Free Agency Q&A: Favors is Back, Who Has Room, Exum & More

July 2nd, 2018 | by Dan Clayton

Gregory Shamus via ESPN

We’re not even two days into free agency, and already there is clarity on the Jazz’s roster plans, cap situation, and immediate future.

Derrick Favors agreed to a two-year, $36 million deal on Monday afternoon. That leaves the Jazz with just their own free agent rights and salary cap exceptions as they finish shaping their 2018-19 roster. But that leaves some questions: How do those work? Who’s Utah’s competition? What’s the latest on restricted free agent Dante Exum? We dive in with our latest offseason Q&A.

Some of these questions were submitted before the Favors decision was announced, so I took the liberty of reframing a couple of them so that they’d still be applicable. 

Who has cap space left?


This stuff can change by the hour, and it’s also difficult to know which free agents’ rights are still being held by a team and which aren’t. So I’m going to answer in terms of who can still create cap space by renouncing guys. Current as of 11:53 p.m. EDT on 7/20.

Big money: (Nobody).

Medium money: After a pair of signings, Sacramento can get to about $11M of room without trades.

Full MLE: Only two teams can still use the full MLE: Cleveland and Miami. 

Smaller amounts: There are 12 teams who can still spend $4M or more (but less than the MLE) on free agents.

Utah (Niang), Denver (Craig) and Orlando (Frazier + Briscoe) each used a small chunk of their MLEs to sign guys to longer deals than the minimum exception allows, leaving them with somewhere between $6.5M and $7M left. Detroit has $4.6M of its MLE left after signing Glenn Robinson. Boston, Houston, OKC and Toronto appear to still have their entire $5.3M Taxpayer MLE. 

Phoenix can get to about $4M in space by waiving guys, and also has the $4.4M Room MLE. Dallas (Nowitzki/Ferrell) and Chicago (J. Parker) used their cap space, but have the Room MLE, and Philadelphia got its Room MLE back after Nemanja Bjelica backed out of a 1-year deal.

Done with big spending: Eleven teams are virtually out of exception money. Charlotte (T. Parker), Milwaukee (Ilyasova), New York (Hezonja), and Minnesota (Tolliver) all used most of their respective MLEs. New Orleans (Randle), Memphis (Anderson), LA Clippers (Mbah a Moute/Scott) and San Antonio (Belinelli/Cunningham) have used all of it. (Some of those teams have the option of using the $3.4M BAE.) GSW (Cousins) and Washington (Howard) both spent their TMLEs and only have minimum exceptions from here out, and it appears as though Portland used most of its TMLE on Seth Curry and Gary Trent Jr.

Four cap space teams are essentially out of spending tools, too. After absorbing two former Nuggets, Brooklyn is down to a max of about $3M in cap room (if they order the Joe Harris signing last), and they’ve already committed their Room MLE. Atlanta, Indiana and the Lakers have spend their cap space and have already committed their Room MLE amounts.

Can MLE be aggregated with cap space or other assets?


No, none of the salary cap exceptions can be combined with cap space (or with other exceptions). The only time when that sort of aggregation is legal is when compiling salaries for trade matching purposes (within certain guidelines).

How can the Jazz use their trade exceptions?


They can only use them to acquire players whose entire salary would fit inside each exception: The $2.4M from Hood or the $3.7M left over from Johnson. They can’t be used to sign players, they can’t be combined to create one $7.1M exception, and they can’t be lumped together with the MLE or anything else. It’s basically just to acquire a single player.

Which is why the reality is that most trade exceptions expire unused, especially smaller ones like these. There’s a small chance the Jazz could use a TPE to take back an additional player in a trade if the team they’re trading with wanted to dump more salary. For example, trade Thabo ($5.25M) for a player making up to $9.2M and then take another player making $3.7M or less into one of the TPEs. Something like that could help a team trying to reduce payroll.

Do you think we’ll see a 5-out lineup by the Jazz with Jae Crowder and Sefolosha as the “bigs”?


Maybe in unique situations, depending on what an opponent is doing. But I think by and large, if you re-sign Favors it’s because you plan on him using most of the backup center minutes. 

