Utah Jazz sign Elijah Millsap to 10-Day Contract after Waiving Toure’ Murry

January 5th, 2015 | by Andy Larsen
Elijah Millsap at Summer League. (Getty Images)

Elijah Millsap at Summer League. (Getty Images)

 

Over the weekend, the Utah Jazz announced the waiving of G Toure’ Murry. Today, they announced the signing of Elijah Millsap from the Bakersfield Jam to a 10-day contract.

This summer, Murry signed a 2-year, $2 million contract, winning Murry’s services over other interested NBA teams. Why did Murry sign with the Jazz? According to Murry himself, it was the opportunity to work with a “young team, young coach”, as well as a “2-year contract, and they gave me the most to offer and I jumped on it.” Murry’s camp was excited about the chance to get minutes on an NBA team that clearly lacked depth at the guard positions.

Instead, Murry played just 1 NBA minute all season for Utah, in their last game against Minnesota. Murry’s agent Bernie Lee summed up the situation speaking to HoopsHype:

“Utah just didn’t see value in giving (Toure’) a real opportunity to prove himself, which is their right. I had a sense things were working against him early when during the Jazz’s first open scrimmage in the preseason the team-employed radio voice used the forum to crush his future NBA prospects. Just an odd situation through and through. He went to Utah as a young developing point guard who played 51 games for an extremely visible team and today leaves Utah having played his last game as an assigned player in the NBADL having been asked to play the four. Perspective and opportunity are a funny thing in basketball.”

Look, it makes no sense whatsoever for the Jazz to give $250K guaranteed to a player that they weren’t going to give an opportunity to. Something must have happened to cause Murry to lose Quin Snyder’s trust early on. I’m not sure what it was: whether it was coming to camp out of shape, or an off-court incident, or simply unimpressive play on the floor, the Jazz have no incentive to treat Murry unfairly.

The “team-employed radio voice” line above, regarding David Locke, is curious too. Luckily, the recording of Locke’s broadcast of the preseason scrimmage is still available on UtahJazz.com. Twitter user Scott Bame listened to the broadcast, and could find only an innocuous question regarding his time with the Knicks, a generic question about his time at Jazz training camp, and during play-by-play, Locke opining that “he’s a ‘college player lost in positions of NBA’ and needs to shoot 3’s”. That’s hard to disagree with: Murry’s a 6’5” guard without the shooting to play at SG1, and also without the passing to play full-time PG2. Locke’s status as team-employed shouldn’t indicate that all of his opinions are endorsed by the Jazz, especially those opinions that most others would come to given the evidence.

Clearly, Murry didn’t work out, and with the Jazz needing more SG depth in the wake of their top 3 options being out, it made sense to waive Murry after checking around the league if anyone was interested in a trade. Nobody was, so Murry was gone.

Acquiring Millsap

The following scouting report of Elijah Millsap’s game is from Salt City Hoops contributor Dakota Schmidt. Thanks Dakota!

While Elijah Millsap’s addition to the team could be limited to a couple of 10-days, he’s one of the better options to help fix the hole that was created with the injuries to Alec Burks and Rodney Hood.

While Millsap doesn’t particularly excel in one particular skill-set like a majority of D-League call-ups, he can be productive in a multitude of ways. Perhaps the biggest example of where Millsap can be effective would be his innate ability to work his way to the free-throw line. Prior to his call-up from Utah, Millsap was averaging a D-League-high 8.4 free throw attempts per game, which is actually only .5 less than Rockets guard James Harden. Once Millsap does work his way to the charity stripe, he’s shooting an extremely respectable 76%.
 
Outside that particular ability, Millsap does have his struggles to utilize that controlled aggression within other aspects of his offensive game. While Millsap’s able to constantly work his way to the restricted area, he has his issues scoring around the paint. From inside the paint, Millsap was only shooting a below-average 50%, which is troubling when you consider that nearly two thirds of his offense comes from that area of the court. 
 
Those struggles persist as Millsap moves further away from the paint, as he doesn’t excel as a mid-range/perimeter shooter. While it’s apparent that he’s never been comfortable as a shooter,  bordering on 30% from any area of the court is definitely something that you would consider to be troubling. 
 
The most underrated aspect of Millsap’s game, and something that should make him a solid fit for the Jazz, would be his work as a distributor. With Bakersfield, Millsap averaged 5.2 assists per game, which stood 2nd on the team behind former Dallas Mavericks guard Chris Wright. Millsap’s distributing ability should immediately help out Utah’s 2nd unit that has had its lapses on the offensive end. 
 
Even though Millsap is far from a perfect player, his most prominent abilities (distributing and getting to the free-throw line) should make him a good temporary fix for Utah’s bench. 
Looking forward
Toure’ Murry’s waiving was at least a temporary respite for Jazz guard Patrick Christopher, who dislocated his right kneecap in a gruesome injury early in his first career start this week. The Jazz have three options with Christopher:
  • Waive him before Wednesday, January 7th at 3 PM MST. Because Christopher injured himself while under contract, the Jazz would have to pay his contract until he is able to play basketball again, or until the season is over, whichever comes first. This is despite Christopher’s non-guaranteed deal. This would also have the benefit of opening up a roster spot for a useful player.
  • Waive him after Wednesday. After Wednesday, Christopher’s contract of $379,010 becomes guaranteed for the whole season. In order to open up a potentially needed roster spot, the Jazz would have to pay Christopher’s entire salary for the year, rather than just until he is healthy. Based on Christopher’s timeline, this would cost the Jazz about $100-150K.
  • Keep him for the whole season. The Jazz actually signed Christopher to a 2-year non-guaranteed deal, so in this scenario, Christopher would be on the roster for the 2015-16 season as well.

Given how quickly Christopher moved into the lineup in his time with Utah, I think the Jazz organization likes him as a role player prospect. In the end, I don’t think the Jazz need to save the money, nor cap space, that waiving him Wednesday would afford. I suspect they keep Christopher, and only waive him if they need the spot.

Andy Larsen

Andy Larsen

Andy Larsen is the Managing Editor of Salt City Hoops, the ESPN TrueHoop affiliate for the Utah Jazz. He also hosts a radio show and podcast every week on ESPN700 AM in Salt Lake City.
Andy Larsen

One Comment

  1. Lane says:

    I wondered if it was the questions that were asked of each player on the floor during the introductions

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