Whether the Jazz take what is behind door number 2 or 3, or even 7, they have lots of options. And in the game of basketball business and "Let's Make a Deal," that is a good position to be in. In Kevin O'Connors own words "teams are really saying, 'We've got to rebuild,' or teams are saying, 'We're going to try and get to the top.' I don't see any teams staying status quo." And after Okur, Boozer and Korver all opted in, I think the scales have been tipped far towards being a team that needs to make it to the top. O' Connor is going to be hard at work figuring out how to do that, but he does have options now that we have very good players and expiring contracts. That is the best thing to have during these economic times. Financially, here is what the Jazz are looking at and what they could do.
THE EBENEZER SCROOGE APPROACH
As much money as the Jazz have tied up already to guaranteed contracts, they still could, hypothetically avoid the luxury tax or else only pay an extra one or two million dollars. The downside? They wouldn't be title contenders, most likely. And judging from O'Connor's above statement, I don't think that is really an option. Staying under the luxury tax would require the Jazz to either let Millsap go to another team or find a team under the salary cap to take Mehmet Okur or Carlos Boozer for free. Or else the Jazz could just lose Millsap and find a team to take Matt Harpring or Kyle Korver's contract for free. "Why would a team take Matt Harpring's contract for free", you ask? It would actually be a really smart move for a team like Memphis or OKC or even Toronto to make. For all the guff the Jazz get for being unable to attract big name free agents, those teams listed might be even worse destinations for a free agent. So what is the use of having cap space if people don't want to come to your team? So if one of those teams can stockpile expiring contracts, they can use them to trade for a very good player on a team who needs cap relief. So all of the sudden a player like Harpring or Korver is very valuable. Keep this in mind.
THE NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS/ BILL BELICHICK APPROACH-
Much like the Utah Jazz, the New England Patriots are a team that offer disciplined contracts and find the right players for their system. So what happens when someone gets a "me first" attitude and wants more money than they are worth? They get traded for a 2nd round pick and the Patriots do their homework to find a guy who can replace that production. So if the Jazz don't think they can afford to match Paul Millsap's offer he gets from another team, then they can find a cheap ($3-4 million/ year) replacement for Millsap and sign another minimum player and pay $3-6 million in luxury tax instead of $10-$15 they will pay for resigning Millsap. The Jazz could offer some good cash to players like Brandon Bass, Leon Powe, Hakim Warrick, or longshot Antonio McDyess and be nearly as good if not better. My prediction: This is a more plausible scenario. If Millsap gets an offer for more than $8 million a year, the Jazz may have to fold their hand. But as a backup plan, they may be able to find nice pieces. If the Jazz let Millsap walk, I think they make offers to Warrick, or else Channing Frye. It doesn't get me excited, but those are offers the Jazz tend to make. And as a side note to this comparison of the Patriots, I learned that for being over 50, Bill Belichick has a really hot girlfriend.
THE DADDY WARBUCKS APPROACH-
Daddy Warbucks is considered the wealthiest fictional character of all time and if the Jazz want to shoot for the stars this season, they may have to do their best Daddy Warbucks impression. The Good news, if the Jazz can spend the cash, they will only have to do it for one year with $22-35 coming off the books next season depending on who they do or don't trade. But make no mistake about it: if the Jazz are willing to spend for one more year, they could become serious contenders with one or two swift moves. People are talking about how they want to trade Okur or especially Boozer for a shooting guard to bolster the lineup, but the truth is that the Jazz can keep their bigs intact while still adding a big piece to the puzzle. It would probably be smarter for the Jazz to keep Boozer, Okur and Millsap down low and move some combination of CJ Miles, Matt Harpring and Kyle Korver for a $10-13 player. All the Jazz would have to find is a team who is not going to contend and who needs fast cap relief like Milwaukee did last week. For instance, Kevin O'Connor should put New Orleans' GM's phone number on speed dial. Here are some trade ideas in no particular order:
1. CJ Miles and Matt Harpring for Tyson Chandler- If the Hornets were willing to ship Chandler out for Chris Wilcox and Joe Smith and the rights to Devon Hardin, aka expiring contracts, then they would be glad to take Harpring's expiring deal and a reasonably priced Miles' contract in return for Chandler's $11 million. If the Bugs weren't excited about this trade, the Jazz could include Fesenko in the deal and make the money match almost dollar for dollar. Or else the Jazz could replace CJ Miles for Kyle Korver. It would give the Hornets cap relief and it would give the Jazz a frontcourt of Chandler, Okur, Boozer and Millsap. They would be able to match up well with the likes of the Lakers and Blazers.
