Mailbag: Jazz Draft Butler, Trade Favors
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz had their first significant opportunity to change the roster in the post-Dennis Lindsey era and took full advantage by using a second-round draft pick to select Jared Butler before trading Derrick Favors to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The moves set the Jazz up to be players in free agency for Mike Conley while adding one of the more NBA-ready guards in the draft to the team’s depth chart.
Now, with free agency beginning Monday, we answer your questions on what lies ahead for the Jazz.
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Jazz Mail Bag: Post-Draft, Post-Favors
The latest report from Marc Stein implies the Jazz may be willing to offer as much as three years and $75 million to Conley in free agency. That’s an enormously competitive offer that does two things:
First, in my best Don Corleone voice, it’s an offer Conley likely can’t refuse. At 33 years old, with two significant hamstring injuries in the last two seasons, I’d be surprised to see him get a longer offer with more money. That should keep Conley in Utah and prolong their immediate championship window.
Second, it might be an overpay with a purpose. If the Jazz bring back Conley with that type of deal and let’s say they can add the third year either as a partial guarantee or as a team option, then it becomes a very big, but very easy contract to trade to a team looking to get out of their own oversized contract, where the Jazz could get a quality player or quality assets back in return.
That could prolong the Jazz championship window even further, and that’s smart, aggressive roster building.
According to Ken Clayton on Twitter, the Jazz last used a TPE when they traded for Matt Thomas by way of Tony Bradley, so it might not be unheard of for the team to use them.
However, TPE’s are generally created when a team is trying to cut salary, as they did last night with Favors.
It’s rare then to turn around and use that cleared cap space to bring back more salary. It’s like selling the timeshare that the family can’t afford only to use that money to buy a boat.
Like most timeshares and boats, I bet it goes unused.
Assuming the Jazz use the Tax Payer Exception, there should be some interesting names on the market that could come in and help the Jazz.
I think after adding Butler in the backcourt, considering they already have Trent Forrest, and the other four main guard pieces that ate up the majority of the minutes last season, the backcourt doesn’t need further help.
Thus, looking at someone to play in the 3-5 spots is ideal.
Both names you mentioned are intriguing in Nicolas Batum and Bobby Portis and are the types of players the Jazz could likely target. Portis is coming off a career-year and terrific playoff performance and should look to cash in on that momentum if he doesn’t return to Milwaukee, so I bet he’s out of the Jazz price range.
Batum should also have suitors after a strong reemergence in Los Angeles last season, but I would imagine the Jazz would kick the tires on his interest.
Aron Baynes was simply awful last year in Toronto, but nothing really seemed to go as planned there. He has a $7 million player option that the Raptors would be crazy to pick up, but might be available on the Jazz cheap for the Jazz if they want to take a buy-low swing on a guy who was pretty solid two seasons ago.
Maurice Harkless, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Semi Ojeleye, Justise Winslow, David Nwaba, and Otto Porter might all be worth a look depending on how much they are looking to sign for.
I think namely it means the Jazz are willing to throw real money at Conley to bring him back and eat the large luxury tax bill that comes with it.
The Jazz in the past regularly said they would be willing to pay the luxury tax if it meant competing for a championship, but how close they needed to be to winning a championship seemed to be on a sliding scale.
Smith and Zanik seem to believe the Jazz championship window is firmly open right now and they are willing to pay the price to compete at that level. That’s good ownership/management and a good sign for Jazz fans.
We don’t have all the names yet, but it should be a relatively familiar summer league roster for Jazz fans.
I’d expect Jarrell Brantley, Juwan Morgan, Trent Forrest, Elijah Hughes, Udoka Azubuike, Matt Thomas, and MaCio Teague who the Jazz signed as an undrafted free agent) to be on the roster.
Mark Deeks released a list of names he’d seen involved with the Jazz in the tweet below.
There seemed to be some question about whether Jared Butler would be on the roster in Utah, though Zanik said he will be in Salt Lake City.
Other names to keep an eye are on are whether Miye Oni plays if Nigeria is eliminated from the Olympics and whether Romaro Gill who the Jazz signed last season for the G League Stars will play.
Zanik referred to this upcoming year as the second rookie season for Azubuike, Forrest, and Hughes so that probably gives you a hint of how the Jazz are expecting him to contribute.
However, he played four years at Kansas and has an NBA body so the adjustment to the NBA shouldn’t be as steep as it is for other young big men. At some point, he probably needs to be thrown into the pool to see if he’ll sink or swim.
At the same time, the Jazz believe themselves to be championship contenders and would be foolish to not have a more experienced backup center behind Rudy Gobert to carry the load in the playoffs.
So I do think the Jazz will find a veteran big man to come in to give them added minutes. The aforementioned Baynes, Gorgui Dieng, Dewayne Dedmon, Daniel Theis, or Alex Len could be interesting.
I think there is some hindsight at play here that makes the Favors signing look worse today than it did at the time.
Make no mistake, paying a backup center $10 million and then having to attach a future first-round pick just to get rid of him is a setback, and not totally unforeseeable.
Backup centers are not difficult pieces to find on the free-agency market, and the Jazz paid top dollar to bring in a player who lacked positional versatility and saw his production take a steep dip before he hit 30 years old.
But, at the time the Jazz signed him, there was some uncertainty about whether Gobert would re-sign with the team in free agency (an answer the team now has), and Favors was coming off a near double-double average in New Orleans.
In that sense, it wasn’t a bad deal at the time, though it was far from a home run.
As of today, Favors simply isn’t worth $10 million a year, and he would have severely limited the Jazz financial mobility had he been on the roster again next season. They had to get his contract off the roster and paid a steep price to do it.
What continues to be perplexing is the decision to use a first-round draft pick on Azubuike last year when they were planning on giving Favors such an enormous deal just days later.
This remains the biggest question for the Jazz as they head into free agency. Ideally, they will be healthier next season going into the playoffs, which may be the main reason they lost to the Clippers, but they do need more length and athleticism.
They could have addressed it in the draft with Herb Jones or JT Thor, but they got a better player in Butler, so that was a smart move.
Now they have to look at some of the names I mentioned earlier as wing options or look for a trade which I wouldn’t rule out.
The Jazz are loaded with shooters, especially if they bring back Conley, and would unload some of that scoring ability in a trade to bring back length and athleticism.
Would they look to use their tax-payer MLE to sign a player like Nemanja Bjelica and then trade when of their existing scorers on a bigger contract to bring back a high-priced wing defender?
I think they’ll have options.
The good news for Jazz fans is it seems like Zanik went into the offseason with a plan which began with drafting Butler, an unloading salary to sign Conley.
So far he is 2-2, let’s see if he can keep that perfect batting average.
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