Wow! NBA Finals! Wow! The 2012-13 NBA season is now dead, long live the 2013-14 NBA season.
In last Friday's downbeat I presented to you 4 hypothetical Utah Jazz offseason plans that illustrated a variety of potential uses for the Jazz's financial flexibility this summer. For this weeks downbeat I have solicited the help from 5 of your favorite Utah Jazz bloggers whom I've each asked to compile their ideal offseason plans. In addition to myself, the group consists of Amar, Clark, Diana/Moni (collaborative effort), and on loan from Salt City Hoops, Andy.
I think you'll find below a surprising amount of disagreement among this group, however there are a few pieces that tend to show up more than once. I am not going to tell you immediately which plan belongs to which blogger but please vote for your ideal plan in the poll and use the comment section to debate the merits of each.
Step 1 Draft: To take advantage of his athleticism defensively (and steals), as well as his overall game, the Jazz draft Dennis Schroder at #14. Should Giannis Antetokounmpo be available at #21, his wingspan and defensive skills make a ton of sense in the new-look Jazz. If not, maybe take a defensive lottery ticket in Rudy Gobert. Myck Kabongo makes a lot of sense at #46 as well.
Step 2 Signing Own Free Agents: DeMarre Carroll. That's it. Even he's iffy defensively, but he adds enough in steals, blocks, and defensive rebounding that justify his iffy off-ball defense. Everyone else? Nope. None of Jefferson, Millsap, Foye, Watson, Tinsley, or Williams are good defensively. That should be the Jazz's identity moving forward.
Step 3 Adding Other Teams Free Agents: That leaves a lot of players to sign. At PG, if Chris Paul is available, sign him. The issue is that there's not really any other great defenders: Jennings, Teague, and Calderon are pretty terrible. That means giving up something for a PG in a trade. More later.
At the wing spot, Iguodala would be a fantastic defensive leader, a natural fit with Hayward and Favors. Signing him at a 3 year, 42 million dollar deal might get it done. If Iguodala chooses not to come to Utah, Marion, Kirilenko, or Tony Allen seem like natural fits. Corey Brewer would also be nice. Ronnie Brewer might be a nice 5th or 6th wing option to bring back, and Belinelli or Budinger are available for additional shooting and average D.
With the departure of Millsap and Jefferson, more big men are necessary, including at least one that can play major minutes. If Howard or Bynum are signable, great: either would raise the potential of this Jazz team greatly. However, if not, Pekovic or Splitter displayed defensive bonafides while still having excellent offensive games. Signing any of the aforementioned 4 would make a ton of sense, even at $10 million or more per year. Then, a 4th big is necessary: DeJuan Blair, Ivan Johnson, or Timofey Mozgov might be excellent fits to play this 15 MPG or so role.
Step 4 Trades: Assuming the Clippers resign Chris Paul, this leaves Eric Bledsoe as a natural extra piece that Clippers may want to trade before his time for an extension comes due. Bledsoe is quite good defensively, and so he fits in with this Jazz identity. A sign-and-trade may provide the Clippers the third big man they need, and Millsap would be one logical candidate. Assuming they sign Paul, they won't have cap space to sign Millsap on their own, so a Millsap/Burks/2014 first for Bledose/Butler package may be enough to entice them. I hope so. If not, the Jazz could go with Burks splitting time with Schroder at the point, or trade Burks for Andre Miller or some other stop-gap point guard.
Step 5 Extending Favors and Hayward: Absolutely must be done, at pretty much any cost. They're the linchpin of this plan. Let's say 4 years, $52 million for Favors and 4 years, $44 million for Hayward.
If everything goes well...
