SALT LAKE CITY — Welcome to finals contention, Utah Jazz fans.
At least that’s what the Utah front office is hoping for after trading for Mike Conley Wednesday.
It wasn’t a move to reach the second round again or to find a place in the Western Conference Finals, it was a move to win the whole thing.
"He’s a great player,” Donovan Mitchell told USA Today. “He is very underrated in my opinion. He does a lot getting in the lane being able to find guys. Also, I can learn a lot from him. … I’m really excited to play with him next season."
Conley might not have an All-Star or All-NBA team selection to his name, but he is one of the league’s better point guards and should help an already good Utah offense reach a whole new level. Add that to the Jazz’s great defense, a Western Conference that looks like it won’t have a true favorite, and there are reasons for Mitchell and the Jazz fan base to be quite excited.
But what happens now?
Here’s a look at the Jazz’s options following the blockbuster trade.
Projected starters: Mike Conley, Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles, Derrick Favors (non-guaranteed deal) and Rudy Gobert.
Projected bench: Royce O’Neale, Georges Niang, Dante Exum, Raul Neto (non-guaranteed deal) and Tony Bradley.
The Jazz will have ten players under contract if they opt to guarantee Neto’s and Favors’ deals — three less than the league minimum.
What the Conley deal did to the Jazz’s cap space
The Jazz ended up trading Conley and his contract (which has two years and about $67 million left on it) into their cap space. That means the Jazz currently don’t have any significant cap space left to pursue this year’s crop of free agents.
Utah can also open up some room by waiving Favors’ $16.9 million — but him being left out of the deal makes it seem the Jazz are looking to hold on to their longtime big man.
So how will the Jazz fill their roster now?
Even with little cap room, the Jazz will have mid-level exception of about $4.8 million to sign players. If that doesn't seem like a lot, it's because it's not. Utah will likely be looking to fill Jae Crowder's production as a stretch, and players like Taj Gibson, Frank Kaminsky, Mike Muscala or even old Jazz man Jonas Jerebko might fit the bill.
Utah will also be able to sign players to minimum deals — maybe using its new standing as a finals contender to entice a couple of veterans to join the squad.