Offseason Q&A Volume 2: Jazz Targets, Positional Priorities & Cap Tools

May 1st, 2019 | by Dan Clayton

Jazz fans have Brogdon (and other targets) on their mind. (Gary Dineen via Bucks.com)

Our first call for readers to submit offseason questions was met with such fervor that there were way too many questions to answer all at once. I already posted Volume 1, with questions and answers about current Jazzmen and their respective futures. Here comes the second big wave of answers, on topics such as salary cap exceptions, offseason targets and positional needs. Dig in!

Cap & roster construction

How much cap room is available if (the Jazz) keep Derrick Favors and let Ricky Rubio, Thabo Sefolosha, Kyle Korver, and Ekpe Udoh go? What are the different scenarios for Korver (retirement, trade, waive, stretch)? -@blainefarr

You can tinker with the cap tool, but the quick answer (assuming they keep everybody not mentioned above) is that they’d have roughly $22M if they traded Korver, $19M if they kept his cap hit all on this year’s salary sheet, or $21M if they stretch his remaining guaranteed salary over three seasons. 

If the Jazz waive any of their non-guaranteed contracts, they’re barred from re-signing those players, right? Whereas if they turned down a TO, they’d still have the potential option of re-signing the player? -@KantsImperative

No, there’s nothing that bars you from re-signing a guy you have waived. With two big buts:

  1. First he’d need to clear waivers. Someone like Royce O’Neale would 100% be scooped up in the waiver claim process. Georges Niang probably would, too, and I even think Favors likely would given the number of teams with cap space, as I explained above.
  2. Even if he cleared waivers, the Jazz would then not have any Bird, early Bird or non-Bird free agent rights to the guy in question, so they could only re-sign him using salary cap space or an available exception.

Can you use the MLE along with regular salary cap money to sign a player or does it have to be strictly MLE if signing be those means? Maybe just explain about the different exceptions (MLE, biannual, trade) and how they can be used? -@Dialed_in4

Broadly speaking salary cap exceptions only exist for teams who are operating over the cap, so a team would never have the MLE *and* cap space. It is possible for a team to have cap space and the “Room MLE” described above, but they cannot be combined together. Exceptions are never combined, so a player’s first-year salary has to fit entirely into either your remaining cap space or a solitary exception.

A quick crash course on the most common exceptions:

  • The “full” (or non-taxpayer) MLE will be about $9.2M this year, and can be used to sign a player to a contract for up to four seasons. It is only available to teams who are over the cap (or who are close enough to the cap that their exceptions would push them over), and to teams that will not exceed the luxury tax by more than about $7 million (the “apron”). Once a team uses the full MLE, they are not allowed to go over the apron for any reason.
  • The taxpayer MLE (sometimes referred to as the “mini-MLE”) is a smaller version that’s available to teams that are over the luxury tax threshold, or who don’t want to be hard-capped at the apron by using the full MLE. It will be around $5.7M and can be used to sign a contract for up to three seasons.
  • The biannual exception is a smaller exception (~$3.6M) that teams can only use every other year. It is also only meant for teams who are above the cap but below the apron, and teams who use it are also hard-capped for the season. It can be used to sign one- or two-year deals.
  • The room MLE is available to teams that rescind all their other exceptions to get under the cap, but then spend their cap room and still want to sign somebody. It’s only around $4.7M, and can only be used to sign one- or two-year deals.
  • Minimum salary exceptions can always be used to sign additional players (unless a team is hard-capped). Deals signed using the minimum exception can only be for one or two seasons, but teams will often get around this by using a portion of their MLE to sign a player to a minimum-salary deal that can exceed two seasons. That’s how Utah was able to sign O’Neale to a 3-year deal at the minimum salary, and as a result they’ll now have his full Bird rights when his deal expires next summer.

Those are the basic exceptions. Teams also have the ability to re-sign their own free agents, but only if they reserve a portion of team salary on their cap sheet (known as a free agent amount or “cap hold”) to preserve that right.

The trade question is tricky and multi-layered. Basically, teams under the cap can bring back players in a trade as long as their post-trade team salary won’t exceed the cap by more than $100,000. To bring back more salary than that, you have to operate within the trade rules, which vary depending on the amount of salary you’re sending out and how far over the cap you are.

Offseason targets

Do you think the Jazz get Durant and Kawhi or just Durant? @jstuart_

Why stop there? They can also schedule a meeting with Captain America, Thor, Oprah and the Dalai Lama. And then petition the NBA for a rule change so they can sign Air Bud.

Which top free agents do we have a chance at? What players were we rumored to get at the deadline? -@LilBax

What level (tier) of players will the Jazz realistically target in FA this off-season? -@AustinJazzHoops

Everything I’ve heard is that the Jazz sound confident. As in, the type of confidence that you really only have when you know that there are some people out there impressed with what you’re building. As JStuart’s jokey question above suggests, I don’t think they’ll sign an existing All-NBA stud like KD or Kawhi, but they seem to think they’ll get a meeting with some borderline All-Star caliber guys.

