Offseason Q&A: Another Rudy is Available, MLE Targets, Draft Trades & More

June 19th, 2018 | by Dan Clayton

Rudy Gay just made himself a 2018 free agent. (Ronald Cortes via

It’s about time to get down to business — literally.

Draft week is upon is, which means it’s officially time for teams to stop talking and start transacting. We’re actually into the deal window now; many trades involving picks happen in the immediate lead-up to the draft. For example, two summers ago when the Jazz acquired George Hill with their pick, the deal was made and announced in the days leading up to draft day1

So things will get noisy between now and Thursday, and then of course we have the free agency period following close after. So there are, understandably, a lot of questions out there. Let’s dig in.

Is there any way the Jazz would get involved in taking on Chandler Parsons for the No. 4 pick. What would the other pieces of such a deal have to look like and what does that mean for Derrick Favors and Dante Exum?


Aaron’s referring to the rumor that Memphis would part with No. 4 if it gave them the opportunity to get out of the remaining $49 million commitment to the perpetually broken Parsons. But there’s almost no recent precedent to a team using a top-5 pick just to dump salary. Since 2000, only 10 picks in the top-5 have been “sold” in draft-week trades — half of those were just small move-back deals, and the others were generally for stars like Elton Brand and Ray Allen. The closest thing to a pure salary-dump trade involving a top-5 pick was when Minnesota acquired Ricky Rubio in 2009 by taking three bad salaries back from Washington. But even in that deal, they still had to give up starters Randy Foye and Mike Miller.

I think when it comes down to it, Memphis will similarly want some basketball value if they’re going to move a blue-chip draft asset. And since the Jazz are over the cap, they’d have to send $19.1 million of salary in order to acquire Parsons anyway. Would Memphis be interested in Alec Burks + Jae Crowder + Tony Bradley? What about Joe Ingles + Thabo Sefolosha? Ricky Rubio + Jonas Jerebko? It would limit Utah’s available to make a run a 2019 free agent, but I think Utah would do it if a package like that was really enough for Memphis. The thought of adding a Luka Doncic-type player to the roster with six to seven years of team control is just too enticing.

It wouldn’t impact Favors’ or Exum’s status. Since the Jazz would be making the trade as an over-the-cap team, they could do that and still keep those two’s FA rights intact.

Should the Jazz go get Rudy Gay? Better than what Joe Johnson gave to the Jazz?


Rudy Gay opted out if his $8.8M player option. Does he fit as a stretch 4 for this squad? His ’17-18 per-36 numbers are on par to his career but is he no longer a starter on a contender?


Just saw that Rudy Gay is opting out. You think he is looking for more money or more years. Any chance Jazz are interested?


Gay’s opt-out inspired a ton of curiosity among Jazz fans. The 12-year vet is still producing, albeit in a smaller role. He played just 1231 total minutes for the Spurs last season, but he averaged 19 & 9 on a per-36 basis. The problem is: he’s not really a stretch four in the strictest sense. Sacramento used him that way more than anybody (35.6 percent from three), but last year he was just a 31-percent shooter from deep, and he’s never taken a really high volume from there. He’s a much better midrange shooter than any of Utah’s other PF options, but that doesn’t seem to be what Quin Snyder is after, at least out of the starting 4 spot.

Now, does he make sense in the Johnson role: a savvy, go-get-some-buckets type player off the bench? Maybe, if you think he’s an upgrade over Crowder in overall terms.

In terms of what Gay might want as a free agent, this opt-out might not entirely be about money. Remember, last summer he opted out of more than $14 million so he could go sign with the Spurs at the $8.4M mid-level. He might be hunting for the right role and situation as much as anything.  

Philly has four second round picks. Would they possibly be interested in trading 26 and 38 for 21? They are not drafting 6 players.


Yeah, the Sixers will make some deals on Thursday. And trading up to No. 21 could make sense for them since most pundits seem to think there’s a tier break right around where the Jazz are picking. So Utah could be in a good position to extract an extra asset in a move-back deal. That said, I’m not sure Utah wants to come away from this draft with three players, either. Remember that they currently have 12 players under contract for next season already, and that’s without accounting for bringing any of Exum, Favors or Raul Neto back. So I think they only make that deal if, a) they feel like they have a beat on a player in the late 20s (a la Rudy Gobert), and b) they have a good stash candidate or two in mind for the second round.

Not Jazz related, but doesn’t a trade of Gordon Hayward plus something (Boston’s Memphis pick?) for Kawhi Leonard make sense for both sides? SA gets a poor man’s Kawhi + quality draft pick; Boston gets an upgrade over Hayward. Yet this option is mostly dismissed by pundits.


