Offseason Q&A: Keep It Together or Shake Things Up?

May 15th, 2018 | by Dan Clayton

Melissa Majchrzak via utahjazz.com

Let’s get the Q&A machine rolling again now that the offseason is here.

The Utah Jazz’s season ended last week, so while the four NBA semifinalists wrestle for the Larry O’Brien Trophy, folks in Jazzland turn their attention to the summer, which the Jazz will ostensibly use to build on their 48-win performance and their 11-game playoff run.

How exactly will they do that? What tools and assets do they have to get better? Which guys will be back? These are the types of questions we’ll explore in a series of offseason Q&A sessions. And, if this first round is any indication, there is no shortage of burning questions out there.

In fact, there were so many questions that we’ve split this first offseason Q&A into two: today we’ll cover some big picture stuff and some basketball-related questions. Later, we’ll drop part two, which will include questions about specific assets and targets, plus the macro cap environment.

Dig in!

Jazz Roster Big Picture

Will there be a dramatic shakeup to land somebody, or will they keep money off the books waiting for next year?

@Jazz6thMan

What do you foresee as the most likely situation the Jazz will see themselves in come the start of next season: will they have a pretty identical roster next year or will there be a mix-up? And if there is a mix-up, how many of the 15 man roster will be new?

@JazzHoopsLife

What is the probability that the jazz come back next year with the same roster plus some rookies? In other words, re-sign Derrick Favors, Dante Exum, Raul Neto, etc.

@tSlay23

Starting with these three because they’re all very similar.

Barring something transformational becoming available, I don’t think they’ll make wholesale changes. And why would they? The team as presently constituted was good enough to win 29 of its last 35 regular season games, defeat three superstars in the first round, and then make Houston sweat a little1 even without Ricky Rubio. The Jazz, I think rightly, want to build on this year and not retool just as soon as they’ve found something that works.

And then there’s the reality that the Jazz don’t have a cap situation that will allow them to go out and acquire mega free agents. Sure, they can tinker and open up a $15 to 20 million cap slot by letting 3-4 rotation guys walk. Who are you targeting with a sub max deal that’s worth letting multiple key players go?

It’s slightly more likely that they’d make an impact acquisition via trade, but because they don’t have great assets outside of the untouchable Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, only teams in certain situations would send somebody really valuable Utah’s way.

I think they’ll mostly come back intact. The Favors question is the biggest outstanding issue as it relates to Utah potentially needing to rework its core, but even if he leaves, the Jazz know who they are and how they’ll win games. Right now, I’d set the over-under of guys returning from Utah’s 15-man roster2 at 9.5.

If Favors chooses to leave and Alec Burks is moved, do the Jazz have enough flexibility to sign a pretty good FA?

@EricLilly7

Not really, no. Assuming they keep everybody else under contract and hurry and re-sign Exum (let’s say $9M) and Neto ($2M), they’d only have about $10M left under the cap — or roughly the same as the spending power they’d have if they kept everybody and used salary cap exceptions (the $9M midlevel exception, the biannual exception, the two small trade exceptions they still have from this past February, etc.).

That’s what fans need to factor into their thinking. It’s not just about opening up nominal cap space; the Jazz are only a functional cap space team if they can clear enough room that it makes sense to rescind all of their exceptions. That would require them to make a whole bunch of moves involving good players. They’ll do it if the right player says yes, but they’re not going to do it just so they can say they have cap space.

Can you do an “important dates” list that includes deadlines for individual contract options and things like that?

@hessrp

  • June 21: NBA Draft
  • June 30: qualifying offers must be made to Exum and Neto for the Jazz to keep RFA rights
  • July 1: Favors becomes an unrestricted free agent
  • July 1: Thabo Sefolosha’s contract becomes fully guaranteed ($5.25M)
  • July 6: July moratorium ends
  • July 9: Jonas Jerebko’s ($4.2M) and Ekpe Udoh’s ($3.36M) contracts become fully guaranteed
  • July 13: Last day a qualifying offer can be unilaterally withdrawn by a team
  • August 31: Last day to use the stretch provision for the current season
  • Last day prior to regular season: Last day for most extensions; 15-man roster limit imposed
  • October 31: Rookie option decisions for Mitchell & Tony Bradley
  • January 10: Royce O’Neale’s contract ($1.38M) is fully non-guaranteed, which means it won’t guarantee until 1/10

The one guy who I’m seeing conflicting info on is David Stockton. My usual source for salary info says he has a non-guaranteed contract for next year (similar to O’Neale’s). But the language the Jazz used when they announced that signing is consistent with what they use when they sign a rest-of-season deal. So I’m assuming he’s not under contract for next season, but that’s up in the air.