As far as trade deadline buzz, from what I gather, the Otto Porter interest was real, but Washington just had different objectives. The Mike Conley talks were obviously real, but that was built around expirings, which can’t be used in summer trades, so that one would be tough to revisit. I know the Jazz have been interested in Tobias Harris, but there’s a little bit of a concern in that guys as good as him don’t usually see five teams in their first seven years. 

If you were designing a third core player that best complements Rudy’s and Donovan’s skills and fits with the team, what would that player look like? What reasonably-available player(s) most closely resembles that ideal fit? -@tomcat340

Assuming it’s not feasible to upgrade both the point guard and power forward positions in free agency, which one change would yield the best results on the court? -@joel_hiller

Who do you see the jazz targeting in free agency? Any chance any of the current jazz free agents come back? @newbymiles89

They need another guy who can manufacture his own bucket, generate offense for himself and others, and defend. I don’t think position matters as much, but if you get a really small guard next to Donovan, you’re going to have a small backcourt, and that could be a problem defensively in an increasingly long, positionless NBA. That’s why I think a scoring wing who can guard multiple position makes the most sense, or a skilled four who can bend the defense in ways Favors and Jae Crowder just don’t. That’s why names like Khris Middleton, Harris and Bojan Bogdanovic keep coming up, but who knows how available they are? I have no idea if Khris is gettable, but he remains for me the ideal on-paper fit because of his defense, his multi-positional profile, and his résumé as a proven number-two scorer who is a threat both with and without the ball.

Malcolm Brogdon is not an iso scorer by any means, but he’s another facilitator and he can reasonably play either guard spot. Lowry or Kemba Walker are bucket-getters, but they might be small next to Mitchell, and there’s some valid concern about diminishing returns, since part of what makes those guys special is how much time they spend with the ball in their hands, something that would definitely change if they played next to Mitchell. Kemba can’t execute 50 pick-and-rolls per game and still have Donovan do what Donovan does, so by pairing those types of guys, you’re asking someone to be less/different than what they are today, so you have to forecast how those situations will fit. Same goes for D’Angelo Russell, an All-Star whose skill set overlaps with Mitchell’s to some degree.

Utah could also consider the next tier down, guys who are solid system fits even though they’re not necessarily shot creators in the purest sense: Danny Green, Al-Farouq Aminu, Thad Young, Pat Beverley, Darren Collison, Cory Joseph, Trevor Ariza… and probably others, although after that group it starts to drop off in terms of value above replacement.

(Miles, see yesterday’s part 1 for the answer to that last part of your question.)

Who do the Jazz have a better shot at getting a meeting with in free agency, Harris or Kemba? Not signing just a meeting. -@GaretDuckworth

Harris. I think it’s a pretty safe bet that Utah will get in front of Harris at some point, if only because there is known interest and it helps his agent to play that up. They could also get a meeting with Walker, but I think Harris is a safer bet.

Any word on if Jrue Holiday has been made available for trades? Wondering if things have changed with a new GM running the show. @GaretDuckworth

I wouldn’t hold your breath. Even if David Griffin decides to fully tear things down in New Orleans, the objective in a hypothetical Jrue trade would be to score rebuilding assets, and that’s something the Jazz are actually kind of light on. They don’t have great first-round picks, and their only starter-level talent on a rookie deal is Mitchell, who is basically untouchable.

I am really high on Brogdon, I think he would change everything for the Jazz, but I can’t imagine losing Favors and having a hole at backup C. Is it possible to get Brogdon and keep Favs? Is Brogdon going to get the max this offseason? -@Jeffersoniandoc

Can the Jazz make enough cap space for both Brogdon and Harris? I know that’s hard to know because no one knows what it will take to pry Brogdon away from MIL. -@CHALVIN2018

Does Brogdon fit a need as the third main piece or is he more of the Ingles glue guy? -@gubihero

Do you think that is best done by bringing in a PG like Brogdon or a stretch 4 like Mirotic? Which is a better fit for the Jazz considering the likely trade-off with playmaking (PG) or rebounding (PF)? -@Camber

Wowza, a lot of Brogdon interest. I’ll tackle this one in parts so I can try to answer all of these versions of the question.

