Free Agency 2012: Can the Utah Jazz be a player?

PHOENIX - APRIL 18: Goran Dragic #2 of the Phoenix Suns puts up a shot over Nicolas Batum #88 of the Portland Trail Blazers during Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2010 NBA Playoffs at US Airways Center on April 18, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Trail Blazers defeated the Suns 105-100 to take a 1-0 series lead. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Have you seen the seminal Guy Ritchie movie Snatch Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels? Well, despite being a comedy of errors, the main source of conflict arises when an intrepid man, who thinks he is smart, ends up getting involved in a big money card game - a card game that would normally be out of his price range. As a result, well, everyone around him gets into some level of trouble. Clearly all of that trouble could have been avoided if the protagonists didn't try to play in that high stakes game in the first place. Yearly we see the Utah Jazz err on the side of caution and not play in that card game - the free agency card game.

Do you think the Jazz can be a player this year? To look at our cap situation, and find out what I think click on!

Lock, Stock, and one cautious franchise:

While it doesn't make for a very exciting movie ("Oh, I have no more money, you cleaned me out. I fold." -- NSFW warning) it is a sound practice for running an NBA team. Right now the Jazz are on the hook for $53.7 million to 11 players (Al Jefferson $15.0, Devin Harris $8.5, Paul Millsap $8.6, Derrick Favors $4.75, Enes Kanter $4.32, Raja Bell $3.48, Gordon Hayward $2.71, Alec Burks $2.11, Earl Watson $2.0, Jamaal Tinsley $1.35, and DeMarre Carroll $0.89). This is assuming that the Jazz do use their team options on Jamaal and DeMarre. The team will also re-sign Josh Howard for more than $2.0 m a year. The Team may also move Raja Bell, who knows? I also expect the team to NOT break the bank on anyone in order to 'fill out' the roster. All in all, I see the Jazz getting it to 12 or 13 guys with a roster under $56m. You do get what you pay for though.

The division leaders, the Oklahoma City Thunder, are on the hook for $62.3 m for 12 players on contract for next season. That's a difference of a $6.3 million. The situation is similar for the Minnesota Timber Wolves and (after the spend all their money) the Portland Trail Blazers. Clearly, to keep up with the other small market teams in our own division the Jazz could have some money to spend. I don't anticipate the Jazz going for a full 15 man roster, but keeping it in the 13-14 range. Meaning, well, aside from the 2 guys (Josh Howard and our 2nd round Pick #47) we add to the 11 that make up that $53.7m up above, we have room for one more guy. That one guy is probably not going to be C.J. Miles. Bye bye C.J. -- I'd want you on the team, but I don't call the shots. Our front office and puppet / parrot media seems to love Josh Howard. I don't know why. (Note: not all of the media in the Jazz home market are part of the puppet / parrot media).

So, I can assume that the Jazz may be willing to add another $5 to $8 million a season contract to the roster if they really penny pinch elsewhere. Let's take a look at the big free agents this year (the guys most likely to help our club), and see if they are going to be able to be had for that value?

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Chris Bernucca's take on the Top Free Agents this year:

Sheridan Hoops contributor Chris Bernucca (@ChrisBernucca )made comprehensive lists of the Top Unrestricted Free Agents and Top Restricted Free Agents. (Click on those two links for his detailed analysis) I think that when you look at the Unrestricted FAs they are either in a group called "Old guys on the downswing of their careers", "Nets players", and "Guys who'll never sign here." Here is his list bereft of his analysis. (Again, click on the link to see what he has to say)

