NBA Free Agency 2014 Primer: The Utah Jazz and the end of the 2013-2014 Season

"No RJ, I don't want to go to the Boy George concert." - Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sport

The first step to self improvement is to take a long look at yourself.

Okay, so the NBA Trade Deadline has come and gone, and some teams are still trying to make moves to help set up their teams for NBA Free Agency 2014. How? It's simple. The front office take a look at their current team, then look at where they are headed, and try to adjust that according to where they want to be headed. A lot of the time this is really dictated by looking at the books. You may be going in the wrong direction, and wasting money on your way there.

There currently are a number of players who are rumored to be, or have already been by the time you read this, waived. Some of them are names you may know: Glen Davis, Metta World Piece, Danny Granger, and Jason Terry just for starters. There are a number of others. If you can reach a buyout with a player that you don't want who is on the way out -- and do it quick enough so that they can sign on with a playoff team -- then you a) make space for people under contract, and b) save some money.

It can happen, but again, that requires your front office to show up to work and be awake at the wheel.

In order to look at what we're working with we need to take a good hard look at our team. Where are we? Where are we headed? Where do you want us to go? And lastly, is there a move we can make now to help make these two trajectories meet?

The Jazz have an interesting situation with a number of players making big money who are all going to come off the cap this year. Potentially the Jazz could lose four Unrestricted Free Agents (UFAs), our one Restricted Free Agent (RFA), and four more players who have non-guaranteed contracts for 2014-2015. That is shedding 9 players, and millions of dollars on July 1st, 2014 (Free Agency signing day). Some of these players look like goners, others look like keepers. The issue here is if you want to make more playing time for your keepers by getting rid of the gonners -- or just let things float in whatever direction the current takes you. (AKA: Passive management) There are 27 games left this season for the Jazz. That's 6,480 minutes to be divided by 5 positions. I really wonder how much is there left to discover from playing RJ 56.3% of the available remaining minutes at SF.

Anyway, let's take a look at these players:

Cumulative Age 2013-14 Salary 2014 - 2013 - 2014 Utah Jazz
NBA Exp to date July 1 $ Total $ Left 2015 Statistics per Game
Player POS Yr G Min 2014 (Mil) (Mil) Status G MPG PPG RPG APG SPG BPG PER
1 Richard Jefferson 3 13 1,008 32,440 34.03 $11.046 $3.637 UFA 55 26.9 10.0 2.9 1.7 0.7 0.2 11.9
2 Andris Biedrins 5 10 530 11,430 28.25 $9.000 $2.963 UFA 6 7.5 0.5 2.8 0.0 0.0 0.0 2.4
3 Marvin Williams 3 4 9 646 18,717 28.04 $7.500 $2.470 UFA 44 26.5 10.1 5.4 1.2 0.8 0.5 15.2
4 Brandon Rush 2 3 6 328 8,227 28.97 $4.000 $1.317 UFA 32 11.9 2.2 1.1 0.7 0.2 0.3 4.7
5 Gordon Hayward 2 3 4 264 7,261 24.27 $3.452 $1.137 RFA 50 36.0 16.0 5.5 4.9 1.5 0.7 16.2
6 John Lucas III 1 2 6 215 2,697 31.61 $1.600 $0.527 NG 34 15.9 4.3 1.1 1.1 0.4 0.0 5.7
7 Diante Garrett 1 2 2 63 797 25.66 $0.719 $0.237 NG 44 14.7 3.3 1.5 1.9 0.6 0.1 8.3
8 Malcolm Thomas 3 4 3 22 113 25.67 $0.702 $0.231 NG 3 5.7 1.3 1.3 0.7 0.0 0.3 10.5
9 Ian Clark 2 1 1 12 95 23.32 $0.490 $0.161 NG 12 7.9 3.3 1.1 0.7 0.3 0.2 9.0
UFA = Unrestricted Free Agent
RFA = Restricted Free Agent
NG = Contract for 2014-2015 Season is not-guaranteed

Yes, so the three groups are easy to spot. Hayward, the dude who looks to get the biggest raise on the team is the best player out of this bunch, and the only RFA guy. There's really no point in thinking about buying him out for these next 27 games.

What about the players who have non-guaranteed contracts for next season?

  • You love what Lucas brings to the locker room and in PR karma, and at this stage, he's only costing the Jazz a little over half a million on the books. When he's in the game we all don't know how to feel, and thankfully, he hasn't played since February 7th, more than two weeks ago. There's really no on-court value to keeping him, and he is so marginal that there's no reason to dump his contract. Which is pretty much an analogy for his NBA career. Great guy, not worth getting rid of.
  • Diante is our #2 PG, who somehow plays fewer MPG than our #3 PG. It's been that kind of season in Utah. With 27 games left to play there's no point in cutting this guy. No playoff team is waiting to snatch him up, and he's only on the books for $200k now.
  • Malcolm is on the books for next year, and it would be nice to see what he can do at this level. I'd be more than willing to give half of RJ's minutes to him. No reason to dump him -- and really looking forward -- no reason to pick up his non-guaranteed 2nd year unless we know what he can do. Dude needs minutes.
  • Ian, man. He played in 8 games in November, then didn't play again until the third week of January, and then after a few games was disappeared  again until February 1st. He hasn't played since then. He's costing the Jazz $160k to keep around (not including per diem), and like Malcolm, no reason to keep him around unless it's to find out more about what he can do at this level.