For what it’s worth, even with Gobert missing 27 games last season, the Jazz didn’t have a single lineup that didn’t feature a center log more than seven minutes all season. I just think Quin Snyder regards 5-out lineups as being more of a “break-glass-in-case-of-emergency” type ploy. Which makes sense to me when you have two guys who are above average paint protectors AND rim divers.

Crowder and Sefolosha seem to have similar (though not identical) skill sets. Who do you envision gets more minutes of the two, and what factors might influence Snyder’s decisions on that matter?


At least at first, it will be Crowder. Sefolosha is a 33-year-old coming off a major injury, and also has to serve a short suspension to start the season. So out of the gate, it will be Crowder, but shot selection and defense will probably determine a lot of it over the course of the season. Sefolosha can do a bit more with the ball in his hands, but Crowder has more natural athleticism. The reality is that we’ll see plenty of both guys. It helps that both of them are legitimately multi-positional players, so Snyder will find a way to deploy them.

It’s also worth mentioning that both of them are on great contracts and therefore would both be very tradable if the Jazz decide they have an embarrassment of riches at SF/PF and could address a need elsewhere.

If Favors decides to sign elsewhere, who do the Jazz go after since we’d be limited to the MLE?


This question was submitted before Fav committed to sign a 2-year, $36 million deal. 

If the Jazz sign Favors, Dante Exum and Raul Neto will that be it? Will they or could they make another move?


It sounds as though they’ll use all or part of the MLE to add a depth piece. They’re probably not getting a major impact piece at that level, but there a lot of really nice players available for all or part of the MLE this summer.


Who do the Jazz use the MLE on?


Which stretch 4s might Jazz be targeting?


Based on the market set thus far in FA, what remaining candidate(s) seems like a good fit for the MLE?


Grouping these similar questions together.

The depth chart after Favors re-signed is pretty chock full of rotation-quality guys. So you’re looking for someone who would upgrade a rotation spot. The most obvious spot is to find a shooting big to provide depth behind Favors and the tag-team of smallball 4s the Jazz have on their roster. That’s why names like Nemanja Bjelica and Davis Bertans keep coming up. Luc Mbah a Moute would be great, but he’s a little bit similar to Sef & Crowder as a big defensive wing who can play some stretch 4 as a corner spot-up guy. I think Bjelica might be the guy they’re monitoring. Which wouldn’t be great news for Jonas Jerebko and his non-guaranteed contract. 

What’s your thought on what level of contract that a team would have to offer Dante for the Jazz to not match it? I think, and could be wrong, the Jazz might be the highest on Dante’s upside as anyone!


I answered a similar question last week and my view on it hasn’t changed much. If they can get him in the high seven-figure range, it’s a no-brainer to match. In the $10-12M range they’d wince a little before matching. And if it gets up into the mid-teens, then the decision gets tougher. But I’m one of those people who still think Exum can be special in the NBA. Guys who have one elite skill have long NBA careers. Guys who do two things at an elite level have a really strong foundation to build on. Exum has the tools to be elite at perimeter defense, and elite at getting from point A to point B with the basketball. I wouldn’t give up on him. 

As for your final point, there are teams out there who still like Exum. I’m not sure if that will translate to an offer or not, but he still has believers.

Is there any value in trading for Carmelo Anthony? I get that he is on the downslope of his career but could be a stretch 4 we need and his defense could be mitigated by Rudy Gobert. Plus we would take a few draft picks for our trouble.


I don’t think the Jazz would have any interest in Melo. At -3.0 Wins Above Replacment (or, put differently, 3 losses above replacement), Melo was damn near the worst rotation player in the entire league last season. OKC played much better when he sat. Pretty much all he does anymore it hit shots, but at .503 true shooting, you’re actually making your offense WORSE every time he shoots. It’s just not a fit.

