Downbeat 1066 - The Utah Jazz Choose Your Own Offseason Adventure Edition

Doug Pensinger

Four vastly different looks of what the Utah Jazz may choose to do with their flexibility this offseason.

As a grade school child, anytime I had to write a book report, my go to books were the "Choose Your Own Adventure" series. Each of the books in this series was a story written from a second-person point of view, with the reader assuming the role of the protagonist and making choices that determine the main character's actions and the plot's outcome. My goal in each instance was to make choices that led to my character dying off as soon as possible, thus bringing my homework to an earlier end.

Besides being an easy way to get out of real work, the Choose Your Own Adventure series was interesting to me as it presented a reading experience that gave me an option on what I wanted to see happen to the main character. I’ve often thought that a psychologist could run an interesting group experiment to determine an individual's personality traits based on the types of choices they made as a reader of these books.

In the same vein, the Jazz are now presented with many different options this offseason on how they want to construct their team going forward. I’d guess that based on each fans personal opinions on how the team should be put together would tell a lot about what type of fan they are, or at least their adverseness to risk. For the following 4 beats I’ve composed 4 separate Utah Jazz offseason plans that offer a variety of different options. At the end I’ve posted a poll for each person to vote on which offseason plan they like best. I’d also like each of you to discuss in the comments which plan appeals to you the most and why.

The Re-Sign Everyone (but Millsap) Plan

Option_1

Step 1 Draft: No matter what offseason plan the Jazz choose, it seems likely that at least one of Utah's 1st round draft picks will be used to select a PG. In this scenario I addressed PG first, selecting Shane Larkin as perhaps the best shooting PG prospect in this draft. After that the Jazz could use some big man depth, especially in regards to adding a defensive big like Rudy Gobert. Finally, I addressed the wing position by adding Glen Rice, Jr. in round 2.

Step 2 Re-signing Own Free Agents: The focus of this offseason plan is to re-sign the Jazz's core veteran pieces. However, even under that plan, the ability and likelihood to re-sign both Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson is financially unrealistic. In this scenario Jefferson is re-signed Al to a 4 year $53.25mm contract which is structure in a way to decrease each year over the next 4 seasons. Shane Larkin will not be ready to be the Jazz's starting PG this year so Mo Williams was re-signed to a contract that approximates the same value that Jameer Nelson received from Orlando last season. The Jazz will still need depth at the wing positions this year and this plan has them bringing back both Foye and DMC to reasonably priced deals.

Step 3 Adding Other Teams Free Agents: None.

Step 4 Trades: None.

Step 5 Extending Favors and Hayward: In this scenario the Jazz agree to 4 year extensions with both Favors and Hayward prior to October 31st. I've assumed that Favors extensions mimics the one given by Oklahoma City to Serge Ibaka last year and that Hayward's extension mimics the one given by Toronto to DeMar DeRozan.

Starting Unit: Mo Williams, Gordon Hayward, Marvin Williams (when healthy), Derrick Favors, Al Jefferson

Primary Reserves: Shane Larkin, Randy Foye, DeMarre Carroll, Jeremy Evans, Enes Kanter

Final Analysis: This team is fairly similar to the one that missed the playoffs last year and struggled to make it the year prior. Whether this team improves largely depends on whether Favors can in fact replace Millsap's starting PF production and turn this team into a better defensive team. Additionally, the Jazz are rather diminutive at PG and if Mo and Larkin get banged up the Jazz PG play will once again suffer. Financially speaking, this plan is affordable in the short and long-term as the Jazz will be far below the Luxury Tax line and just a tad over the Salary Cap. The affordability would be tested however in 2015-16 when Kanter and Burks are eligible for extensions and the Jazz would likely only be able to sign one of them to a large contract.

