Offseason Q&A: Otto Porter, Utah’s 2018-19 Ceiling, Sign-and-Trade & More

June 5th, 2018 | by Dan Clayton

A lot o’ Otto in this week’s Q&A. (Ned Dishman via washingtonwizards.com)

OK, let’s get back to it. 

After a week off from the offseason Q&A series1, we’re back with another set of reader questions on the Utah’s salary cap, assets and offseason strategy. We’ll make these Q&A sessions a weekly occurrence at least into early July.

What if the Jazz used part of their mid-level exception to buy out Royce O’Neale’s future free agency? For example Jazz could make agreement with O’Neale to decline his team option and in exchange O’Neale signs new 4-year, $18 million deal with declining salary each year.

@Suspicious_Sal

That’s basically the scenario that led to the Jazz swooping in on Carlos Boozer back in 2004. Boozer, a second-round pick, was set to make under a million dollars in his third season despite having started 75 games for Cleveland the prior year and averaging 15-and-11. The Cavs instead declined his team option, allegedly on the basis of a wink-wink deal that Boozer would then sign a long-term deal to stay.

The problem is that said arrangement wasn’t legal. And when the Jazz saw that Boozer was available2 and offered more money than the Cavs could match, Cleveland had no recourse. Their alleged agreement with Boozer to sign a new contract wasn’t binding because it could have legally existed.

The same would apply here: Utah could do it, but it would have to be done as two separate transactions. And in Royce’s case, it’s not even an option year, technically. It’s a non-guaranteed contract, so the only way for Utah to “decline” next season is to waive him and pray he won’t be claimed off waivers. On the extremely unlikely chance that nobody picked him up off waivers — and a player of O’Neale’s skill level making just $1.4 million would surely be claimed — THEN the Jazz could sign him to a new deal in a separate transaction. But don’t worry; Royce’s long-term future with the Jazz is pretty safe. The Jazz hold his rights for this season and next, following which he’ll be a restricted free agent. So they control the next several years if they want to.

Let’s say the Jazz re-sign Dante Exum to a 3 year deal; is there a way to front-load the contract year 1, have it cheap ($5-6mil) in year 2, then average out his 3rd year? Obviously the goal of this would be to have more cap space for summer 2019. Let’s pretend he agrees, is this even doable?

@Jeromice12

Yes, to a degree. The year-to-year value of a contract can only decrease by a certain percentage. In the Jazz’s case with Exum, that’s 8%. So if his starting salary were, say, $9 million, then the lowest his second year could drop would be $8.28 million. For his second season to be just $6M, he would have to have a 2018-19 salary of no more than $6.52M — and I think that’s going to turn out to be too low for Exum.

Was @Suspicious_Sal right [when he said that the Jazz can’t use the veterans’ non-guaranteed salaries in trades]? There’s no way the Jazz can get the Nuggets’ 14th pick? What kind of moves can the Jazz do on draft day?

@JazzNationBr

Yes, Sal was right about the change in how non-guaranteed contracts are counted in trades. Under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Jazz’s non-guaranteed veterans count as $0 of outgoing salary in trades. The Jazz could get around this by amending the amount of guaranteed salary, but then the player might have less trade value since he would come with guaranteed dollars attached.

So yeah, it’s tough to imagine how the Jazz might get involved in the rumored scenario where Denver parts with No. 14 in order to move Kenneth Faried’s contract. In order to acquire Faried’s contract on draft night, Utah would have to send out at least $7.92 million in salary. It’s possible; they could guarantee the contracts of Thabo Sefolosha and one of Ekpe Udoh/Jonas Jerebko and trade them to teams with trade exceptions, or they could see if someone wants to gamble on Alec Burks’ expiring deal. They just can’t make the deal in as straightforward a way as some were hoping. 

As for trading up, check out my answer from the start of the last Q&A about what it generally costs to move up from Utah’s pick range.

Some people says there’s no way the Jazz can re-sign Derrick Favors and bring in a very good free agent. But what if the FA take less money and comes in a sign-and-trade deal? For example, Paul George for Burks, Udoh and Sefolosha. Is it possible? And for the other team it’s better to get a little than nothing.