I actually think the punditry is talking as though Boston is a very likely landing spot for Kawhi. Nobody has quite the combination of draft assets and young stars that the Celtics have, so they’re going to be part of every discussion when a star player is available via trade.

But I’m not sure they’d give up Hayward, or even that they’d have to give him up to be the best offer. A package built around Jaylen Brown and one of Boston’s incoming potential lottery picks2 is probably enough to be the best offer the Spurs will get. If Boston does decide to part with one of its three veteran stars, it’s more likely that the deal would be built around Kyrie Irving, for three reasons: 1) His salary is a lot closer to Kawhi’s. 2) Terry Rozier’s emergence (and multiple ball handling wings) mean you could survive without Irving. And 3) I think Boston would be somewhat concerned about signing a top free agent and then trading him five minutes into his Celtics playing career. But who knows? Either way, Boston is going to be in the thick of the Kawhi talk.

(As I was writing this, Vegas oddsmakers suddenly shifted the odds to make Phoenix the heavy favorites to land Kawhi. It could be based on non-public intel that the Suns are moving into the pole position where Kawhi is concerned. We shall see.)

Hypothetical of course, but would/should/is it even possible for the Jazz to take Luol Deng’s or Kenneth Faried‘s contract if young/rotation prospects were offered alongside them?


The catch here is that I believe the Jazz will likely operate as an exceptions team, which means they don’t really have the cap space to absorb Deng/Faried outright. To take Deng, for example, they’d have to send out at least $13 million in salary — more if he’s coming back attached to another player. That means you’re not actually offering the Lakers the full benefit of a salary dump, and therefore you’d probably get less in return. The Faried thing is slightly more likely because his contract expires after next season and because the Jazz could absorb his salary by sending out just $8.8M. But Denver has fewer assets that would really interest the Jazz.

What do you think are the most important skills to add around Donovan Mitchell and Gobert? Do we need a facilitator next to Mitchell or do we just put the ball in his hands and get another player to help ease his shot-creating burden and not worry about having a “true” point guard?


Well the easiest answer is shooting. If you’re going to unleash Gobert as a roll threat, you need to unclog the middle, so you need shooters to space the floor. And that will also help Mitchell have some space to operate.

But that doesn’t mean you want guys who are just shooters. When Rubio and Exum were out against Houston, we saw how the present-day version of Mitchell can struggle when he’s really the only guy who can attack with the ball in his hands. Mitchell’s own growth will solve some of that, but in the meantime, you still need some players who can put pressure on the defense. Rubio and Exum are both really good at that, so if one or both can get up to 35% or so shooting from deep, that might be the answer.

Broadly speaking, Snyder’s system is at its best when there are five guys out there who are great decision-makers. That might be more important than any one particular skill.

What would Rubio have to look like next season in order to find himself with a good offer from the Jazz next offseason?


If the second half of Rubio’s season taught us anything, it’s that he adds a lot of value by being aggressive, whether or not the shot is falling. He just can’t be a guy who gives the defense permission to ignore him, or else the rest of the offense doesn’t work. Ideally they would love to see him sustain his career-best 35 percent three-point shooting before they invest in him beyond the ’18-19 season, but in my opinion, the decision will come down to team success more than anything. If the Jazz can solve the spacing issues to the point where they can field a top-10 offense with Rubio — they were 15th last season, and 11th during the 29-6 stretch — then I think you can make an argument for continuing to build around the same core group.

Which path most likely leads to the Jazz getting a 3rd star, a top 30 player in the next three years: draft, free agency or trade?


The Jazz are likely going to be drafting in the 20s for a while now, so they’re not likely to find a player there who could ascend to top-30 status in their first three seasons. Because of the market the Jazz are in, history says an impact trade is always more likely than an impact signing, but Utah’s asset situation also isn’t the same as what it used to be. So it’s going to be tough. I think the Jazz are trying to give themselves a chance to sign that type of guy in 2019, but there’s no guarantee that any of Khris Middleton, Klay Thompson, Tobias Harris or others in that ilk will listen.

As I’ve written before, I don’t think the Jazz necessarily need to think about it in exactly those terms. I get why in the current NBA climate everybody’s focused on the third star thing. But you can also put together a really good team just by having 6-7 smart, talented players who can impact the game in a number of ways. Think Houston: they’ve got two players who can really dominate a game in different ways, but then they’ve got another five (or so) guys who could start on a lot of teams, and who know how to just play winning basketball. And that construction was enough to put them up 3-2 on the Warriors, before Chris Paul got hurt.