The Re-Sign Millsap and Vet PG Plan

Option_2

Step 1 Draft: We all assume that the Jazz want a better facilitator at the PG position over the past couple of years, thus this scenario has Utah Drafting Michael Cater-Williams at 14. MCW thrives in a drive and kick game but struggles greatly with his outside shot. To add to the Jazz's shooting, they select Sergey Karasev at 21, who by some accounts is the best long distance shooter in this whole draft class. Lastly the Jazz double up on PG prospects by adding Myck Kabongo in round 2, who gives the Jazz a much different look at PG from MCW.

Step 2 Re-signing Own Free Agents: The Jazz choose to retain Paul Millsap here at a slightly lesser price than Al Jefferson earned in Option 1 above. In this scenario I'd assume the Jazz would commit to playing Favors and Millsap together, which is an undersized frontcourt and one the Jazz surprisingly didn't turn to much this season. DMC is also coming back in this scenario to provide depth at SF while Marvin Williams is out with his injury.

Step 3 Adding Other Teams Free Agents: The main addition in this scenario is Jose Calderon to replace Mo Williams as Utah's starting PG. Calderon will be an interesting free agent as he is at the point in his career where the signing the largest contract might not be what he cares about most and other factors, like competing for a title, might come into play more. Since Calderon turns 32 before this season starts, the ideal scenario would be to sign him to a relatively short contract, however, since this is likely his last opportunity to get paid he might require a larger per year deal to do so. The Jazz do have flexibility to make this happen and I have them significantly overpaying Calderon for 2 seasons in order to entice him to Salt Lake City. The other free agent move I have here assumes Andrea Bargnani gets amnestied by Toronto this offseason, and the Jazz place a winning bid of $5mm per year and claim him in the amnesty waivers process. While Bargnani struggled greatly last year, at this price he could be a very serviceable 4th big and perhaps give the Jazz some solid minutes as a stretch 4.

Step 4 Trades: None.

Step 5 Extending Favors and Hayward: Same assumptions regarding Favors and Hayward as in number 1.

Starting Unit: Jose Calderon, Gordon Hayward, Marvin Williams (when healthy), Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors

Primary Reserves: Michael Carter-Williams, Alec Burks, Sergey Karasev, Andrea Bargnani, Enes Kanter

Final Analysis: The improvement of this team largely depends on how much of an improvement Calderon is at PG. While Calderon is certainly a better facilitator than the Jazz have had the past 2.5 seasons, he is aging and there have always been questions about his defensive ability. The rest of this team however is built for an up-tempo attack that would look to spread the floor and get out and run the ball. Bargnani adds an outside shooting threat at a big position that the Jazz haven't had since Memo retired. The Jazz preserve a good deal of financial flexibility by only tying up Calderon and Bargnani for 2 seasons. The Jazz would again have a significant amount of financial flexibility in 2 years and could use that to lock up both Kanter and Burks, or to pursue free agents at that time.

The Chasing Big Name Free Agents Plan

Option_3

Step 1 Draft: Utah's alleged pursuit of Ryan Anderson last offseason has me convinced that they'd love to add a big man that can stretch the floor. Kelly Olynyk is perhaps the best shooting big man in the NBA draft, although he has yet to prove he has NBA 3 point range. At pick 21 the Jazz go with another hot shooting player in Reggie Bullock, who at times, looked better than Harrison Barnes at UNC during the 2011-12 season. In the 2nd round, Phil Pressey is not likely to ever be a starting PG in the NBA but he might find a role as a spark plug off the bench like Nate Robinson.

Step 2 Re-signing Own Free Agents: None.

Step 3 Adding Other Teams Free Agents: In this scenario the Jazz use their salary cap flexibility to pursue big name free agents. Chris Paul and Dwight Howard won't be in consideration for Utah but I think Iguodala and Jennings may be available for the right price. Iguodala has made a career as a defensive stopper, something the Jazz haven't had at the wing position since Bryon Russell left oh so long ago. His situation in Denver is tenuous as their team is on the verge of collapse and they have a lot of money tied up long-term, which may make them flinch if Iguodala is given a big money offer from another team. With the most recent reports out of Milwaukee, it appears that Brandon Jennings is the odd man out in their efforts to re-sign their backcourt positions. While Jennings has long pined for a big market team to go to, there are not many in need of a starting PG and with the ability (or desire) to pay him big money (Dallas, maybe?). Since Jennings is a restricted free agent the Jazz would likely have to overpay him to make sure that Milwaukee won't match.

