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SALT LAKE CITY — Trade season began Monday; the NBA draft is Wednesday; free Agency begins Friday. If you enjoy the rumor mill that is the NBA offseason, welcome to the best week of your life.
So what will the flurry of activity — the league has already seen three trades — mean for the Utah Jazz? Here's a look at the crazy week ahead.
Will the Jazz be active in the trade market?
The Jazz swung a big trade just before last year's draft when they acquired Mike Conley for Jae Crowder, Grayson Allen, Kyle Korver, the No. 23 pick in the 2019 draft and a future first-round pick (most likely coming in the 2022 draft). This year is expected to be a little quieter.
Most of the Jazz trade buzz — at least among NBA fans — has been centered around Rudy Gobert. He's entering a contract year (unless he signs an extension once free agency begins) and his minor falling out with Donovan Mitchell was widely reported. So there's at least enough there to fuel the trade flames.
The reported beef has been settled, according to both players, and there is no present worry within the organization about the two being able to play together long term. Gobert also has a unique skill set that is more valuable to the Jazz than any other NBA team, so it's unlikely Utah would feel like it would be getting equal value back for the All-Star center anyway. Add it all up and Gobert isn't going anywhere.
So do the Jazz have any other trade chips? Mike Conley's expiring max deal could be of interest to contending teams — the Phoenix Suns just traded a haul for Chris Paul, after all. But those teams would also have to put together a package the Jazz would find appealing. Does a team like the LA Clippers have enough assets to entice the Jazz? Doubtful. Would the Jazz consider a deal for a player with a longer max contract, like Philly's Tobias Harris, which would effectively lock the roster up for multiple seasons? Also not very likely.
It's hard to find a deal that makes sense for Utah. And Conley averaged nearly 20 points per game in the playoffs on 53% shooting from three, so the Jazz are excited about his second year with the team.
Bojan Bogdanovic outperformed the contract he signed last summer, which means there should be interest in the forward if the Jazz showed any desire to move him (which they haven't). Royce O'Neale signed an extension in the middle of last season, and little has changed for the Jazz to want to part ways with the wing player.
Then there's Ed Davis — a player who simply didn't fit in with the Jazz system. Utah needs its bigs to be a roll threat; Davis is not that. It was just a year ago that he was one of the better bench bigs, though, so there could be interest in him — and the Jazz will likely be motivated sellers. At a salary of $5 million, there should be a way to get a deal done.
What's the plan for the draft?
The Jazz have a single pick in Wednesday's draft: No. 23. And it's an important one.
If Utah wants to find depth, hitting on that pick is an absolute must. Remember, Utah's first-round playoff loss to Denver? Juwan Morgan, the little-used rookie, was the Jazz's eighth-best player in that series. More than anything, that highlighted Utah's need to find more rotational players. And with little resources in free agency, the draft is one of the Jazz's few chances to add a meaningful player.
"There are typically very good players that go 20 to 30," executive vice president of basketball operations Dennis Lindsey said.
Lindsey said there are a couple of ways to approach the draft— select a player that will need time to grow (Gobert, for example) or take someone who is more ready to play immediately. And for contending teams adding a rotational player can be a huge benefit.
"No matter where you're selecting, your job is to select well," Lindsey said. "And sometimes that's in the form of a role player, sometimes that's some form of speculation in a younger profile. The good news is there's a variety of prospects across all ranges and positions. To me, it makes 23 interesting this year that we have a variety of types of prospects to choose from."
Another thing to note: The Jazz can't trade their first-round pick before Wednesday's draft.
What can the Jazz do in free agency?
With Conley reportedly opting into the final year of his max deal (as was expected), the Jazz's books are pretty locked up.
If Utah guarantees the salaries of Georges Niang, Miye Oni, Juwan Morgan, and Rayjon Tucker (which is very likely) as well as Nigel Williams-Goss (much more questionable), they'll already have about $117 million committed in salary — well above the $109.1 million salary cap, (but below the $132.6 million luxury tax line).
The Jazz will have a $9.3 million non-taxpayer exception and a bi-annual exception of $3.6 million to sign new players — and the 23rd pick will make $1.9 million. Add that all up and Utah will be knocking on the door of the luxury tax — all without re-signing Jordan Clarkson, a player who saved the Jazz's bench unit last season and one they can't afford to replace. But they may not be able to afford to keep him either.
New owner Ryan Smith is believed to have deeper pockets than the Millers. We'll soon see if he's willing to take the jump into tax territory, or if the Jazz will have to be making some trades after all.