Weekly Q&A Part One: Free Agency Lies Ahead for Favors, Exum

February 13th, 2018 | by Dan Clayton


Gregory Shamus via ESPN

The trade deadline passed and Derrick Favors is still with the Jazz. Fans of the franchise would like to for how long.

Leading up to the deadline, we started each week with a Q&A session to answer reader questions about the Jazz’s objectives and asset situation. Now that the roster is basically set post-deadline, here’s one more set of queries about their pieces, decisions and cap rules going forward. Far and away, the most popular questions this week had to do with Favors and restricted free agent-to-be Dante Exum, so we’ll start there.

There were a ton of questions this time around, so this mailbag installment will be posted in two parts. Check back later for the rest of the questions.

Favors & Exum

Let’s say the Net Rating for the Favors-Rudy Gobert pairing comes back go earth a bit over the next couple months, but continues to be very effective. What odds do you give the Jazz of re-signing him? What would that contract look like? @JamonWinegar

It’s been so rewarding to see Favors healthy. What’s the ballpark on his contract? In any other year, 3 years, $55 million or 4 at $70 million seems likely, but this year? @TheBMax

Without a doubt, this just became the most intriguing question about the Jazz’s summer, and it will only get more interesting as the Jazz continue to roll. It sounds more and more like Favors is open to coming back, so it’s probably more a question of whether the Jazz want to continue to play at least part of every game with two bigs. The answer has felt like a pretty emphatic no in the last couple of years under Quin Snyder, but right now the Jazz are rolling whatever team they have in front of them. There has to be at least a consideration of keeping him.

The problem is that the Jazz might not want to tie up 2019 money, in the hopes that if they keep some flexibility, they’ll eventually be able to add a third impact star next to Gobert and Donovan Mitchell. So they might prefer a shorter term deal while they keep their powder dry — whether that means a one-year contract with Favors or a fill-in option. 

But it’s really hard to read Favors’ market. On the one hand, Favors is probably going to be a top 10-15 free agent, or perhaps even higher if you account for guys who may opt in or those whose teams control their destiny with matching rights. Even though only a few teams will have eight-figure cap space, that money could make its way to the Jazz forward, especially if the top few guys stay home rather than go claim the cap space in the market place. Or… it could go the other way. LeBron, Boogie, and Paul George could all walk, DeAndre Jordan could opt out, and an RFA or two could wriggle loose, and suddenly the money dries up FAST.

If I had to guess, I still think Favors will get a starting salary of at least $12ish and possibly as high as $15-18 million. But with so few market actors controlling the spending ability, it could swing either way in a hurry.

(One quick side note here: because there will be more teams wanting starter-level free agents than can sign them, we might see the sign-and-trade mechanism make a little comeback this summer.)

Assuming Exum gets 3 or 4 years at $9-12 million per year, how much room do the Jazz have under cap to keep Favs? @TheBMax

The Jazz don’t need cap room to keep Favors. Because he is their own guy and hasn’t switched teams in over three years, the Jazz can sign him to any amount up to his max ($30 million) with a salary cap exception known as Bird rights.

I’m not seeing a lot of good stretch 4 options this upcoming summer. Do you see any that I’m missing? If not, what are the odds we hang on to Favs? @caseygreer

Yeah, there aren’t a lot, and the few that fit that bill AND are decidedly starter-quality are restricted free agents. I like Thaddeus Young if he opts out, but he’s a downgrade from Fav in overall terms. There are more guys if you widen the criteria to include fringe starters, and there are RFAs who fit the bill if the Jazz are willing (and able) to overpay for one. The other thing to keep in mind is that there are still guys who could potentially be had via trade. The Cavs could try another reload with Kevin Love this summer, for example. But yeah, there just aren’t that many stretch bigs who are starter-level players just hanging around, and that’s another reason why Fav staying has to be at least a possibility.

If they do let Favors walk, does Jae Crowder take over at the 4 and what type of player becomes a priority with cap $? @richmurphy1232

Do you think Favors will stay? I could see it going either way with having Crowder on the team now. @TheAccountant90

Whether or not Favors leaves, I’m not sure it behooves the Jazz to treat the newly-acquired Crowder as a full-time four. A lot of the value he provides is as a wing stopper, and there are smart people watching the Cleveland situation who felt like they neutered some of his value by having him guard fours so often so that LeBron wouldn’t have to. I think the ideal role for Jae is like what we’re seen in his first two Jazz games: a lot of minutes at the 3 where he guards the best perimeter player, and a few minutes of smallball action when the team switches to 4-out or even 5-out basketball.

After the Lou Williams deal & no teams going after the high-salaried bigs at what kind of $ numbers do you project we will be able to resign Exum and Favors? @Sporkaccione1

Spork is referring to Williams’ extension, where the Clips’ leading scorer accepted a three-year addition to his current deal for an extra $24 million (just $17.5M guaranteed). Over time, Lou’s deal will prove an underpay — maybe he just wanted to be in one place after playing for six different teams since 2012. That said, it is a sign that players are starting to freak out about all this talk about the money not being there. As explained above, a lot of it comes down to how many top FAs stay put where they can sign using Bird rights and without drying up the available cap money. (And there were plenty of teams interested in high-salary bigs at the trade deadline, just no major deals that ultimately went down. Both Favors and Jordan were highly sought after.)