Step 4 Trades: None, unless the Bucks and/or Nuggets decide they want to work a sign and trade for Jefferson or Millsap. This may be somewhat possible as both teams could use big men with better offensive game.

Step 5 Extending Favors and Hayward: Same assumptions regarding Favors and Hayward as in number 1.

Starting Unit: Brandon Jennings, Gordon Hayward, Andre Iguodala, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter

Primary Reserves: Phil Pressey, Alec Burks, Reggie Bullock, Marvin Williams, Kelly Olynyk

Final Analysis: This team presents a radical departure from the one that took the court for the Jazz for the last two seasons. Iguodala would add needed leadership but is not a primary scoring option. Jennings looks to shoot a lot and is decent in the pick and roll, but his efficiency statistics are subpar. That said he is young enough and still could improve. The Jazz's front court is very young here with Favors and Kanter finally earning the starting minutes. Olynyk is about the same age and probably isn't ready for a huge role as a rookie, thus requiring the Jazz to lean on Marvin Williams to get minutes at the 4. Long-term the Jazz are still fairly comfortably below the Luxury Tax Line, however they would not have any flexibility to make any major free agent moves over the next 4 years. Additionally, the commitments to Iguodala and Jennings may make it financially impossible for the Jazz to keep both Burks and Kanter starting in 2016-17.

The Draft Day Trade Plan

Option_4

Step 1 Draft: There is growing momentum pointing to Trey Burke slipping down the draft board into the 5-10 range of the draft. If he slides low enough, the Jazz might be in position to make a move. While it is true that such moves are difficult, the Jazz may be able to target a team looking to unload salary into Utah's soon to be available cap space. In this scenario the Jazz trade pick 14 and Alec Burks to Detroit for pick 8, Charlie Villaneuva and Jonas Jerebko. While such a trade could be agreed upon on draft night, they'd have to wait until July 10th to formalize the deal after the Jazz could renounce the rights to some of their veteran free agents. After the Burke pick, the Jazz follow up by adding his teammate Tim Hardaway, Jr., who appears to have all the makings of a solid rotational wing. With the 2nd round pick I have the Jazz drafting Seth Curry to be the 3rd PG and hope he can replicate 75% of what his brother has done in the league.

Step 2 Re-signing Own Free Agents: None.

Step 3 Adding Other Teams Free Agents: It has been reported that Tiago Splitter is the pet project of Dennis Lindsey. Splitter has proven his worth to the Spurs this year as a rotational big man that provides solid defense at either the PF or C position. Splitter is a restricted free agent so the Jazz would have to hope the Spurs will choose not to match. Alternatively, the Jazz could potentially sign and trade Millsap for Splitter. This scenario also has the Jazz pursuing Beno Udrih (another Spurs connection) to compete for the starting PG position with Trey Burke. Udrih is getting older but may provide a decent starting option until Burke is ready to take over.

Step 4 Trades: Primarily discussed in the draft section above. Villaneueva does not have much left to offer at this point and may take a buyout to go away. Jerebko is an interesting SF/PF who has had bursts of competence in his career and should be able to give 10-15 minutes a game.

Step 5 Extending Favors and Hayward: Same assumptions regarding Favors and Hayward as in number 1.

Starting Unit: Trey Burke, Gordon Hayward, Marvin Williams, Derrick Favors, Tiago Splitter

Primary Reserves: Beno Udrih, Tim Hardaway, Jr., Jonas Jerebko, Charlie Villaneueva, Enes Kanter

Final Analysis: The Jazz become fairly young in this scenario with Beno Udrih providing the most veteran leadership. This team would mostly be handed to the Core 4 (minus Burks + Burke) and would be given a few years to develop together. If the team did not develop as expected the Jazz would again have financial flexibility in 2 years to remold the core of the franchise.

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