Jazz Add Three, Plus Trade Rumors

July 13th, 2017 | by Dan Clayton

Garrett Ellwood via atlantahawks.com

Dennis Lindsey is on a mid-July shopping spree. The Utah Jazz’s general manager struck deals with three free agents in a period of about 24 hours this week.

It could be Lindsey’s way of rounding out a roster that needed rotation-quality depth after the departure of the club’s two leading scorers from a season ago. Or, if some informed buzz from a plugged-in league reporter comes to fruition, this recent splurge could just be setting up another set of transactions. But we’ll get to that in a minute.

Three signed

Utah has reportedly reached agreements with defensive wing Thabo Sefolosha, skilled forward Jonas Jerebko and reigning Euroleague final four MVP Ekpe Udoh. The moves help the Jazz fill out a frontcourt that was looking thin after All-Star Gordon Hayward bolted for Beantown. None of these three signees will replace Hayward’s firepower as a star-level scoring threat and the center of Utah’s attack, but they help injury-proof the Jazz to some degree.

Before these deals, Utah was looking light on big wings and even lighter up front. Three bigs who were at least intermittently a part of the Jazz’s rotation are either moving on or have unclear futures with Utah. Trey Lyles was dealt on draft night, Jeff Withey is an unrestricted free agent, and Boris Diaw’s future in the Rockies is far from guaranteed. In fact, these three signings all but spell the end of the Frenchman’s stay in Salt Lake City.

The Jazz can’t sign all three of these free agents at their reported amounts with just salary cap exceptions, so it seems clear that they’ll go under the cap to afford the combined $12.4 million in first year salaries: $5.2M for Sefolosha, $4M for Jerebko and $3.2M for Udoh.

The Jazz can get to about $11.2M in space by waiving Diaw’s non-guaranteed salary1 and waiting to sign foward Joe Ingles to his agreed deal starting in the $11 to 12M range. They still have to slot a free agent hold of about $4 million to keep Ingles’ rights, but the $11.2M that opens up would allow them to sign their three free agent targets. Sefolosha and Jerebko would fit into their cap space, and they could sign Udoh with the room midlevel, an exception available to teams with salary space who have spent back up to the cap.

There is really no other way they can sign all three without opening up the cap space. Sefolosha and Udoh could fit into the full midlevel exception ($8.4M) available to teams over the cap, but then Utah wouldn’t have another exception big enough for Jerebko’s $4M. So if the reported amounts are correct on all three, then it appears that Diaw is gone. ESPN’s Tim MacMahon has reported that the writing is on the wall for Diaw.

But wait just a second: local guys Tony Jones and Jody Genessy have both shared that Utah is still looking to see if they can get something of value in exchange for Diaw before they waive him. They can’t take much salary back, though, for the math to still work on their three signings. If they took back more than $3M in salary in exchange for Diaw, that would eat into the cap space they need in order to ink the reported amounts discussed above.

Of course, the math on all of this changes if the Jazz have bigger plans afoot, and one national reporter seems to think they might.

Bigger deal?

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on a podcast that Utah might be considering a bigger shakeup. He teased the idea that the Jazz could be poised to make a trade that would “change the composition of their roster,” and then added with the verbal wink that his tidbit could be “an informed opinion.”

What could he be referring to? Obviously the Jazz wouldn’t consider a deal involving all-league center Rudy Gobert. They also currently can’t trade any recent signees. So if a deal is coming that represents a real shift in basketball identity, it most likely would include at least one of Derrick Favors, Rodney Hood or Dante Exum. Joe Johnson could potentially have some trade value as well, and Ricky Rubio is tradable but just landed in Utah via a June swap.

It seems that Utah’s biggest need at this stage would be filling the scoring void left by Hayward. But there are few guys available on the trade market who are capable of being primary scoring threats. Windhorst’s Cleveland connections have many Jazz fans speculating that Utah could be angling to get in on a deal where the Cavs add LeBron buddy Carmelo Anthony, Love gets shipped to the Jazz, and Utah sends a package to New York.

But Windhorst is connected around the league, too, so this doesn’t have to be a Cleveland-based bit of gossip. Utah could also be aiming to use the non-guaranteed Diaw contract to offer some flexibility to teams with complicated cap sheets, like Milwaukee or Portland2.