Over all these four guys with non-guaranteed contracts for 2014-2015 are super cheap, and none of them would catch on with a playoff team if they were bought out. Only Lucas III is "vet" enough, and has the lowest future potential in the league. And only Lucas III is a known product at this point. If the Jazz are really getting Raul Neto next season it really doesn't help the team to keep John around -- save for that PR karma. But then again, it's not like this organization really shows that they care what fans think. Dee Brown was basically the same guy, but they 86ed him after one year.

So now this brings us to the UFAs. This is the big money group of RJ, Marv, Beans, and Rush. All of these guys have played for more than five years in the NBA, and have very limited untapped potential. RJ and Marv are both starters. Rush, somehow, is ahead on the depth chart over Clark. And well, Beans is Beans. The hope many fans had was that with unregulated playing time for these vets, by the time the Trade Deadline approached, one or more of these guys would be someone OTHER teams wanted. That's not what happened, and no deals were made.

  • RJ is making a boat load of money, is a starter, and is very average. He looks important on this team -- but that's because his role is so big on this team. That doesn't mean he's playing well. In 26.9 mpg he's averaging 2.9 rpg and 1.7 apg. In 5.7 mpg Malcolm Thomas is averaging 1.3 rpg, 0.7 apg. That's ridiculous for both of them. Jefferson has also stated that his intention is to play for a winner, and try to win a title. In reality, with a guy who has played over 32k minutes (regular season and playoffs combined), that's really what you are playing for, right? Who are we to stop him from reaching his goal? If the Jazz reach a buyout with him he can sign on with another team NOW. He wasn't coming back to the Jazz anyway. He's a gonner. And cutting him lose helps him (unless you think his UFA status is better served playing 27 mpg for one of the worst teams in the league). I think his UFA status is better helped by being a rotation guy on the cheap for a playoff team, and playing key minutes for some team that may need his skills. In the big picture he's no use to us. And in the big picture, we're no use to him. Keeping him here serves to only try to pad Tyrone Corbin 's reputation as a coach who will be loyal to vets. Is Tyrone Corbin even going to be an NBA head coach again, though? That's another unknown.
  • Beans is the next expensive guy on this UFA list. He has played in six total games this year. Six. His last game was Beethoven's birthday. Well, not way back when, but on December 16th, but still. That's Beet's birthday. Corbin has shown no intention of playing him at all. Even with Derrick Favors out he doesn't get any burn. No team is going to want him either this year. If the Jazz cut him lose he could basically just start his vacation early. The buyout would be hefty as no other team is going to pay him this year. By staying here the Jazz end up paying him about as much as they would have to if they wanted to get rid of him. He's not playing in any games, just going on road trips and getting the $500 / day or whatever it is they get from their operations account over and above his salary.  What he is doing could easily be replaced by some D-league guy -- roster filler bigman in case something crazy happens. But no way are we eating his $2.9 million left.
  • Marvin is my guy. I love his ability to play the three and the four. I'm not really crazy that we're seeing him more at the four, and I'm definitely not crazy with him starting. But that's just me. The Jazz are on the hook for $2.47 million left this season. He has stated that he wouldn't mind coming back to Utah for more years down the line. (Of course he'd say that, he is starting here -- something he wasn't even regularly doing in Atlanta) There's no benefit to the Jazz to buy him out if they were trying to bring him back. I am certain that some NBA teams wouldn't mind picking him up for their playoff runs -- but no way we make that happen. He's the opposite of RJ in a number of ways -- RJ is more expensive to get rid of, probably would have less suitors looking for him, and less versatile. The big difference here is that the Jazz may have a chance to sign Marvin in free agency, when the impression we get is that RJ has Utah in the rear view mirror already.
  • Last, and least, is Rush. Rush is owed only $1.3 million left. I'd give all of his mpg to Clark and Garrett at this stage. I don't know if any team would bite on him -- but his contract is small enough that he's a likely (and probably only plausible) candidate to be bought out, if our front office was going to buy anyone out.

Out of these UFAs I would figure that the combination of what we want and what they want make three of the four "gonners" for sure: RJ, Rush, and Beans. Two of them would be too expensive to buy out. It's not a perfect situation for the Jazz; hence the idea that they are probably just going to ride it out.

So what about next season? Well, we will be rid of $24 million for sure from Jefferson, Biedrins, and Rush. Some of that money will go to Hayward in order to match whatever offers he gets. I'm not so certain that Marvin has earned a raise, but part of the problem is that if you give him the role as a starter and play him starters minutes he's going to want the average salary of a starting power forward. That's insane for a guy who is averaging 5.4 rpg. Of course, #BlameTy here again, but that dude isn't even going to be here next season. So he's laughing all the way to the assistant coaching staff of the Charlotte Bobcats.

I don't know if Lucas has a future with this team as anything more than a mascot. But that's fine. He'll barely make as much money next season as Rush's buyout would be right now.

As for the rest of our non-guarenteed guys, it would be dumb to pick up their next years unless we know if they are even NBA players or not. With all three of them being wing qualified (Garrett and Clark can both play the 2, Thomas the 3) it only makes sense to make more room for them at the wing. Three of our four UFAs are wing players. But because logical sense is verboten here, I expect there to be no room made at all.

So we'll go into this off-season with a lot of knowledge of the good and bad of two players (RJ and Marv), expect two more to bounce (Rush and Bean), know one NG guy is No Good (Lucas III), and have a number of question marks to figure out. Oh, and worry about Hayward too -- that same dude who went home after last nights' game (where he was benched for long stretches by our UFA head coach) without speaking with the press.

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