpshooter or two (not as a demotion, but it might make sense, as he can sub in at 1, 2 or 3, based on whatever’s needed on a given night, and still play his standard 26-30 mpg).

    With Ingles, Crowder & O’Neale, you have a great collection of multi-position glue guys with 3-and-D ability. If you also lock in the Mitchell/Rubio starting backcourt and the Gobert (30 mpg)/Udoh (18 mpg) center pairing, that’s a strong nucleus going forward. If they avoid injuries, those players should gel over the next season or two and improve to a 55-60-win level and legit contender status simply by getting more time on-court together and having the younger players hit their primes.

    If Utah can use its FA money to add high-level shooting, which execs have correctly stated is their primary need, the future is truly bright. Even though the first round exit this season was a bummer, it was mostly due to an unlucky matchup… HOU is way better than their record indicated (they started off 11-14 and played the rest of the year at a 60-win pace) and Utah should avoid overreacting… just stay the course and avoid temptations to make counterproductive radical changes. This was never going to be a title season anyway… a 50-win season with a promising young nucleus and enough cap room this offseason to pick up a good starter who specializes in outside shooting is a great situation.

    They’re on the path to being contenders in a year or two. As far as options with the 10-15 mil or so in cap space they’ll have left (37 mil minus the cost of re-signing Rubio, Udoh, O’Neale, Korver + likely Niang, Neto and maybe Thabo)… that’s not enough to sign a star, but it’s enough to sign a proven starter-quality player who fits their specific needs. Mirotic, Bjelica & Bojan Bogdanovic stand out as realistic options. While Bogdanovic is a truly elite outside shooter, he’s probably a defensive liability, while Mirotic and Bjelica are very good shooters (although not quite at Bogdanovic’s level) and also good all-around players with above-avg D year-in, year-out, so they might be the best overall choices. UTA was considered a frontrunner to sign Bjelica this offseason and to trade for Mirotic at the deadline this year, so they clearly have interest in both players.

    While many fans might be somewhat underwhelmed by an offseason with key pieces re-signed and this sort of FA signing as the main new addition, but I think the team’s close to having the roster it needs and bringing in Mirotic or Bjelica would be a great fit that adds a few wins and creates a deceptively strong, balanced roster with A+ chemistry going forward.

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