Also, not to pick on Casey here, but we need to revisit the whole “Gobert will cover for a bad defender” philosophy. Gobert certainly enables the Jazz’s perimeter defenders to play a certain way, but that doesn’t mean that he has magical dust he can sprinkle on a bad defender to make them good. That’s just not how the Jazz’s team defense is built. There’s a reason they took proven rotation-quality players like Rodney Hood, Joe Johnson and Alec Burks and gave their roles to the somewhat less-heralded Royce O’Neale, Crowder and Exum, respectively: the defense is elite when five guys know their jobs and stick to a system. When that system is working, it can turn good defenders into great ones, but if you put guys who don’t give a crap next to Gobert, they don’t just magically give a crap. And there’s a lot of evidence from the past two seasons to support that, which is why certain players (even good ones!) aren’t on the Jazz anymore.

Is there ANY chance that Milwaukee would not match on Jabari at the MLE? Also, could the Jazz sign Favors and Exum quickly (and lower than cap holds) and use whatever space they have left combined with the Room MLE on Jabari? 


1) I think Milwaukee would match at the MLE. I also think Jabari can probably find better offers than that somewhere. But we’ll see.

2) No, they can’t combine cap space with exceptions. And the Favors signing ensures that they’ll stay over the cap anyway.

If there’s a chance Love is available, do you think that changes how DL approaches (or approached) the meeting with Favors?


I’m sure they at least broached the topic of sign-and-trade scenarios when they met with Favors, but clearly they were more focused on getting him to stay.

The reality, though, is that the Jazz likely don’t have the assets to swing a Love trade. If the Cavs make Love available, it’s going to be a rebuilding trade. They’ll want young pieces and picks, and all of the Jazz’s assets in those categories are either of middling value or are off the table. 

(Now that Favors made his decision), do you expect more Jazz dominoes to fall? Or will that wait for Exum?


Now that we know for sure that the Jazz are an exceptions team, it doesn’t really matter if they make an MLE signing and then re-up Exum, or re-up Exum and then use the MLE. Obviously Utah would like to understand Exum’s price point so they don’t accidentally commit themselves to paying the tax, but by now they undoubtedly know what he’s asking for well enough to ballpark it. I think it’s more a question of those players holding out to see if the five teams who still have some flexibility — or the eight teams with the full MLE — want to make them a priority. For example, Bjelica isn’t going to sign for $5 million until his people have done due diligence with all of the MLE teams.

Any indication on your end that Tony Bradley is ready for some backup 5 minutes?


Let’s find out! Summer league starts in a few hours! (As for now, I’m still not counting on Bradley to be a rotation piece. But he can prove me wrong, starting tonight.)

If Isiah Thomas has no market, would you like to see the Jazz swing for the fences and try to sign him to the MLE and see if they can make it work? Have plenty of defense (especially if they back Dante), IT could be scoring punch we need, no?


With Ricky Rubio, Donovan Mitchell, Exum, Grayson Allen, O’Neale and even Joe Ingles getting some minutes at the two guard spots (and possibly Neto!), I’m just not sure I picture a big enough role for IT that it’s worth investing the full MLE. He was also a negative-value player last year by VORP. He just doesn’t really move the needle for me. 

How do Jerebko and Nemanja Bjelica compare on offense and defense?


Bjelica is probably just a bit more skilled overall. He can score the ball in more ways than Jonas, and he’s a little better as a ball mover. Defensively, Jerebko’s style is about hustle and disruption, whereas Bjelica is solid in more traditional defensive schemes. Neither guy has the lateral agility where you want them switching onto guards a ton, but both are good in hedge-and-recover situations, and Bjelica is probably a bit more solid guarding the low block. Bjelica is probably better overall, and in general probably fits Snyder’s vision of having multiple guys he trusts to make decisions with the ball. The Jazz also think Bjelica might have some unexplored potential after having an inconsistent role in Minnesota.

That does it for this week. We’ll probably do this one more time next week, depending on how active things still are and whether or not there are questions.

Dan Clayton

Dan Clayton

Dan covered Utah Jazz basketball for more than 10 years, including as a radio analyst for the team’s Spanish-language broadcasts from 2010 to 2014. He now lives and works in New York City, but contributes regularly to Salt City Hoops, FanRag and BBALLBreakdown.
Dan Clayton

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