Exum’s free agent number is even harder to pin down than Favors, because on top of everything else, he will have played something like 160 career games by the time he’s a free agent. Make no mistake: there are people out there who still believe in Exum. Will any of them have the ability to make him an offer? The NBA mantra around restricted free agents is that “it only takes one a**hole” to give your guy a massive offer and force you into a tough decision on matching.

Exum is a lottery talent whose elite tools have been on display when he has been able to suit up. Because of that, I’ve been telling people to expect the same type of contract that guys like Jrue Holiday, Kemba Walker, Steph Curry, Ty Lawson and others got before they were sure things. All of those guys struggled with inconsistency and/or injury early in their careers and still got contracts in the $10 to 12 million per year range. That said, other people have made convincing cases on why he might get less in this micro environment. I think his floor is the midlevel ($9M starting salary), but this is a pretty unique market environment. Even teams that have the full midlevel might not want to spend it because doing so hard-caps them for the season.

Could you see Favors returning on a richer than market value one year deal? Maintain 2019 summer flexibility for the Jazz, and let Favors hit the market with possibly more money to spread around a year later? @incoherentlemur

That’s a possibility. It could be good timing for him to hit a less cash-constricted 2019 market, and it could buy the Jazz a year. Again, a lot comes down to whether Snyder is willing to play him next to Gobert, because otherwise I think he’s just too good to be strictly a backup. Money is going to matter to Fav, but so is his role.

Best guest of how many minutes Dante Exum gets when he comes back, especially if jazz are rolling ?@Jazzyflyfish

Where does Exum fit into this team when he comes back? Who loses minutes because of him returning? @bhadley16

Oh there will definitely be minutes for Exum. The Jazz just have too many questions to answer when it comes to Dante, so they’re going to give him as much as he can handle in the few games that remain by the time he works his way back. My guess is that he’ll take over the Raul Neto minutes, plus we’ll see less Alec Burks so that Snyder can ensure a steady role for Royce O’Neale even after Exum’s back.

If Exum comes back and plays like the player we all hoped he would be, does that make Rubio expendable? I would view Exum as a starter and imagine he would too. @TheAccountant90

Probably somewhere down the line if Exum plays to the high end of his range… but the Jazz have a while before they need to worry about that. Let’s see Exum play a single minute of 5-on-5 before we assume Rubio is superfluous. Exum’s still not a sure thing, although I’m certainly a believer.

If they don’t resign Favors and they do resign Exum, what is the maximum cap space they can achieve? @Lonis_T

That depends on several decisions. If they make no trades to remove salary and if Exum signs at $10M, then they have somewhere between $10 million and $0, depending on what they decide to do with the guys whose salary is non-guaranteed. You can play with some different scenarios here.  

What is the total amount that can be paid to Exum and Favors next season without going into the tax? Assuming we keep everything basically as is. @lairddoman

Assuming a tax of $123 million, they can still manage to keep Exum and Favors at pretty liberal estimates. If nothing else about their roster changes other than adding a draft pick, they can still pay the two a combined $30 million or so before they start to head into tax territory. And I’m still of the opinion that they’ll move someone like Burks at some point for some added flexibility.

Good set-up for this one…

Can you explain cap and luxury tax? Is there penalty if you fall between cap and luxury tax point? Or just over the luxury tax? And haven’t the Jazz said, if they needed to, they’d pay luxury tax in the right situation, for a chance at a title? @deige22

Here are the basics:

  • The NBA has what is called a “soft” cap. This means there is a salary cap, but there is also a variety of exceptions teams can use to go over it.
  • Exceptions include the rights to re-sign your own free agents. You can always sign your own free agents, even if you are over the cap. 
  • Because the NBA has a soft cap, they needed some kind of deterrent to keep deep-pocketed owners from simply out-spending the small market teams. Teams that go well over the cap pay a tax of at least $1.50 for every dollar they spend over the luxury tax threshold. That money is then distributed to teams that didn’t trigger the tax.
  • There are also different tiers of luxury tax, as well a “repeater tax” meant to deter teams from habitually going over the tax threshold. At the highest levels, a dollar of salary can cost a team as much as $5 in luxury tax.
  • Certain exceptions are only available to teams who aren’t over the tax. Once a team uses those exceptions, they are then “hard-capped” for the season.

The Jazz used to avoid the luxury tax as a matter of principle. The late Larry Miller spent years lobbying for a robust profit-sharing system among NBA teams, and he felt like he would lose the moral high ground in that battle if he advocated for profit-sharing and then spent like crazy. It sounds as though the modern-day Jazz are less absolute about it, and would go into the tax if necessary to keep a contending team together. First things first, though: they have to build that contender.

We better leave it there for now. Part two of the Q&A will post later on today, with questions about the Jazz’s hot streak, Royce O’Neale, free agency and the draft.

Thanks for all the questions!


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. John Jenkins says:

    Thanks Dan for your insights and succinct observations. Being able to ask questions that we have little knowledge or information covering them is awesome. Really like the game notes as well. Again thanks. Keep Dante and Derrick. Dante to fin out if the pick was worth it, I think he will be exceptional, and keep Derrick. Rudy made that clear last night.

  2. Pingback: Weekly Q&A Part Two: Win Streak, O’Neale, Free Agency | Salt City Hoops

Leave a Reply

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