The Jazz have a lot of rotation-caliber guys, but they probably need a couple of more dudes that fit that description, especially if finding the third “star” is going to take some time.

Do you like the rumor of Rubio for Kyle Lowry? Rubio is 5 years younger than Lowry.


As far as I’ve seen, this one is less of a rumor and really just an idea floated on SI’s The Crossover. I don’t love this one, mostly because of the $64 million still owed to the 32-year-old Lowry. He’s a better overall player than Rubio, but you’d have to be pretty dang sure he was good enough to dramatically alter your title window. Because he’s going to start declining at some point (he just had his lowest scoring average in five seasons), and his $33 million salary next season would keep the Jazz from being able to add another difference-maker in free agency.

Assuming we mostly stand pat this summer and are operating over the cap, who are some of your FA targets at the MLE?


Trevor Ariza (UFA, last made $7.4M) is a smart and multipositional guy who could thrive in Utah’s system, although he’s 32. Anthony Tolliver (UFA, $3.3M) is more of a specialist, but added a lot of value as a corner-shooting big. Amir Johnson (UFA, $11M) can probably be had pretty cheaply, although he’s not really a stretch big, averaging one attempted three in about every third game. If Danny Green (PO, $10M) or Wilson Chandler (PO, $12.8M) opt out, the Jazz will put a call in. I like Joe Harris (UFA, $1.5M) a lot as a shooter who is used to playing and guarding within a system. Wayne Ellington (UFA, $6.3M) can probably be had cheaply and is a knockdown shooter. Luc Mbah a Moute (UFA, $2.3M) is an excellent defender and an improved corner spot-up guy. Kevon Looney (UFA, $1.5M) will be unrestricted after the Warriors passed on his fourth-year option, but he can play. We talked about Gay (PO, $8.8M) above. Some people believe Mario Hezonja (UFA, $4M) is still worth a flier. Milos Teodosic (team and player options, $6.3M) will likely get cut by the Clippers, reports say. But now we’re getting down into the territory of replacement-level players.

I’ll be doing some pretty aggressive stuff ahead of free agency, so stay tuned.

I know we tend to discuss the Jazz 1st round pick the most but who are some projected 2nd round players who you find interesting in our range or that you would like to see the Jazz move up higher in the 2nd round to target?


That’s a good question. I am usually pretty late to the game on draft prep because the amount of time I spend watching and writing about the NBA keeps me from following college ball practically at all. So I’m probably not the best person to ask. I will say this: even during this recent stretch where Dennis Lindsey has been on first with first-round selections, the Jazz haven’t gotten a lot out of their second rounders in recent years. Guys like Marcus Paige, Tyrone Wallace and Joel Bolomboy were essentially G League acquisitions, while Olivier Hanlan and Nigel Williams-Goss were simply sent overseas. The last Jazz second-rounder to play 20 games for the club was… Jeremy Evans! That was 2010. Utah has had more luck with undrafted rookies (Joe Ingles, Royce O’Neale) than with their own second rounders.

What are the chances the Jazz package the no. 21 pick and Alec Burks in order to move up in the draft?


Burks doesn’t have a lot of asset juice at the moment. He’s on the fringe of Utah’s rotation, and attaching him to the 21st pick probably doesn’t move you to far up the draft board unless you’re taking some undesirable salary back in the deal. I mean, there are teams out there that like AB, and his burst of scoring in May’s playoff games will certainly bolster the believers. But historically, you just don’t move up far by adding a 16-mpg player to a deal.

Thanks again for all the questions. We’ll do this again next week as free agency approaches!

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


  1. IDJazzman says:

    Thanks Dan for your articles, always great work and good sound NBA logic. Keep up the great work.

  2. Spencer says:

    Just read the ESPN article about top 30 free agents and saw some notable things:
    1-Favors and Exum are not on the list. I think the Jazz could bring them back for cheap.
    2-It sounds like Jabari Parker is likely leaving the Bucks, and that the thought is that he is risky, can’t defend and may only be a fringe starter. Sounds like a guy you could also get at a discount.
    3-Tyreke Evans is a statistical equivalent of PG, and surely in a different salary stratosphere. He shot 40% from three. He may be a perfect fit for the Jazz egalitarian offense.
    4-Aaron Gordon’s fit in Orlando is always in question. I think they either don’t match or they match and look to move him if he is not working next to Bamba once he becomes trade eligible. (May be a guy to look at next summer in a trade scenario).

    I hope they can at least have conversations with these guys that entertain these possibilities.

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