Starting Unit: PG - Bledsoe, SG - Hayward, SF - Iguodala, PF - Favors, C - Pekovic
Primary Reserves: Schroder, Butler, Carroll, Blair, Kanter, Kabongo, Evans, Gobert
Final Analysis: If there's a larger theme to these playoffs, besides the extraordinary quality of basketball that we witnessed in the Finals, it's the importance of defense in this decade's NBA. Indiana and Memphis proved that it is not necessary to have a great offensive first option to advance far into the playoffs: a great defense suffices. Utah is surprisingly close to this ideal. Even though they finished in the bottom 10 defensively last season, the Jazz were actually third best in the NBA when Jefferson was not on the floor. This offseason plan embraces that fact with a smothering defensive attack. With Jerry Sloan around, famous for making offenses tick at the highest level, Utah's offensive game should be respectable: while these players aren't known for their offense, they're all at least average offensively. There's no offensive star, which means the system will be crucial.
The long term salary structure is worrisome. After next season, the extensions for Favors and Hayward would kick in, adding an estimated 15 million dollars to the 2014-2015 tax bill. Bledsoe would be a restricted free agent. Luckily, Butler's contract comes off the books, saving $8 million. If Schroder (possible) or Kabongo (unlikely) shows enough promise in their first year, letting Bledsoe go is an option. If Bledsoe blossoms to be the clear long term PG, a trade of Kanter, Pekovic, Hayward, Favors, or Iguodala for a younger, cheaper prospect and draft picks at their same position would be possible: those players are very likely to have trade value just a year down the road. This may be necessary to keep the Jazz under the luxury tax for the years to come.
However, both the potential upgrade and talent upgrade in this plan make it worth it: in short, it's better to have Oklahoma City's problem of too much talent and too little money than the Jazz's current problem of too little talent and too much money. Even if the Jazz have to trade a fan favorite in the years to come, that trade will provide value back in return. In the short run, though, this approach embraces the strengths of the Jazz's core, and sees them follow the model of some of this season's most successful franchises. Maybe 2013-2014 won't be a down year after all.
Option 2 - The Loading up on 2013 Draft Picks Plan
Step 1 Draft:As much as there are 2-3 guys in this draft I would love to trade up and draft, I am too uninformed to know what it would realistically cost to do so, so I can't realistically propose that type of trade. However, I think there has to be some truth to Dallas' hope to trade their 13th pick along with the final year of Shawn Marion's contract (assuming that he picks it up) and I would do that trade. For one, I think the more cracks you have at the first round, the more likely you are to hit a home run, and secondly, the Jazz are going to keep costs low and even if those picks turn out to be non rotation players, the Jazz would only be paying the 13th and 14th pick about $2 million a year. I would assume that Marion would be willing to negotiate a buyout of $7-8 million. And I think the 13th pick is worth $8 million.
I would take the best player available at each position and it's so hard to guess who will be at each spot, but I imagine something like Steven Adams at 13 and Sergey Karasev at 14 is realistic. If Dennis Schroeder is there at 21, I would draft him, but if not, I would take either Giannis Adetokunbo, Glen Rice Jr, Gorgui Dieng, or Reggie Bullock in that order. In the second round, I would draft a point guard targeting Erick Green, Myck Kabongo, Nate Wolters, and Ray McCallum in that order.
My most likely roster after the draft looks like this:
PG: Myck Kabongo
This team costs me roughly $40 million, including Marion's buyout, and I still need one more point guard, another big man and a rotation playing wing, especially if Karasev decides not to play in the NBA next season.
Step 2 Free Ageny: First, I am offering Jose Calderon two years, $20 million with a player option on the second year, if he wants it. If that isn't enough to lure him to Utah, then plan B is to offer Beno Udrih up to $6 million on a one year deal, and plan C is to offer Minnesota the rights to Ante Tomic for Luke Ridnour and his last year at a cost of $4.3 million. Plan D would be to bring Mo WIlliams back, I suppose, on a one year deal of $5 million. I'm only signing one free agent point guard, because I want to guarantee time for both Kabongo and Alec Burks.
During the courtship of my mentor and starting point guard, I would also reach out to Kyle Korver and offer him a 3 year, $12 million contract. If he's uninterested, then I would attempt to re-sign Randy Foye at 2 years, $6 million.