Much has been made of the 2019 FA period. Can you extend your analysis to next summer and help us understand why this year won’t have many major Jazz moves?

@Run_Pappy

Yeah, basically it’s what I said above: for the Jazz to have functional cap space this year, they’d have to do a whole lot of tinkering. They’d have to trade at least one eight-figure salary (Burks? Rubio? Joe Ingles?) without taking anything back, cut at least two of the Sef/Jerebko/Udoh trio, lock Exum up at a low figure AND let Favors walk… and even those sacrifices only get them about $17M in space3 rather than a full max slot of $25 to 35 million.

By contrast, next summer they could head in with cap space without having to work a whole bunch of transactional magic. But flip side: so can other teams.

Assuming the Jazz punt for 2019 and bring everyone back, what single move this off-season could they make to move the needle (outside of player development)?

@Tweetboom15

Well, first of all, you said it. Player development will be huge. As good as Mitchell was, for example, there are still tons of things he can do better as the game slows down for him. Gobert wasn’t himself early, and he missed 26 games. Rubio hasn’t had the same coach for consecutive seasons since his rookie contract. Jae Crowder has only been in the system for three months, etc. There is a lot of upside to be realized through internal improvement.

If they bring everybody back, then their biggest tool to make a semi-significant addition would be the midlevel exception: somewhere around $9 million. And there WILL be good players available for that this year because of the macro economic situation in the NBA. That could get you into the Trevor Ariza/Wayne Ellington/KCP class. Maybe even Thaddeus Young or Danny Green, if they opt out. But that’s probably the best case scenario: a non-star starter caliber.

 

If the Jazz retain everyone and use the MLE on a solid guy, do they have a problem of having too many solid non-stars (especially if there’s better health luck this season)?

@zarinf

Utah kind of has this problem already, right? They have like 12 rotation-caliber guys. Burks is a rotation-level player who couldn’t find minutes once everybody was healthy. They had more bigs than available minutes, which is why Udoh was mostly an emergency third center and Jerebko’s minutes fluctuated, and that was with Sefolosha missing half a season.

But as long as they have team-centric guys who aren’t going to stage a locker room coup, I’m not sure that’s something Dennis Lindsey will view as a problem. If you want a team that can withstand the rigors of 82 games, then you don’t just build a roster with precisely 9 or 10 rotation-caliber players. They want to have contingency plans, especially if the guys they add have the character and team-first attitude to accept a role that might look different depending on who’s playing.

 

X&O Quesions

Rudy talked about the need to improve his offensive game in the exit interviews, but what realistically can he do at this point in his career to improve that side of his game?

@LordChadeous

I don’t think Gobert necessarily needs to be focused on adding new tricks; he can be an elite offensive force if he just gets better at the things he already does well. The biggest thing is he can still get much better at catching and finishing the pick-and-roll among other bodies. Traffic and (especially) contact can disrupt his rhythm a lot, specifically when teams are dropping off of Rubio or helping off of inconsistent corner shooters like O’Neale to crowd the paint. It wouldn’t hurt if he brandished a back-to-the-basket move in the right situation, but that’s also not really what Quin Snyder wants the offense to create. 

Will we try to go after a FA with considerable 1-on-1 skills to combat teams using a heavy switch defensive scheme which totally throws Snyder’s system off? Rox have personnel to do this better but others will try it against us. Frustrating seeing us play Cavs style uninspired offense

@Sporkaccione1

What can Snyder add to combat heavy switching teams once they figure out not to fall for the early slip. If there’s no schematic solution then what 1-on-1 player should we add so it’s not all on DM and AB’s shoulders to create a decent look

@Sporkaccione1

Well, first of all, while I agree with the premise of the question, it’s also important to remember that the Jazz were down their best facilitator in that series. The offense looked pretty uninspired when they were left with O’Neale or Burks improvising off the dribble, but I don’t think it would be as limited with Rubio attacking in those situations. Mitchell will also get better at decision-making off the bounce, and Exum showed an ability to slice though those defensive schemes (to mixed results).

I don’t think the answer is to go acquire someone who is purely a 1-on-1 threat. The Jazz have a list of specific ways they want to attack a switching defense, and I think when the right guys are on the court, they generally execute those options okay. You can have the big seal the little on the roll, you can punish the slip overplay by zipping the pass to the third helper, you can even use the switching defense against itself by manufacturing the matchup you want and get Mitchell going downhill against a plodder. In other words, I think it mostly felt like an existential crisis in that series because of who was available in that series. They just didn’t have enough creators on the floor.


Thanks for the questions, all! That does it for now, but part two will be up later.

