By Michael Pina, special to Salt City Hoops
After the Jazz season ends — by way of either a horrible collapse down the stretch or a merciless four-game postseason — Utah Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey will probably sit in his office and shift restlessly in a chair, much like guests on awkward dating game shows used to do in the late 1970s. Staring back at him will be about a dozen metaphorical closed doors; behind each, a different future.
One has a 32-year-old Al Jefferson starting at center, making nearly $20 million, another has a fully-formed Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter tandem giving opposing frontcourts nightmares (much like the Memphis Grizzlies do today). Behind another door sits a healthy, relaxed, confident, rich Paul Millsap making his first All-Star game appearance in 2014.
As Grantland.com’s Zach Lowe pointed out last week, the next three years for Utah can go in so many different directions that a dozen doors don’t nearly hold all the possible scenarios. Some are obviously better than others.
If Marvin Williams picks up his $7.5 million option next season — it’d be shocking if he turned it down — the Jazz will have $26.1 million in guaranteed salary on their books next season. Should they let Millsap and Jefferson go (unlikely), cap space will be more than plentiful.
For the purpose of letting Favors and Kantor develop and see the floor as much as possible next season, it’s probable that Millsap is the one Utah chooses to keep. He’s also due for a cheaper contract.
But instead of trying to weave our way through questions that Lowe already did a fantastic job of tackling, let’s turn our focus towards Utah’s greatest question mark, the point guard position. Here are five and a half helpful possibilities:
5. Pay Jose Calderon, Darren Collison, or Jarrett Jack much more money than they’re worth on a one-year deal.
The price tag on these players will probably be inflated, considering the lack of point guard talent in this summer’s open market. But if the Jazz can offer more money than just about anyone else (for one year) AND promise 82 games of starting point guard status, I’m sure at least one will be grateful enough to take the bait (most likely Collison), as opposed to playing elsewhere on a longer deal.
It’s a stop-gap situation, and would strictly be done to increase Utah’s probability of making the playoffs in 2014. After that the Jazz would likely find themselves back at square one.
4. Move Alec Burks and their own first round pick (or Golden State’s, to which the Jazz hold the rights) to a lottery team for the draft rights to Oklahoma State freshman point guard Marcus Smart.
Utah deals an inconsistent off-guard in the middle of his rookie deal—whose primary skill set overlaps Gordon Hayward’s—along with one of their two first round picks for the best point guard in the 2013 draft. Sounds simple enough. It’s why assets are so important.
3. Offer Jeff Teague a (near) max contract.
This option is fascinating, and comes with its fair share of risk. It would also primarily be done with the interest of forcing Atlanta to pay their point guard much more money than they’d like.
But in my opinion, Teague is the most intriguing restricted free agent point guard who wasn’t offered an extension earlier this season; a player who holds a slightly higher development curve than the other two options: Tyreke Evans and Brandon Jennings. (The group that was already locked up includes Ty Lawson, Stephen Curry, and Jrue Holiday.)
A max contract offer would be for four years at roughly $61 million, and it wouldn’t be wise for Utah to offer something so outlandish on the hunch that the Hawks would match. But if the Jazz made a relatively more reasonable four-year, $50 million offer, would Teague be theirs? Do they even want him?
2. Trade for Rajon Rondo
If Utah is serious about upgrading the point guard situation, this is the surest way to get it done. Unfortunately, a trade will likely force either Enes Kanter or Derrick Favors out of town. But to obtain value in this league you have to give something up, and in return they’d be receiving a perennial All-Star who’s probably headed to the Hall of Fame.
1. Do absolutely nothing, then offer Eric Bledsoe a max contract after next season.
This is the best-case scenario. Utah flounders in 2014 with no respectable production from the point guard position—boosting their status in the lottery—then take their rolled over cap space and throw as much as they can in Eric Bledsoe’s direction.
(This option is semi-related to number four, but instead of signing a quality player like Jack or Calderon, the Jazz would turn their focus on a lesser, much cheaper talent like Nate Robinson or Beno Udrih, still for only a one-year deal.)
Utah won’t be the only team interested in Bledsoe’s virtuous two-way potential, and there’s always the faint possibility that Los Angeles matches their offer. But no team would rival Utah’s ability to sell Bledsoe on their organizational youth and incredible upside. It’s a risk, but one that has enough potential to turn the Jazz into a versatile force to be reckoned with.
0. Chris Paul.
The only thing missing is the outlandish possibility that the Jazz make a run at Chris Paul. [Editor's note: Believe me, I know it sounds ridiculous, but I've heard it said by people "familiar with the thinking of the team." We'll see.]
The only way it happens:
- The Jazz make a strong run to end the season, make noise in the playoffs, and somehow transform themselves into an exciting team.
- The Clippers struggle down the stretch and flop (literally and figuratively) in the Playoffs.
- Donald Sterling pulls a Sterling and decides to low-ball Chris Paul.
- With five players under contract next season — and only seven if you include Marvin William’s player option and a team option on Kevin Murphy — the Jazz could have a dramatically different roster next season and a lot of money to spend this summer. If they let Chris Paul play GM and pick the guys he wants, maybe he decides to take the money and try his hand at team building.
Again, not likely, but a possibility. Who do you want playing the point for the Jazz next year?