Player Current Team
1 Deron Williams New Jersey Nets PG
2 Goran Dragic Houston Rockets PG
3 Kevin Garnett Boston Celtics PF/C
4 Steve Nash Phoenix Suns PG
5 Ersan Ilyasova Milwaukee Bucks PF/SF
6 Kris Humphries New Jersey Nets PF
7 Gerald Wallace New Jersey Nets SF
8 Ray Allen Boston Celtics SG
9 Jason Terry Dallas Mavericks SG
10 Chris Kaman New Orleans Hornets C
11 Lou Williams Philadelphia 76ers PG
12 Brandon Bass Boston Celtics PF
13 Jamal Crawford Portland Trail Blazers SG
14 Jason Kidd Dallas Mavericks PG
15 Nick Young Los Angeles Clippers SG
16 Carl Landry New Orleans Hornets PF
17 Mickael Pietrus Boston Celtics SF
18 Randy Foye Los Angeles Clippers PG
19 Boris Diaw San Antonio Spurs PF
20 Tim Duncan San Antonio Spurs HE WILL ALWAYS BE A CENTER

Clearly the dudes we may be interested in are Gordan Dragic, Ersan Ilyasova, Lou Williams, and that's it. Adding another PG means we may move one of Earl Watson, Jamaal Tinsley, or Devin Harris. (Which opens up the door to a sign and trade) Adding Ersan would be great for Enes Kanter -- and he has another 'light skinned Turk' to pal around with. I'm pretty sure all of them will have asking prices starting at $8m, which is the upper level I think we'd be willing to pay. So, this list of 20 dudes? We're not going to have any of them on our team without some major moves.

What about the restricted free agents? Well, let's take a look . . .

Potential Contract
Player Current Team Years Total Value Yearly
1 Eric Gordon New Orleans Hornets SG . 4 $50,000,000 $12,500,000
2 Ryan Anderson Orlando Magic SF/PF . 4 $45,000,000 $11,250,000
3 Nicolas Batum Portland Trail Blazers SF . 4 $40,000,000 $10,000,000
4 Roy Hibbert Indiana Pacers C . 4 $50,000,000 $12,500,000
5 JaVale McGee Denver Nuggets C . 4 $36,000,000 $9,000,000
6 O.J. Mayo Memphis Grizzlies SG . 4 $30,000,000 $7,500,000
7 Brook Lopez New Jersey Nets C . 4 $30,000,000 $7,500,000
8 Michael Beasley Minesota Timber Wolves SF/PF . 3 $24,000,000 $8,000,000
9 Jeremy Lin New York Knicks PG . 4 $21,000,000 $5,250,000
10 George Hill Indiana Pacers PG . 4 $28,000,000 $7,000,000

Wow, Chris also puts in what he thinks they CAN get. He has much more in-depth analysis at the site so check it out. I'm not going to list the teams he suggests should be interested. Please give the two links a look-see, I do feel bad for strip-mining his work to make this post. I really don't know much about the FA situation this year, but this is a great starting off point for me.

Out of these 10 players the only guys I'd be interested in are Nicolas Batum (whom I've wanted since his draft year), Roy Hibbert (but we can't get him), and George Hill (who would still be a stop-gap PG, and not 'our next great PG'). Out of those three only Hill is available for the price range that we'd want. (Lin would be cheaper but wouldn't play in Utah)

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Probably a too sobering take on what "moves" the Jazz will do:

Clearly, in my mind, if the Jazz are going to bring in a FA this year (UFA or RFA) it's not going to be one of the top ones. So expect more treading water this off-season and bringing guys like Jamaal and Josh -- and not young studs who can help our team. You know, of course, unless the Jazz nutted up and traded away Al Jefferson -- but that's really impossible as @Lord_Chadeous was gracious enough to remind us all last night : )

Anyway . . . our cap situation isn't horrible, but it's much better next year. This year I expect the team to do nothing ground breaking. And I expect Josh Howard to be back. I really hope Jerry Sloan coaches the Charlotte Bobcats so I have a backup team to worry about. I think this 2012-2013 year the Jazz are going to be in a holding pattern before we take off. And it will start with not being a player in free agency this off season.

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This is just the opening salvo for our FA discussion and analysis. A primer. I hope it was useful.

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