@JazzNationBr

I don’t think it’s very likely that a free agent of George’s stature would take a discount, especially to play in Utah. Especially with his hometown Lakers allegedly ready to fork out the max for him, he would likely want the full $30M he can earn. That means the Jazz would have to be able to send out roughly $24M. So the Burks-Udoh-Sef package you suggested is still $4M light, and that’s if the Jazz fully guarantee Udoh’s and Sefolosha’s salaries before the trade.

And I’m not sure OKC would take that deal anyway. In that scenario, they’re heading into the luxury tax range for two fringe rotation guys + a vet whom they traded away four years ago. I think if that’s the best they can get for PG-13, wouldn’t they do better to just open up some flexibility under the tax line so they can afford to spend the midlevel exception on a solid rotation player?

Do the Jazz keep Favors or do they trade for Kevin Love or Otto Porter?

@TheAccountant90

Occam’s Razor says Fav staying is most likely, right? I could see both Porter and Love3 becoming available, but both of those scenarios are relatively low-probability outcomes, considering the Jazz’s trade assets and what 28 other teams might offer in each case. I see the Porter thing as more likely than Love, but far more likely than either of those is the idea that Favors returns on a short-term deal that allows the Jazz to take a swing in 2019.

 

I read an article that mentioned the Bucks should look at a sign-and-trade of Jabari Parker for Favors and Burks to make the money work. (It would) give the Bucks a solid 5 while reducing the redundancy of two prime scorers that must run at the 4. What are you thoughts on feasibility and fit?

@jnorthman

Sign-and-trade transactions are a lot more complicated than they used to be, and it wouldn’t help that at least one and probably both of Parker/Fav would trigger what’s called Base Year Compensation rules in that scenario. I won’t bore you with the details of BYC, but the quick version is this: when a player gets a raise of more than 20%, it changes the way his salary counts in a trade. It makes it extremely complicated to make 1-for-1 trades work within the salary rules.

So as for feasibility, it’s tough. Fit-wise? Yeah, I think the Bucks are a team that makes sense as a Favors suitor. And while there are varied opinions out there about how Jabari would fit with the Jazz’s defensive culture, I think he’s such a dynamic scorer that it’s a worthy gamble. No, he’s not a sure thing, but Jazz assistant GM Justin Zanik would certainly have intel as to Parker’s mindset and approach from the years they were together in Milwaukee.

(What is the) likelihood of trading, for the other teams cap space, one or more of Thabo or Jerebko, or cutting them and then resigning at one of our veteran minimum spots?

@jnorthman

As explained above, the veterans’ contracts can’t really be used that way because of new rules on how non-guaranteed salary is handled in trades. And if the Jazz did trade either guy, they wouldn’t be allowed to reacquire him at any point during the season. They could technically do what you suggested at the end of your question: cut them and then (if they cleared waivers) re-sign them for a lower amount. But that’s not exactly a great way to sow goodwill, and the player might instead sign elsewhere if the Jazz did that kind of a maneuver to screw them out of some salary.

If Jazz can trade Burks, Thabo & Jerebko’s non-guaranteed contracts with this year’s 1st for Otto Porter (a big if, for sure)… what does that do to the Jazz cap flexibility for rest of this offseason and next year? Does a move like that preclude them from re-signing Favors or Exum?

@Bilo_LC

Well first, there is a small problem with your hypothetical. The Sefolosha & Jerebko contracts only count towards the salary in the trade if Utah guarantees them first, so the Wiz would have to actually be OK keeping them. But to answer your bigger question: Utah could still sign their own free agents (Favors and Exum) using Bird Rights, but acquiring Porter would make it basically impossible to add impact free agents from other teams for the foreseeable future. I’m also not sure if Favors would be interested in re-signing if he knew that Porter was coming to further cut into his role and minutes.

Do the Jazz try to move Burks or do they keep him and give him another shot at cracking the rotation? He upped his trade value in the playoffs but was also behind two rookies in the wing rotation for the season.

@TmanKy

Looking at the depth chart right now, I’d say that Burks is behind six players who play at least a big chunk of their minutes on the wings: Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles, Jae Crowder, Sefolosha, Exum and O’Neale. Based on that, if the Jazz can parlay his postseason scoring burst into some interest, I think they have to do it; $11.5 million is just too much to pay the seventh wing on your depth chart.

Cole Aldrich and 20? (A package of Udoh and Tony Bradley almost makes the salaries work.)

