Q&A: Keeping Exum & Favors, Star Targets and More

June 27th, 2018 | by Dan Clayton

Exum’s restricted free agency could go a lot of different directions. (Game still)

By this time next week the free agency craziness will be underway. Which makes this the perfect time to get one last June Q&A in.

So we’ll send you into free agency with answers to a bunch of great questions submitted this week by tweeps and readers. There are still a bunch of questions about the impending free agency decisions involving Derrick Favors and Dante Exum, so let’s start there before looking at some external targets and Jazz roster questions.

Here we go…

Favors and Exum

Let’s assume Favors and Exum are Dennis Lindsey’s only priority in free agency. What combined salary is workable with our cap situation? I realize there are other factors like years on the contract and how deep we would be willing to spend over the line. But notionally what can we spend annually?


Let’s start by assuming that the Jazz aren’t ready to pay the luxury tax yet. Lindsey has hinted that they’d pay it in the right scenario, but I don’t think you necessarily want to trigger it for a team that’s still not a primary contender. If you decide to go over now, then repeater penalties could make it harder to keep the core intact later on, when the Jazz are closer to the mountaintop. Based on that, I’ll answer your question with the goal of keeping Utah under the $124 million (or so) tax line.

Utah could lay out $30M combined for those two dudes and still dodge the tax just by waiving one of the non-guaranteed guys or letting their minimum-salary free agents walk. But 1) then the Jazz would be really limited in using exceptions (even the minimum salary exception) throughout the season. And anyway, 2) it probably won’t take $30M to retain those two, based on this year’s free agent market. So I guess my answer, notionally as you put it, is that the Jazz don’t really need to worry about affording those two guys. They can pay the market value for both and still keep evade the tax, so the bigger question is really around how aggressive they want to be with their exceptions. It’s more likely that they get the pair back for something in the $20-25M range, which would allow them to also think about adding a player or two using exceptions.

If Dante gets a big offer sheet, is it safe to say we move on from him? What do you think about Grayson Allen filling in those minutes if we let Dante go?


Well, “big” is relative, but in general, I’m hearing that the Jazz want to keep him. I don’t think drafting Allen really changes the calculus that much around Exum; when you draft a guy at No. 21, you’re probably not expecting him to play a huge role instantly, and Linsey’s draft-night comment about playing time seems to confirm that they’re looking at Allen as a depth piece right now. But back to the Exum part of your question…

What kind of offers Jazz won’t match for Exum in your opinion?


If Exum signs a deal starting in the high seven-figure range — which is a real possibility, given how many teams are limited to salary cap exceptions — then I don’t think there’s any way the Jazz decline to match. If the offers creeps up into the low eight-figure range, say $12M or so, they’ll sweat a little bit before they ultimately match it. It’s if the offer gets up into the mid-teens that I really don’t know what the Jazz would do at that point.

And it’s not like an offer starting at $15M is entirely out of the question. I don’t think this particular market will bear that kind of deal out, but that would basically be the modern equivalent of what other mid-lottery and first-round guards got before they became stars. That said, anybody offering that amount to Exum is betting on the come.  

What is a realistic contract amount for Exum and Favors if Jazz bring one or both back?


All told, I still think Exum will find an offer starting in the $9-11M range. There’s just too much talent there for him to not have a believer somewhere (including on his current club). And Favors is a top-10 free agent (or higher, depending on opt-ins) by Wins Above Replacement, so I still think he’ll get the low to mid teens. Although if dominoes fall the wrong way where either guy’s positional market is concerned, the money could dry up and push those numbers south in a hurry.


How many teams need a big AND have cap space for Favors?


Here’s a way-too-cursory glance at the other 29 teams.

Several lottery teams will have (or can create) cap space: Atlanta, Brooklyn, Chicago, Dallas, Phoenix, Sacramento. Some of those teams have young bigs, but they all just need to get better in an overall talent sense, so it wouldn’t shock me if they sought a veteran like Favors.

More than half of the teams definitely won’t be operating with cap space: Boston, Charlotte, Cleveland, Denver, Detroit, GSW, Houston (once they sign CP3), Memphis, Miami, Milwaukee, Minnesota, New Orleans, OKC, Orlando (unless they let Aaron Gordon walk), Portland, Toronto and Washington. San Antonio is a bit up in the air depending on what happens with Kawhi, but they’ll probably be an exceptions team.

In between, there are some interesting teams. Indiana will have some room (more so if Thaddeus Young opts out), and because Myles Turner is a shooting center, you could probably play him and Favors together. If DeAndre Jordan opts out, the Clippers are one move away from having space for Fav. If the Lakers strike out on big-time free agents, they could offer a lot of money on a one-year deal. Enes Kanter opting out could create room in New York. 

Philly can create some room, but it’s tough to see how Fav fits there.


Potential Targets

If Jordan leaves for Dallas via free agency or trade, does this put the Clippers in the market for Favors? Could Jazz work a sign-and-trade involving Favors to try to get Tobias Harris back?


Now that the Clips traded for Marcin Gortat1, they may just try to tread water with him as their center for a year. Directionally, what you’re describing is possible, I just don’t think the Clippers would surrender a player as valuable as Harris. Maybe if if some extra goodies were attached.

But you’re onto something here: Fav’s rights could actually turn into a decent asset since few teams can acquire him for more than the MLE. The catch is that if he gets too big a raise, then it gets harder to make numbers work in a trade because of something called Base Year Compensation rules. BYC basically makes it so that if you give a guy a big raise in a S&T transaction, you’re limited in how much money you can take back. In the hypoethetical Harris-Favors deal, it’s not really an obstacles, but it could make the math harder in some cases. Especially if the guy on the other end is also BYC (like the popular Jabari Parker sign-and-sign-and-trade transaction that many Jazz fans have been dreaming about).

Is a trade for Kevin Love too far-fetched? Do we wait to sign him as a free agent? Would he want to come here?


The problem with a Love trade is two-fold. 1) The popular perception that the Cavs will be eager to unload Love if they lose LeBron James appears to be untrue. Which isn’t to say he’s untouchable, but they view him as a central piece to a post-LBJ future, so no team is going to steal him with a bargain-priced offer. And 2) the Jazz’s trade assets aren’t actually that great when you consider that Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert are off the table. I just don’t think Utah has the pieces to get anywhere near what the Cavs would consider a fair offer.

The Jazz could instead approach him next offseason, as you suggest. Although he’ll be 31 by the time the 2019-20 season begins, so at that point you’re likely getting a player who’s further from being the 25-and-12 guy he was before taking a backseat to LeBron. 

Thoughts on whether the Jazz have a realistic shot at Paul George especially if the reports about Mitchell recruiting him are true?


I gave a pretty detailed answer on this a couple of weeks ago, but the quick version: I don’t see a realistic path to making the numbers work, unless OKC wants some of Utah’s rotational pieces (like Alec Burks, Jae Crowder, etc.). And I’m not sure they would.

How do you feel about picking up Jabari Parker?


Parker has the potential to be such a dynamic scorer that I think you explore it, especially if it feels like Milwaukee isn’t going to match. But the Jazz have traded really good players in the recent past because they didn’t mesh with the team’s defensive identity, so that’s a valid concern. People like to say of subpar defenders, “Oh, Rudy will cover up his inadequacies.” But that’s not really how team defense works. Gobert is amazing defensively, but Utah’s defense is elite when it are able to operate almost a single organism: five tentacles, but one brain. It’s why guys who were in the rotation at the start of the season finished the year elsewhere or on the bench. So where Parker’s concerned, you’d really have to feel like he has both the will and the smarts to improve on that end.

Who are your top 5 free agent targets for the Utah Jazz? Realistic preferred not feel free to go all Fantasy Island.


If we’re not constrained by reality, then just start at the top of the free agent list: LeBron, PG-13…

But more realistically, I do think they’ll look at some of the available shooting bigs, especially if Favors leaves. The guard and wing spots are getting a little crowded, but I’d expect them to gauge interest with the likes of Parker, Young (if he opts out), Nemanja Bjelica, Anthony Tolliver, Rudy Gay… If a star player is willing to sit down and listen to their pitch, Utah will happily set up the meeting, but don’t get your hopes too high on the PG-13 class of free agents. Also, don’t overlook the possibility of adding a rotational big via trade.

How do you feel about (Magic free agent) Mario Hezonja, and do you think he’s a guy the Jazz would try to get?


Before the draft, I commented a few times that Hez could be a worthy gamble for somebody, including possibly the Jazz. We finally got a glimpse of what the former top-five pick can do with the leash off. But he’d be a flier/project on the wing, and the Jazz just drafted another wing project. Even with Exum in free agent status, the Jazz have Mitchell, Joe Ingles, Allen, Royce O’Neale, Burks, Jae Crowder and Thabo Sefolosha who play some wing minutes. So at this point, I think Hez would have to come really cheap and be OK with a deep bench role.

Do you believe if the Jazz has better options than Sefolosha, Ekpe Udoh and Jonas Jerebko, that they will use the MLE or Bi-annual? Are there better options at this “price”?


Sure, there are guys out there who are better and could be had in the exceptions range. There are going to be some really good free agents signing at the MLE, taxpayer MLE and BAE this year, but who knows if the Jazz can get to them. For example, Trevor Ariza is slightly better in the Thabo mold, and Bjelica offers more macro value as a shooting bench big than Jerebko. But there’s no guarantee the Jazz can get those guys, and they might just decide that there’s value in keeping guys that already know the culture. They’re also all on cap-friendly contracts that preserve the Jazz’s 2019 flexibility. So I think the most likely outcome is that the Jazz keep at least one and possibly all three of those guys unless they find themselves in a position where they need to clear room because an impact player is interested. 

That question is a good bridge to some questions about the Jazz’s own guys.

Current Roster/Miscellaneous

Sefolosha’s guarantee date is July 1. No chance that’s picked up, right? Especially in line with Jerebko/Udoh July 9 guarantee dates.


Well if becomes guaranteed after July 1, so Utah will at least know if they’re getting any traction or meetings with first and second-tier free agents before they have to decide.

I have actually gotten the sense that they want Sefolosha back. They value his skills and leadership, and if you replace him, you’re probably doing so with a guy you have to sign beyond this year, cutting into 2019 cap flexibility. I would venture that Sefolosha is the most likely of those three guys to remain a Jazz player.

Is there any cap incentive to move Alec Burks if all our free agents re-sign and we go into next season with the current roster?


Oh sure, the cap incentive would be that you can use the salary cap exceptions (like the mid-level, bi-annual exception, and looser trade rules) without worrying about butting up against the luxury tax. Of course, the Jazz can get that same breathing room by letting the non-guaranteed vets walk. If you assume $9M for Exum and $15M for Favors and keeping the end-of-roster guys on minimum deals, the Jazz are within $4M of the tax line (where they forfeit certain kick-backs and pay a dollar-for-dollar tax) and within $10M of the apron (where trades and assets get further limited). Trading AB or waiving the non-guaranteed guys would allow them some room to operate with their exceptions if someone they liked became available at the MLE or if a trade opportunity presented itself involving taking back a little extra money.

Do you foresee a lot of 4 small line-ups with Ingles being the biggest guy of the 4? Also, when coaches play said line-ups, do they really ignore rebounding?


Ingles might nominally be the tallest non-center on the court at times, but he’s not a 4. He’s closer to being a PG than a PF, especially on defense. That’s why in most of Utah’s four-out lineups, someone like Crowder or Sefolosha was still on the court with Joe. I suppose that could change given the number of guards currently on their roster, and on the offensive end, it doesn’t really matter who you call the 3 or the 4 in those 4-out configurations. But defensively speaking, Jingles can only be the 4 in certain situations.

Which teams have good internal development programs? Which teams don’t have good internal development programs?


That’s a really good question, one I can’t begin to answer in a paragraph or two. The easiest thing to do is to look at which team’s draftees have panned out in a meaningful way, but some of that can also be attributed to drafting right (or wrong).

Off the top of my head, I’d say Boston, Denver, Indiana, Milwaukee, Philly and Utah can all point to some major individual successes. Orlando, Chicago, Memphis and Phoenix have mostly had their young guys plateau or even peter out. Brooklyn too, which makes me sad to say, because I like their coach and think they’re built on the right principles. They just don’t have a lot of huge development successes they can point to yet in the Kenny Atkinson era. Jury’s out on the Lakers.

Great questions this week! We’ll keep it going next week, with free agency in full swing.

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

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