And to finish off my off season, I am offering $2-4 million on a one year deal to Brandan Wright.
My most likely roster and depth chart looks like this:
PG: Beno Udrih
SG: Gordon Hayward
SF: Kyle Korver until Marvin Williams recovers
PF: Derrick Favors
C: Enes Kanter
Primary Reserves: Alec Burks, Myck Kabongo, Brandan Wright, Jeremy Evans.
Sergey Karasev, Steven Adams, and Glen Rice Jr. would get the year to learn and play garbage time.
Option 3 - The
Core 4 Fantastic 5 Plan
Step 1 Draft: The Jazz need for a starting point guard is something every NBA observer (minus Mo Williams) agrees on. Free agency options this year are slim and other than Eric Bledsoe the trade market does not readily appear flush with PG options. Thus in my ideal offseason, the Jazz do what it takes to trade up and draft Trey Burke, who is (arguably) the best PG prospect in this draft. In my opinion Trey Burke is worth this expense as I believe he will be at least as good as Damian Lillard, which is to say he will be a 10 year starting PG in the NBA with the potential to make at least a few all-star teams.
The cost of moving up from pick #14 to Sacramento's pick #7 is a large salary dump. I expect the new ownership in Sacramento to be looking at ways to shake up their roster and eliminating a few over paid players is the quickest way to do so. In my proposed trade the Jazz would get pick #7 in a swap of pick #14 and for assuming the contracts of SG Marcus Thornton (2 years, $16.5mm) and C Chuck Hayes (2 years, $11.8mm).
With pick #21 the Jazz draft PF/C Kelly Olynyk who has been all over the draft boards lately and is falling according to Chad Ford. Olynyk may never have the physical makeup to be a starting NBA PF or C, but he does have a fairly unique offensive skill-set that would complement the Favors and Kanter core. In the second round the Jazz add little Seth Curry as a flier on a PG that can shoot.
Step 2 Signing Own Free Agents: In this scenario the Jazz retain only one of their own free agents in DeMarre Carroll (2 years, $6mm). Carroll is beyond the point in his career where he will take huge developmental steps, but I think he can be a valuable contributor in a limited role.
I do also have the Jazz bringing over Ante Tomic from Europe. As a fairly well compensated foreign player, Tomic will not likely come to the USA for a minimum contract. I've assumed the Jazz will pay him 3 years at about $12mm, but negotiations are really hard to predict.
Step 3 Adding Other Teams Free Agents: None.
Step 4 Trades: In regards to the trade above, both Thornton and Hayes have the potential to be decent role players on the Jazz moving forward. Thornton finished last year with a 16.32 PER and has the ability to be a dynamic scorer off the bench. Hayes on the other hand is an undersized big man but who has proven himself capable of being a defensive stopper in the post. The major basketball sin of both of these players is being paid about twice as much as they are worth. With the Jazz's young core still on their rookie contracts, the Jazz will not have a problem slotting them on the team for the next 2 years.
A second trade I have the Jazz completing is an acquisition of a temporary starting PG in Luke Ridnour from Minnesota. With Ricky Rubio fully healthy and very competent backups in Alexey Shved and JJ Barea, the Timberwolves no longer need the 32 year old Ridnour's services. It is no secret that Minnesota is looking for upgrades at SG (a position that Ridnour started for them at times last year) and they have financial challenges to retain Nikola Pekovic is about to get paid. In this scenario I assume the Timberwolves would be willing to dump Ridnour's salary for a future 2nd round draft pick.
Step 5 Extending Favors and Hayward: My preference is to ink Favors and Hayward to long-term extensions this summer as I feel we've seen enough of them to know they will be very good NBA players and added playing time this year will likely drive up their price even further.