@therawns_jazz

I assume you’re asking if the Jazz could acquire Minny’s No. 20 pick if they absorbed Aldrich? Since only $2M of his nearly $7M remaining salary is guaranteed, I don’t think that’s enough of a salary dump to score Utah a first-rounder. Minnesota would probably rather just waive him and eat the $2M than give up a pick in a supposedly deep draft. (Historically, teams score a first-rounder for every $8-10 million of dead salary they absorb.)

I watched a little on Kevin Huerter and he is pretty intriguing since he clearly hasn’t filled out his body yet. Really good passer to go with maximum (shooting) range.

@bezerkin

I make it a point not to pass myself off as a draft expert, given how little NCAA ball I watch. I just spend too much time on the NBA to do much more than read what other sites say about each prospect, and so much of draft coverage is just derivative of the main 2-3 sites anyway. If Huerter really is what some people say he is — a Klay Thompson Lite kind of player — then that sounds like a fit, but I’m the wrong guy to weigh in on whether or not that’s a realistic trajectory for him.

OK, this is more outlandish than a @JimboRudding halftime act, but it’s a fun thought exercise. How would the Jazz possibly land LeBron on a 1+1 deal for the most money James could get per the CBA?

@Run_Pappy

OK, I’ll play along (even though you’re right about it being a pipe dream). LeBron can make $35.7 million or so this upcoming season4. To open that amount of cap space, the Jazz would have to:

  • Renounce all free agents (Favors, Exum, Raul Neto).
  • Waive all of the non-guaranteed vets (Sef, Jerebko, Udoh).
  • Trade two of the following without taking virtually any salary back: Ricky Rubio, Ingles, Burks, Crowder. 

You can mess around the cap calculator to find a specific path to $35.7M, too.

Hypothetical: Jazz trade for Porter using exciting guys and a pick. Can the Jazz get to a Conference Finals with a top 3 of Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, and Porter?

@caseygreer2

Probably, but I think the answer depends as much on Mitchell as it does on whether or not they make that trade. Remember, Otto has averaged 10-and-6 in his 31 playoff games to date5, so there’s not a ton of evidence at this stage to suggest that he alone gets the Jazz another 3-4 second-round wins against the likes of the Warriors or Rockets. Those two teams are going to continue to be historically elite, and the Spurs6 should be better when they add an MVP candidate back into the mix. Whether or not the Jazz can knock those teams off their respective perches is probably a question of just how good Mitchell gets, and whether Gobert is still on the Jazz when he gets there.

I’m sure you’ve seen all the Otto Porter talk. How likely is it he is traded? What is a realistic package the Jazz could offer that gets it done? And is that package worth trading for him? How would he fit on the roster?

@tombagjr

My last answer notwithstanding, I like Porter, and think he’d fit well with the Jazz. Utah clearly likes him, too. That said, the fact that he could be available is the result of the fact that he’s getting paid like a star ($26M next year) despite not consistently looking like one yet — especially in the playoffs. His macro value isn’t that different from Favors’; Otto is clearly a better floor spacer, while Favors gives you different defensive options and will cost far less.

Because of that salary, the Jazz would have to send out at least $20.73M to get him. One way to do that: involve Favors himself. The Wiz are a team that has long been linked to Favors in the rumor mill, given their apparent need for a starting-caliber center. If the interest is mutual, Favors could agree to a sign-and-trade that lands him in the capital for far more than they could give him in free agency7. A Favors-Burks OR Favors-Sefolosha-Bradley package works salary-wise. So does Burks-Sefolosha-Jerebko, but in that case, the Wiz would probalby want some more goodies.

With the projected cap space, players who may leave, free agency market, No. 21 draft pick and internal player development, how would you compare next season’s ceiling to the ceiling of the season the Jazz just had?

@_am_h

Probably not that different, to be honest. The Jazz already proved they can hang with anybody in the West outside the Warriors-Rockets class. Raising the ceiling at this point means putting themselves in a position where they can challenge those two in a series, and getting there is likely a function of Mitchell reaching his full potential. That doesn’t happen overnight, but Mitchell and the Jazz are on that path, which is a remarkable thing to be able to say just 90 regular season and playoff games into his career.


Thanks for another great batch of questions. We’ll do this again next week!

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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *