Utah Jazz Free Agency: Why Standing Still Is (Now) The Right Move

July 10th, 2015 | by Clark Schmutz
Dennis Lindsey, from June. (Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

In 1963 Paul Simon probably didn’t realize it, but he was penning an anthem that would perfectly describe the Utah Jazz offseason of 2015.

“Hello darkness, my old friend, its nice to talk with you again.”

— Dennis Lindsey at 12:01 AM on July 1st, probably

That is certainly an unfair depiction of the Jazz’s head decision-maker, but the lack of noise coming from the Jazz front office has spoken volumes to many Jazz fans. According to social media and questions asked by team media members, the spectrum of reaction ranges from agreement to frustration.

I haven’t spoken with Dennis Lindsey or any front office members of the Jazz, but I’m going to try and understand where they are coming from in order to better understand. And maybe we can all come to (some) agreement that the Jazz are probably fine where they are.

Minute Distribution for 2015-16

Going into next season, what is the minute distribution going to look like? Take out a piece of paper, if you want to play along at home, and distribute minutes to each Jazz man. Include only the players under contract for the upcoming season, not including free agents, and then let’s see where the Jazz should go from there. The Jazz should keep each player under 36 minutes for long term health reasons and balance, so here is my minute distribution chart:

 

Point Guard (48 minutes):  Exum (27), Burke (20), Cotton/Free Agent (1)

Wings (96): Hayward (34), Hood (24), Burks (22), Exum/Millsap/Free Agent Wing (16)

Power Forward (48): Favors (30), Booker/Lyles (16), Hayward/Hood (2)

Center (48): Gobert (34), Free Agent (10), Favors (4)

 

Your chart probably looks different, but I think we can agree on a few principles:

— Gordon Hayward is going to play about 35 minutes per game, primarily at the two wing spots.

— Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert will do the same at power forward and center

— Dante Exum will get more minutes than Trey Burke at the point, but both combined will play 90 percent of the point guard minutes barring a trade

After that, I’m not sure there are many givens on the Jazz roster. So let’s use that as a starting point.

Assessing the Jazz Needs

From our working list, there is really only one area that has to be addressed from a minutes and workload perspective, and that is the need for a free agent big man to play about 10 minutes a night at center. Technically, the Jazz could play Gobert 38 minutes per game, Favors 10 minutes at center, 28 at power forward and Trevor Booker and Trey Lyles could take the leftovers. But that leaves the Jazz with very little depth and too big of a workload on Favors and Gobert. Other than that, however, the Jazz really have enough players to fill all 240 minutes a night as of today.

Where Does the Talent Lack?

Free agency for the Jazz this offseason has always been about a talent upgrade, not empty roster slots. That happens when you have starters at every position and 11 guys with guaranteed salaries on the roster. So when the Jazz consider free agents, they have to ask themselves a) is this player a talent upgrade over what we have and b) is that talent upgrade worth the long term ramifications?

Point Guards

The largest need for an upgrade is certainly at the point guard spot. But in terms of free agency, this offseason was really bad timing for the Jazz, as there were not many great point guard targets. Goran Dragic, Brandon Knight and Reggie Jackson are probably the only starting caliber point men on the list, and none of them were realistic options. It’s completely reasonable, considering his age and his play in one summer league, to give Dante Exum another season to prove he can be a good starter. I was a fan of signing a guy like Patrick Beverley or Corey Joseph as a primary backup, but Beverly wasn’t really available, and Joseph was far too expensive at 4 years, $30 million.

The Jazz already have players that could fill the necessary point guard roles, with improvement, and the Jazz can cross this road next offseason if nobody gets much better. There just wasn’t anyone that fit this offseason. On top of that, backup point guard is a fairly easy thing to find to round out your team, if and when the Jazz become contenders. Consider the fact that 3 contenders this next year will have Austin Rivers, Cam Payne and Jason Terry as their primary backup point guards.

In short, be relieved that the Jazz didn’t have to pay Reggie Jackson $80 million.

The future of the success of the Jazz relies greatly on Exum. (Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)

The future of the success of the Jazz relies greatly on Exum. (Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)

Shooting Guards (and Small Forwards)

Using the same logic as before, there were only two or three free agent shooting guards that were definite starters on this current Jazz team, and Wesley Matthews is recovering from a major injury. Danny Green would have been a slick fit and he’s good enough that questions about minutes for Rodney Hood and Alec Burks would have been secondary. Green is an upgrade over both in terms of defense, experience, and shooting. This hypothetical discussion is irrelevant, however, since Green was never really on the open market.

Hood and Burks both need a chance to play this season, so the wing market really came down to whether or not the Jazz wanted upgrades on Joe Ingles or Elijah Millsap. Looking at how the wing market played out, Marco Belinelli, Lou Williams, or Al-Farouq Aminu are guys you could make a case for the Jazz signing, but there were a lot of overpays for marginal talent. The Jazz chose continuity and chemistry this offseason and will certainly be judged on that moving forward.

Big Men

The Jazz need a backup center and could consider a “stretch” big who can play with Gobert and Favors. Tibor Pleiss appears to be the backup center the Jazz will sign to play 10 minutes a night. Unfortunately, stretch bigs that were an obvious upgrade over Trevor Booker have not been available. And as Booker’s salary has been fully guaranteed for 2015-16, remember that after the Enes Kanter trade, Booker had a positive figure of 5.0 points per 48 minutes according to NBA Stats. The combination of Booker and Derrick Favors was especially devastating after the All-Star break:

Favors and Booker's impact in the last 23 games of the season. (Via nba.com/stats)

Favors and Booker’s impact in their last 24 games of the season. (Via nba.com/stats)

And Booker’s comments about Enes Kanter following the Jazz victory over the Thunder were worth $5 million alone.

Watching the Season Play Out

It’s been interesting to see the difference in reactions to this offseason. Some fans can’t understand why the Jazz did so little. Other fans seem to think the roster is sufficient moving forward. If the Jazz improve or even make the playoffs this season, everybody will probably feel good about where the team is heading. If not, the Jazz will have almost $33 million next offseason that they can offer to guys like Brandon Jennings or Eric Gordon.

Clark Schmutz

Clark Schmutz is a Jazz fan living in North Carolina who has been blogging about the Jazz for 8 years. Just like with religion, politics and good deals on the internet, Clark likes to talk NBA basketball to find more truth and learning. Find him on twitter @clarkpojo.

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4 Comments

  1. JoshG says:

    I can’t complain of the moves not made with FA because we signed Raul and Tibor. I am not sure how good they really are going to be, but we are basically staying with the status quo and making minor tweaks and we will see what happens. I am more excited for Raul though. The one FA that I still think makes some sense is Andrea Bargnani. The Knicks want him to sign for the veteran minimum. I know can’t stay healthy, but he might be worth the risk as a backup Center and a stretch 4 and not cost that much. He may not be interested in Utah, but why would anyone want to play with Melo.

  2. Jeremy says:

    I agree that we don’t need to add big name free agents but I’m not a fan of the bottom half of our roster. Ingles is a fine player but shouldn’t be playing more than 5-10 min a night. Milsap is too much of a liability on offense. Cooley and Johnson aren’t gonna push you over the top. I would’ve liked seeing them go after dorrell wright. Veteran player who can shoot the three very well and not command a lot of minutes. Bigger upgrade than milsap and ingles, get your veteran and add shootings and depth. Sign pleiss and see what we got

  3. old time jazz fan says:

    Tibor 7’2 center that can move. I’m more excited about that. The jazz have been working on defense. Tibor will help a lot. The rest will just fall in place

  4. Pingback: How D-League Rules Impact Jazz’s Roster Math | Salt City Hoops

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