  • First of all, I don’t think Brogdon is quite the “shot creator” we’ve been talking about. He’s really good. But he’s still closer to a system player than he is to a guy who you can just give the ball and point to the bucket. The Jazz may think he has another level or two, though. As of today, I think he’s still more complementary than a bona fide third star.
  • No, I don’t think Brogdon will get the max, but the market is going to smile on guys like that who are clearly better than MLE players, because the number of teams with cap space is going to bid up the price on guys in that tier. So while someone like Brogdon might regularly track to a contract in the teens, it’s not crazy to think that some team will throw a bigger salary at him, especially since Milwaukee has matching rights that they would surely exercise on a low-dollar deal.
  • Signing both Brogdon and Harris is almost a complete dream, for cap reasons. Harris will make the max, and Brogdon will have to get a hefty number to pry him away from Milwaukee. Opening up enough room for both would require cutting ties with all the free agents and Favors, plus dumping a couple of large salaries (Korver & Crowder?) and some smaller ones as well (Neto, Bradley, etc.).
  • A Brogdon-Fav combo is more likely cap-wise, since Favors’ cost is fixed at $16.9M.
  • I spoke a little bit about the positional thing above. I don’t think it really matters if the Jazz can get a true third stud. If they can get that type of guy at any position, then they’ll simply retain/sign guys around them that fill the remaining needs. 
  • That said, Mirotic is probably not “third star” material, and I think the Jazz likely have some very real concerns about how he’d fit defensively… especially given how they’ve gone right at him every time they’ve faced him.

In your opinion is there any free agents this year that given more time or different situation turn into better players than now, hopefully stars? (ie deangelo russel, harden in OKC, oladipo in OKC) -@Dialed_in4

Honestly, I think that would be the hope with Brogdon. He’s not currently quite on the quasi-star tier, but if the Jazz made a run at him, it would signal their belief that he’s still getting better. He’s 26, so he probably doesn’t have a ton of ceiling left in terms of raw ability, but you could argue that he’s never really been in a system that featured him. He was the least efficient of Milwaukee’s volume P&R handlers in terms of the plays he personally finished, and he’s not really an isolation guy.

Bogdanovic is another guy like that. Nobody really thought of him as a primary offensive weapon until he took over more of the generation duties after Victor Oladipo got injured. He’s skilled and versatile, and we might have just gotten a first glimpse of the type of weapon he could be. 

I’ve said this before, but I also wonder if Justise Winslow might finally be good. Miami started putting the ball in his hands more, and suddenly he looks like someone with creation skills worthy of his top-10 pick. He just turned 23 and put together his best season yet. He’s under contract, though.

Stanley Johnson? Bobby Portis? There are other guys who have shown flashes, but I don’t know that any of them are necessarily on a star path. I absolutely love Caris Levert, but the Nets aren’t going to let go of him.


That does it for this installment. We’ll keep doing this throughout the offseason, and of course in the meantime you can mess around with the salary cap tool to figure out how the Jazz can keep the players you like while create cap room to chase a star.

Dan Clayton

Dan Clayton

Dan covered Utah Jazz basketball from up close for more than 10 years, including as a radio analyst for the team’s Spanish-language broadcasts from 2010 to 2014. The born-and-raised Utahn now lives in New York City.
Dan Clayton

13 Comments

  1. Paul Johnson says:

    Q1: Do you think the Jazz might target a less-expensive scoring option (3-point shooter) in a trade–such as TJ Warren of Phoenix or Nemaja Bjelica of Sacramento, rather than try to sign someone like Tobias Harris or Bojan Bogdanovic in free agency?

    Q2: Do you think the Jazz might choose to develop a starting point guard from players already on its roster, such as Donovan Mitchell, Dante Exum and Greyson Allen, and then sign an older, cheaper, backup veteran point guard in free agency as a mentor/safety valve, such as George Hill?

    • rvalens2 says:

      I’ll answer your second question. And the answer is “No.” It’s going to take too long for the Jazz to develop a starting point guard from their current batch of guards. Instead, I believe they will try and sign a free agent or trade for one. A point guard I love is D’Angelo Russell. However, getting him from Brooklyn won’t be easy but that’s why Dennis Lindsey is paid big bucks — to improve the team.

    • Dan Clayton says:

      1-Yes, there’s a chance of that, but they’d (obviously) prefer a guy who’s already a dynamic scorer who can break down defenses. Bjelica is someone they’ve obviously had interest in the past, but more as a role player. I don’t think they are into Warren, but I might be wrong about that.
      2- They could. I think they view Mitchell as someone who needs to have another playmaker next to him so that he doesn’t have to initiate the offense, use 30-35% of the possessions AND guard 50 pick-and-rolls a night at the point of attack. Players who are most similar to Don historically have pretty much always played next to a PG. The plan was to get Exum ready to take over for Rubio at some point, and they were encouraged with what they saw right before the injury, but missing another chunk of time might make them nervous about having him take over now. And Allen definitely still needs time to develop, especially as a defender and a decision-maker.

      • Paul Johnson says:

        Do you think the Jazz might be interested in a trade for Jordan Clarkson?