2. Matt Harpring and Kyle Korver for Jason Richardson- Again, I think the Suns are going to trade good players for cap relief, so that they can re-sign and sign the players they would like to. I am not positive about Richardson's availability, but the Suns would get out from his contract and replace him with a good three point shooter. Richardson would give the Jazz a legitimate starter at the shooting guard position. He is athletic and shot 40% from the 3 point line each of the last two seasons while taking tons of them. And if we moved Brewer to the starting 3 position, we would have the greatest dunkers in the 2 and 3 position in the NBA. And that has to be worth something. This deal would have the Jazz bringing $2 million dollars back, and Richardson would cost $14 next year, but he would also be an expiring contract. In the very least, it would be a better move than trading for Richard Hamilton.
3. CJ Miles and Matt Harpring for Kirk Hinrich- I am not sure that Chicago would make this deal, but it would be a call O'Connor should make. Hinrich makes $9.5 million to be a backup in Chicago at either the point guard or shooting guard positions. If the Bulls were able to unload his contract, they may be able to make an offer and try to reconcile with Ben Gordon. At worst, they could save some long term money in order to pursue two big name stars next offseason. Hinrich would help the Jazz in a lot of areas. I would start him at shooting guard and move Brewer to small forward. Hinrich is small for a shooting guard, but he often guards the opposing teams best shooters and defends them well. He is an underrated defender in the league and he can shoot the ball. He also shot over 40% from the three point line last season. And in case of injury or Maynor not being good, he can play the backup point guard position. Did I mention that Kirk Hinrich's salary is descending? $9.5 million this year, $9 million the next and $8 million in his last season. Me likey.
4. CJ Miles, Harpring, and Fesenko for Kevin Martin- You don't think this trade is going to happen? Well, neither do I. But I am just throwing it out there in case, the Kings realize that newly drafted Tyreke Evans is a talented, ball-dominating shooting guard and not a point guard and they feel pressure to move Kevin Martin who gets disgruntled because he never touches the ball. It is a more realistic scenario than you realize. If the Kings shopped Martin, I would give them Boozer and Fesenko. I love Kevin Martin. I don't understand why the Kings drafted Evans and not Rubio. And if this scenario doesn't come to fruition, the Jazz can always wait until they get the #1 overall pick in the draft and trade it along with AK to Sacramento for Kevin Martin and their top 5 pick, since the Jazz won't want John Wall and the Kings will. You're laughing, but its going to happen. Call me Nostradamus.
5. Carlos Boozer for David West + Filler- I think this deal would take some serious sweet talking to convince the Hornets to make this trade, but they would have to consider it. I actually think that David West is similar to Carlos Boozer production wise and his contract is much, much sexier. West is scheduled to make on $9 million this next season, but the two years after that, he will make only $8.2 and $7.5 million respectively. In terms of the sexiness of contracts, David West's contract is like the Megan Fox of NBA contracts. Or the Hugh Jackman of NBA contracts depending on your persuasion. The Hornets would have to consider this deal because it allows them to be contenders this year and appease the fanbase, but also shed salary and appease the owners. The Hornets have to be focused on appeasing Chris Paul and this might give them a chance to quickly reload after next season. For the Jazz, they would get another future power forward and some future financial relief. Also, many Jazz fans don't hate David West. It would complcate things with Paul Millsap, but they could figure it out.
The Bottom line is this: The Jazz have several options to make this team better and if you believe Kevin O Connor, they will be doing what they can to make this team a title contender.