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

9 Comments

  1. Aaron says:

    The Jazz have a good enough defense (one of the best) that they can improve even more. What is crystal clear is that they need another scorer. Aside from Jabari Parker’s injuries, could there be a scenario they get him with the belief he can become that 2nd scorer? They don’t need a center, guard, point guard, etc. It seems this may be one of the top 3 options they should study. I personally believe Parker will be a star.

    • Dan Clayton says:

      It is highly unlikely that the Jazz will be able to clear the space necessarily to offer Jabari his market value. And since they’d have to dump 3-4 rotation players just to be able to present an offer sheet (which could then be matched), it’s a really risky proposition.

  2. Paul Johnson says:

    Questions for Dan:

    (1) Do you think Tyreke Evans could be signed for the mid-level exception? If so, do you think he would consider signing with the Jazz, especially whereas he would probably be used in more of a sixth man role, rather than a starter role, with the Jazz? Do you think his skills match what the Jazz need?

    (2) What about Rudy Gay? Prior to his achilles injury, he had very similar offensive stats to those of Gordon Hayward (although he was not as good a play maker, defender or rebounder as Hayward–but still had good size, athleticism and length for a SF). Do you think he would leave the Spurs, and if so, do you think he still has anything left in the tank, after suffering his achilles injury?

    (3) What about Michael Beasley? He finally seems to have matured out of his bonehead off-the-court behavior. He appears to be a very good scorer in flashes, but can he be a consistent scorer as a regular rotation player, and does he have sufficient other skills–defense, ball-handling, passing and rebounding–to allow the Jazz to keep him on the floor for significant periods of time as a combo-forward?

    (4) Do you think Robin Lopez could be signed for the mid-level exception? Would he consider a bench role with the Jazz at this point in his career?

    (5) Is there a scorer out there who might be available to the Jazz in a reasonable trade? I’m thinking about Lou Williams, whom the Clippers just signed to a very cap-friendly 3-year deal ($8 mil. per year). If the Clippers go into full rebuilding mode, is it possible Williams could be available for perhaps a future 1st round pick and Alec Burks? Do you think his skill set fits what the Jazz need better than that of Alec Burks?

    (6) Do you think Kemba Walker might really be available in a trade, and if so, what would it take to trade for him? Would the Jazz be able to put together the type of trade package necessary to get him, and if so, would the Jazz be a better team after trading for him (considering what the Jazz would have to give up in a trade for him)?

    (7) You mentioned KCP as a player who might be able to be signed at the mid-level exception. He seems to be a player who still has considerable room to develop and improve. Do you think his skills and abilities fit what the Jazz need, as an additional scorer to help Donovan Mitchell with the scoring load?

    • Dan Clayton says:

      Whoa! OK, I’ll do my best to answer these in quick form.
      1) Yes, Reke will sign for the MLE or less. I’m not sure there’s a ton of Jazz interest, though.
      2) Gay would have to opt out first. Given how tough this year’s market is going to be, I’m not sure he’ll opt out. I think he could still be decent, though.
      3) The 6 teams in 10 years still kinda worries me. He might be more mature at 30 than he was at 25, but I still don’t know that he’s necessarily got a Jazz-type mindset. I could be wrong, though.
      4) Anybody who is purely a center, like RoLo, probably wouldn’t be too excited about playing 14 mpg behind Rudy. RoLo is still too good to be relegated to low-minute backup.
      5) There are a few guys out there who are better versions of what AB is: iso scorers like Lou, Will Barton, etc. Thing is, Jazz have a really solid idea of how they want to play, so I don’t think they’re starved enough for points that they’ll get a guy for JUST that reason if they don’t think he’d fit their system.
      6) Kemba is basically the franchise in Charlotte, and a two-time All-Star. *IF* they make him available via trade, it will take more than the Jazz’s non-Rudy, non-DM assets to get him.
      7) My main issue with KCP is that he’s not a natural shooter. I like his defensive foundation and I think he’s a smart basketball player, but I think DL would want to know that the improved 3pt shooting from this yr wasn’t a contract-year fluke.

  3. Pingback: Offseason Q&A Continued: Specific Targets & More | Salt City Hoops

  4. Pingback: Offseason Q&A: Trading Up, KAT/Rudy, Impact Depth & More | Salt City Hoops

  5. Rick says:

    As I have been looking at the off season moves and the position the Jazz are in I Really feel “robbed” by D.Exum.
    $16 plus million he’s been paid, for what? Potential?
    One of two things should happen in my opinion:
    *Cut bait and move on without him
    *Get him to give a discount to the Jazz, sign a small one year deal and see where it goes.

    I know that’s not too realistic nor how it works, but to me he owes the Jazz a refund!

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