SALT LAKE CITY — So far this week, the Utah Jazz have made four trades — all of which have been pick swaps or salary dumps — and drafted two players.
With the NBA sprinting to a December start, this week's offseason has been turned into a transaction binge, and the next episodes are starting on Friday with free agency beginning at 4 p.m. MST.
All the moves the Jazz have made, from drafting Kansas big man Udoka Azubuike to paring with three second-round draft picks in order to dump the salaries of Tony Bradley and Ed Davis, have been freeing up moves for the free agency period.
So, what can the Jazz do once free agency begins?
First off, here are some numbers to know:
- Salary cap: $109.140 million
- Luxury tax: $132.627 million
- Luxury tax apron: $138.9 million
The Jazz have roughly $106 million committed to just seven players — Rudy Gobert, Donovan Mitchell, Mike Conley, Bojan Bogdanovic, Joe Ingles, Royce O'Neale, and first-round pick Azubuike — so they don't have significant cap space, and likely won't have any once they guarantee all or some of the contracts of Georges Niang, Miye Oni, Juwan Morgan, Rayjon Tucker and Nigel Williams-Goss.
But the Jazz will still have options. They have the Bird Rights for Jordan Clarkson, who the Jazz will try to resign, and Emmanuel Mudiay, who they will not try to resign, allowing Utah to go over the cap in order to get new deals done.
Along with that, there are three salary cap exceptions they can use: the full mid-level exception ($9.2 million — and can be split among multiple players), the bi-annual exception ($3.6 million), and the minimum salary exception. If the Jazz use the full MLE, however, they will trigger a hard cap at the luxury tax apron.
Currently, the Jazz have about $26 million before they reach that point. If Utah guarantees the deals for all of their current players, it will be roughly $18 million.
But, enough with numbers. What is the plan?
Clarkson is the priority. He saved Utah's bench last season with his scoring punch and is in the prime of his career. With very few teams having cap space — the Hawks, Knicks, Hornets and Pistons are the only four with significant spending room — a deal that simply gives Clarkson more than the mid-level exception could be enough to retain him.
Outside of that, the Jazz will be looking to add some depth. In the postseason, they had just seven players who played a significant role. Getting a healthy Bogdanovic back will immediately help that, but the problem was there long before the bubble. The depth issues could be helped by internal development — Oni and Morgan got playing time in the bubble as rookies — but the Jazz would like to add some more veteran pieces to fill out the team.
And, there are some intriguing players available.
For those fans bemoaning Utah for not picking a wing in the first round of the draft (if it's any consolation, Elijah Hughes was given a first-round grade by some), there are plenty of wings available in this free agency class.
Indiana's Justin Holiday is coming off a year where he shot 40.5% from three and is a good defender. He needs someone to get shots for him, but that wouldn't be a problem in Utah. Brooklyn's Joe Harris might be just a bit out of Utah's price range, but with little money out on the market values might go down. Harris has shot a 42.6% from 3-point range in his career and is at least serviceable on the defensive end. He's a great complementary piece, so it might be hard to pry him away from the Nets.
Chicago cast-offs Kris Dunn and Shaquille Harrison could both be interesting options. Dunn is one of the better perimeter defenders in the game but struggles to shoot. Harrison is similar in that he is an active defender (but taller) and has struggled to find an offensive role. Harrison did hit on 38.1% on 42 3-point attempts last season.
Could the Jazz also look to bring back Jae Crowder, whose toughness they missed last season? Other options on the wing include Garrett Temple, Kent Bazemore, Josh Jackson, Moe Harkless, and old Jazz fling Wesley Mathews, among many others.
While the Jazz drafted Azubuike to fill the hole at backup center, he may not be ready to contribute on Day 1 — especially without a summer league or OTAs. So the Jazz will likely look for a big to backup Gobert. Could Derrick Favors be making a return to Utah? Or will the Jazz look at cheaper options like Mason Plumlee or Aron Baynes?
With Mudiay unlikely to return, the Jazz will also have a need for a third point guard. There should be plenty of options — like old friend Raul Neto or even someone like Jeff Teague.