Starting Unit: PG - Ridnour, SG - Burks, SF - Hayward, PF - Favors, C - Kanter
Primary Reserves: PG - Burke, SG - Thornton, SF Williams/DMC, PF - Olynyk, C - Hayes/Tomic
Final Analysis: The crux of this offseason plan is identifying and obtaining the missing starting PG. Some question whether Burke can be that player, but he has put together a very impressive resume of national player of the year awards. The majority of the rest of this offseason plan is using the Jazz's salary cap space to acquire players who will be competent NBA players this year and next. This gives this young core two years to develop before committing to Kanter and Burks finacially. If things do not develop as projected then the Jazz will have a massive amount of salary cap space in the 2015-16 season. Ideally, they'd fill that room with Kanter and Burks extensions but we'll have another year to see if those extensions are warranted.
Option 4 - Get Better Plan
Step 1 Draft: Shabazz Muhammad, Kelly Olynyk, Myck Kabongo
Step 4 Trades: None
Step 5 Extending Favors and Hayward: Favors $51.5m / 4 yr; Hayward $47.0m / 4 yr
Starting Unit: Mo Williams, Alec Burks, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter
Primary Reserves: Nate Robinson, Shabazz Muhammad, Kyle Korver, Marvin Williams, Kelly Olynyk
Final Analysis: Ty is great at keeping lockrooms together. Team will be fun, lose, get better. Be better. Expect 14 off-season trades + draft.
Option 5 - We Are Utah Jazz and We Are No Longer Wasting Your Time Plan
Step 3 Adding Other Teams Free Agents: Kyle Korver, Tiago Splitter.
Step 4 Trades: Jazz trade pick #21 to Minnesota for Alexey Shved.
Starting Unit: PG - Shved, SG - Burks, SF - Hayward, PF - Favors, C - Jefferson.
Primary Reserves: MCW, Korver, Wialliams, Splitter, Kanter.
Final Analysis: The key to this plan isn't want happens to fill the roster, it is what happens before. Step 1 in this plan is to fire Coach Corbin and fill (re-fill) his seat with Jerry Sloan. Once that is done then bringing back Al Jefferson would make sense as we are confident that coach Sloan would confidently utilize Jefferson's skills and mesh them with the young and developing players.
ED: Here's a table I made of some of this info so it's a little easier to compare / contrast! Great job again, Peter!!! (N.B. Some guys are listed in one section, but can play other roles, like Burks as a SG/PG, or PG/SG)
|Option 1||Option 2||Option 3||Option 4||Option 5|
|Team||14 / 15||15 /15||16 / 15||14 / 15||15 / 15|
|Point Guards||E. Bledsoe||B. Udrih||L. Ridnour||M. Williams #MOLO
|D. Schroeder||M. Kabongo||T. Burke||N. Robinson||M. Carter-Williams|
|M. Kabongo||J. McNeal||J. McNeal||M. Kabongo||J. Tinsley|
|Se. Curry||J. McNeal|
|Wings||G. Hayward||G. Hayward||A. Burks||A. Burks||A. Burks|
|A. Iguodala||Mar. Williams||G. Hayward||G. Hayward||G. Hayward|
|C. Butler||A. Burks||M. Thornton||S. Muhammad||K. Korver|
|D. Carroll||K. Korver||Mar. Williams||K. Korver||Mar. Williams|
|Mar. Williams||S. Karasev||D. Carroll||Mar. Williams||K. Murphy|
|G. Rice Jr.||K. Murphy||T. Leslie|
|Bigs||D. Favors||D. Favors||D. Favors||D. Favors||D. Favors|
|N. Pekovic||E. Kanter||E. Kanter||E. Kanter||A. Jefferson|
|E. Kanter||B. Wright||K. Olynyk||K. Olynyk||T. Splitter|
|D. Blair||S. Adams||C. Hayes||K. Fesenko||E. Kanter|
|R. Gobert||J. Evans||J. Evans||J. Evans||J. Evans|
|J. Evans||S. Marion (1)||A. Tomic||B. Davies|
|(1) Buy Out|