        He will be in the last year of his contract and will be an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2020. It is unlikely he would re-sign with the Cavaliers to be part of their rebuilding project at age 28. The Cavs will be about $4 mil. over the luxury tax threshold at the beginning of the 2019 free agency period with only 11 players under contract. Clarkson’s contract is for $13,437,500 for next season. Perhaps the Cavs would take a young player on a rookie contract (such as Tony Bradley) and the Jazz’s 2019 2nd round pick (#53) for Clarkson. That would give them some type of asset for him and help them get under the luxury tax. Although Cleveland will be over the cap, the Jazz will be under the cap, so the Cavs could trade Clarkson into the Jazz’s cap space (which should be about $17 mil. without the Jazz declining their team options on Favors and Niang, if the Jazz relinquish all Bird rights on its 3 free agents (Rubio, Udoh and Sefolosha), releasing their cap holds).

        Clarkson can create his own shot and has been a consistent scorer his entire career. He is not a great 3-point shooter, but his shot is not broken, so he should be able to improve. He is 6’5″ with a wingspan of 6’8″ and he has good athleticism, so he should not create a defensive liability playing next to Donovan. I think he could be a good player to plug into the Jazz’s point guard slot next to Donovan, and if he doesn’t work out, his contract will be off the books next season, and the Jazz didn’t pay very much to get him.

  2. Rick S says:

    I made a comment from part 1 and it applies to this section as well.

    Bobby Portis as the stretch 4, he’s a RFA and much cheaper than many of the sugessted players mentioned.

    I would trade for Landry Shamet as a shooter scorer

    There are a lot of FA available to work with I believe

    • Spencer says:

      Other players with some untapped upside:

      Jamycheal Green
      Delon Wright
      Torry Craig-Denver
      Malik Beasley-Denver
      Royce O’Neal

      I like Bobby Portis and his buddy Thomas Bryant (more of a 5) as guys who could make a jump.

    • Dan Clayton says:

      Portis is skilled enough that he could grow into a solid scoring big, but I think at this point it’s fair to wonder if he’s a headcase. If he’s high on the Jazz’s list, I’m sure they’ll do their due diligence to find out if he’s an OK fit from a between-the-ears standpoint.
      Shamet is a nice role player but doesn’t elevate the jazz on his own, and that’s their primary goal this summer.

  3. Spencer says:

    Watching LA, led me to think a little bit about the concept of getting an instant-offense bench guy like sweet lou. I think that would be a HUGE deal for a team like Utah. Any ideas of some guy we could get cheap who has some sort of bucket-getter potential? (Both Hood and Burks played that role (not nearly as well) last year and are available now BTW. We traded them for Korver and Crowder. I’m going to go out on a limb and say I wish we had the Korver trade back. I ‘d much rather have had Alec in the Houston series. He acquitted himself quite well last year in that series). Very possibly could have been enough to move the two close losses into the win column.

    • Dan Clayton says:

      Nah, the Jazz did great with the Korver trade. Even beyond Korver’s own stats and performance, he just had such an impact on spacing because he’s a constant threat. Alec wasn’t. Alec is thought of as a dynamic off-the-bounce guy except that he’s really inefficient at it, makes poor decisions with the ball, and is generally pretty lost in team defensive schemes. He barely played in Sacramento.

      That said, they could definitely use another guy in the sort of bench “microwave” role like you’re talking about, but it would have to be someone who really fit the identity. DL has said they’re not going to go after guys who don’t defend just because they can score some points. That doesn’t mean it has to be a lockdown 1-on-1 defender, but someone who tries and who is smart enough to stay within a defensive game plan.

      • Spencer says:

        Point well taken. Can you throw out a name or two of someone who may fit that mold?

        (P.S. Hood did a nice job of that last night for Portland).

        • Rick S says:

          Agree about Korver, he is a great veteran influence from a fans perspective. It’s almost like a shooting coach for the Jazz.

          I too am interested for some “under the radar type free agents
          that might fit the Jazz?
          I was a Landry S. fan for last years draft. (Also Omari Spellman)

          Donovan excelled in a situation and flourished, he is infectious and can help develop those with talent.
          I think there are some talented FA that are diamonds in the rough!

  4. Rick S says:

    Dan, I read the tweet from TJ about Jazz needing Exum. Your response was “preeeech”

    What are your thoughts on Exum?
    IYP why do the Jazz need Exum, he’s dead weight. 4+years of little to no usage and using the salary that could be BETTER used for players on the floor.
    10+ million is a step to 2-3 FA

    Thoughts?

  5. Spencer says:

    Put me squarely on the Brogden Bandwagon. My favorite pick of all. Offensive efficiency from the backcourt is our biggest weakness. Brogden was the best in the league at that and I think he is a natural at all things Jazz offensively. Plus the perfect complement to Mitchell and the right age. MOST IMPORTANTLY, HE IS GETTABLE. People are saying he is not a max contract guy, so that means we have a chance to “Overpay” and get him.

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