Jazz Notes: Offseason, Olynyk, Draft, Gay, Clarkson

After trading away longtime franchise cornerstones Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell last offseason, Jazz CEO Danny Ainge is more enthusiastic about the job that lies ahead for the front office during the coming summer, he said on Wednesday.

“Yeah, this is gonna be fun,” Ainge told reporters, including Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune. “A lot more draft picks, more money to spend — yeah, a shopping spree. Yeah, this will be more fun — much more fun than last year.”

Those trades of Gobert, Mitchell, and other regulars – including Royce O’Neale and Bojan Bogdanovic – could have been the beginning of an extended rebuilding process in Utah, but the revamped squad remained in play-in contention until the final week of the regular season. The Jazz’s draft assets, cap flexibility, and promising young core should create numerous pathways for the team to continue building this offseason.

“(With) the optionality that we’ve created, the possibilities are endless,” general manager Justin Zanik said. “… There could be a lot of change this summer.”

While the Jazz are in position to accelerate their timeline for contention if they so choose, Zanik noted that the team doesn’t have a set goal in mind about where it needs to be a year or two from now. According to Zanik, “the very next thing is always the most important thing” and the front office simply wants to continue making good decisions. However, Ainge pointed to a couple specific areas that the club would like to address this summer.

“We weren’t a very good shooting team at the end of the year — injuries contributed some to that. We need to get better defensively,” Ainge said, per Walden. “Those are the two (areas of) focus.”

Here’s more out of Utah:

  • Zanik said on Wednesday that he anticipates having Kelly Olynyk back next season, tweets Tony Jones of The Athletic. Only $3MM of Olynyk’s $12.2MM salary for 2023/24 is currently guaranteed, but it sounds like Utah won’t waive him before June 28, when the remainder becomes guaranteed.
  • The Jazz intend to cast a wide net in their draft preparation, writes Walden. They’ll have three first-round picks, which should put them in a good position to bring in a ton of players for pre-draft workouts. “You know, bring people in that we’re looking at for the 28th pick, and we can tell them that we’re looking at ’em for the ninth pick,” Ainge joked.
  • In a separate story for The Tribune, Walden takes a closer look at what’s next this summer for the Jazz, noting that a handful of veterans – Jordan Clarkson, Talen Horton-Tucker, Rudy Gay, and Damian Jones – have player option decisions to make before July. Of those four players, Gay is the best bet to opt in, Walden writes, given that he’s unlikely to exceed his $6.5MM option salary on the open market.
  • Speaking to Sean Deveney of Heavy.com, Clarkson sounded like someone who remains very open to continuing his career in Utah despite his opportunity to reach free agency this summer. “I love Utah. … There is a good future here,” Clarkson said. “We got Lauri (Markkanen), an All-Star on our team, we have some good young players. The best thing for us is keep it going, and, you know, just creating the culture.”
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