The Jazz won’t get an All-Star level player back for the assets they have available, but they could certainly find someone who’s a bit undervalued in his current situation. I’d look for players in the “quasi-star” tier on teams that might need to lower salary.

The roster today

Assuming the Jazz don’t have more deals coming, the roster moves they’ve made this week round out the rotation nicely.

With Udoh and Jerebko joining Gobert and Favors up front, Utah now has enough role-ready bigs for a 4-man rotation, plus they have occasional PF minutes from Johnson and two project bigs in Tony Bradley and Joel Bolomboy.

They have more options on the wings: Johnson will log some minutes there, as will Hood, Ingles, Sefolosha and rookie Donovan Mitchell, who has impressed during summer league. They are also aiming to rehab the oft-injured Alec Burks, and they play Dante Exum as a small wing at times.

Rubio, Exum and Raul Neto form a capable three-man point guard rotation.

That’s a solid 15-man roster. There aren’t any glaring holes, and they have at least 11 or 12 guys who are rotation-caliber contributors. They don’t currently have anybody with Hayward’s offensive tools, but almost anybody they put out on the court has the profile to bring some defensive tenacity and good length at his respective position.

Jazz depth chart on 7/13, assuming Diaw waiver is imminent:

  • C: Gobert-Udoh-Bradley
  • PF: Favors-Jerebko-Bolomboy
  • SF: Ingles-Sefolosha-Johnson
  • SG: Hood-Mitchell-Burks
  • PG: Rubio-Exum-Neto

Udoh is a rim protecting big man who gives the Jazz the option of locking down the paint for 48 minutes every night. He has also improved as a scoring threat since his first NBA stint, and averaged 20 points in the recent Euroleague tournament, which he helped his team win.

Sefolosha is a classic 3-and-D wing. He doesn’t create his own shot, but is a good spot shooter who hits right around league average from downtown. More importantly, he’s one of the league’s premier perimeter defenders, capable of both checking bigger wings and staying in front of the more fleet-footed types.

Jerebko is another solid outside shooter, and probably a bit underrated both as an athlete and as a multi-positional defender. You don’t want him switching onto Steph Curry, but he can handle some wings and generally plays sound team defense.

None of the three will rewrite Jazz history, but they give the team the ability to be two-deep all up and down their positional chart, and bring veteran know-how.

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

3 Comments

  1. Brent says:

    Always appreciate the well thought out articles, especially when it comes to the cap and other financial considerations. The Jazz appear to truly be aiming to be the #1 defense but at some point you need to score. Hopefully another significant move is eminent.

  2. grant says:

    I actually think Love makes a lot of sense, send burks and favors ( i love favors would be sad to see him go but… ) Loves defensive issues wont be a problem when the 4 other guys on the court with him are above avg to elite defenders and Gobs is backing him up. he also was phenomenal with rubio in the past and is a guy that can score 20-25+ ppg and grab 10+ rbs per game. Hayward scoring void would be filled. Id really honestly like to see the love trade!

  3. William R Schanze says:

    I like our scoring mysteries; Burks, Favors, Rubio. All three have shown efficient scoring ability but Burks and Favors have to be healthy. Rubio may continue to be a surprise scorer like he did at the end of last year. Hood, Exum, and Mitchell have yet to show anything but potential. They have yet to prove scoring efficiency or integrity of shot selection. Presently, I’ll take Neto over all three but the four are difficult to read because all four may be in a substantial positive state of transition. All seven mentioned players are scoring teasers. I hope Rubio and Neto take the major share of ball handling because ball handling takes game minutes. Favors, Hood, Exum, and Mitchell must practice game shots off moves as well as catch and shoot. Game shots permit work on BODY BALANCE and QUICK TRANSFER from catch or pick-up to release position. GAINING BALANCE with QUICK TRANSFER to release position makes up rhythm of game shot. Lazy practice shots do not only NOT help rhythm but train poor game rhythm. Mitchell and Hood may become great practice shooters who never learn what a high percentage shot is. I call that shot integrity. Shot integrity only comes from practicing high intensity game shots, as described.

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