Ryan Smith

Northwest Notes: Jazz, Timberwolves, Nuggets

The sale agreement that will transfer controlling interest of the Jazz from the Miller family to Ryan Smith is a “seismic change” for the franchise, writes Tony Jones of The Athletic. However, it remains to be seen whether the average fan will notice the impact of the change in team ownership.

As Jones points out, the coming offseason will be a good early test to see how Smith intends to run the team. Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert are both eligible for extensions, while Jordan Clarkson is a free agent and the Jazz would also like to fortify their roster with another solid rotation player, if possible.

Re-signing Clarkson and using the mid-level exception on an outside free agent may put Utah into tax territory, which is something the Miller family generally avoided — but if the Jazz are willing to go into the tax in Smith’s first year at the helm, it would bode well for his willingness to spend going forward.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • The sale price for the Jazz ($1.66 billion) should be encouraging to Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, who is exploring the sale of his own franchise. However, as ESPN’s Brian Windhorst observes in an appearance on Darren Wolfson The Scoop podcast (audio clip), Taylor hasn’t wavered from his stance that any buyer must keep the team in Minnesota, which will limit his ability to maximize the value of the team in any sale.
  • The Timberwolves finished the 2019/20 season just slightly over the tax line as a result of their deadline trade, a source confirms to Dane Moore of News Talk 830 WCCO (Twitter link). However, as Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic tweets, president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas is confident the team will stay out of the tax in 2020/21, reducing the likelihood of repeater penalties down the road.
  • The Nuggets are fairly set at point guard with Jamal Murray and Monte Morris under contract, but they shouldn’t rule out the possibility of drafting another one at No. 22 if certain prospect – such as Cole Anthony – are still on the board, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post.

Northwest Notes: Nuggets, Blazers, Miller, Smith

With Paul Millsap, Jerami Grant, and Mason Plumlee all facing free agency this fall, the Nuggets front office may need to look outside the organization to fill newly-opened gaps in their frontcourt. Kendra Andrews of The Athletic assesses some big men for Denver to target this offseason.

Thunder center Nerlens Noel, Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson, and Suns center Aron Baynes are all free agents who could be solid fits at center spelling Nikola Jokic, in Andrews’ view, while Pacers center Myles Turner, entering the second year of a four-season, $80MM contract, could be available in a trade.

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • Danny Leroux of The Athletic previews the offseason salary cap situation for the Trail Blazers, observing that team president Neil Olshey may have to make decisions on team depth, several veteran free agents on the team, and whether or not to offer a contract extension to fourth-year power forward Zach Collins, who will otherwise become a restricted free agent in 2021.
  • Having agreed to sell controlling interest in the Jazz to Qualtrics founder Ryan Smith, former majority owner Gail Miller will retain a 20% stake in the franchise, Tony Jones of The Athletic tweets.
  • Though the Jazz will miss the Miller family, who owned the team for 35 years, an excitement is building for young new Jazz owner Ryan Smith, according to Andy Larsen of the Salt Lake Tribune. Larsen writes that Smith is considered more willing to spend than the Miller clan has been over the decades, which could help Utah weather the storm of financial uncertainty caused by COVID-19 complications that are expected to restrict revenues in the 2020/21 season.

Miller Family To Sell Utah Jazz To Ryan Smith

After owning the Jazz for 35 years, the Miller family has reached an agreement to sell the team to Qualtrics founder Ryan Smith, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The purchase price will be $1.66 billion, according to Scott Soshnick of Sportico.

The Jazz confirmed the agreement in a press release on their website. The deal will include Vivint Arena, the G League Salt Lake City Stars, and management of the Salt Lake City Bees, a Triple-A baseball team.

“I have known Ryan for several years and admire the values by which he and his wife Ashley live their lives,” said Gail Miller, owner and chair of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies (LHM Group). “They have such love for and a connection to Utah and this team. Because of our friendship and several high-level conversations over the years, Ryan recently approached our organization to inquire about the possibility of purchasing the Utah Jazz and some of our other sports and entertainment properties.

“After much soul searching, lengthy discussions and extensive evaluations of our long-term goals, my family and I decided this was the right time to pass our responsibility and cherished stewardship of 35 years to Ryan and Ashley, who share our values and are committed to keeping the team in Utah. We have every confidence they will continue the work we have undertaken and move the team to the next level. Our family remains invested in the success of the Utah Jazz and these businesses, and we will retain a minority interest.”

As the creator of Qualtrics, Smith has been a corporate partner of the Jazz for a long time. He was the co-creator of the team’s “5 For The Fight” jersey patch, which has brought in more than $25MM in charitable donations in the past three years. Smith founded the Provo, Utah-based a subscription software company in 2002 and sold it in 2019 for a reported $8 billion.

“The Miller family has had an unbelievable impact on countless people through the Utah Jazz and the other organizations they run,” Smith said. “We all owe a great debt to the Miller family for the amazing stewardship they have had over this asset for the past 35 years. My wife and I are absolutely humbled and excited about the opportunity to take the team forward far into the future – especially with the greatest fans in the NBA. The Utah Jazz, the state of Utah, and its capital city are the beneficiaries of the Millers’ tremendous love, generosity and investment. We look forward to building upon their lifelong work.”

Larry and Gail Miller originally bought a 50% stake in the Jazz in 1985 for just $8MM, then bought the other half a year later for $14MM, according to The Associated Press.