NBA Free Agency: Utah Jazz can pay for flexibility, and plan ahead

Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports

The Utah Jazz have shown aggression in the moves they can possibly make, and it's a product of their careful salary cap management. Looking ahead let's see if the Jazz fan maintain that flexibility in the years ahead.

N.B. This is not a serious article. It's a joke. Like some of our strategies over the last few seasons. That was also a joke. By the way, the joke's on season ticket holders. What, too soon? Anyway, don't get mad. Laugh if off.

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Last July the Utah Jazz completed a three team trade involving the Golden State Warriors and Denver Nuggets. The Jazz, due to careful cap management, were able to be aggressive. This aggression was the product of letting Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Mo Williams, Randy Foye (kinda), Earl Watson, and DeMarre Carroll all walk away in free agency. The team didn't move any of the unrestricted free agents in contract years at the deadline. The contracts expired, and the team had a lot of cap space. And the team used that cap space in Free Agency to . . .

. . . pick up Richard Jefferson ($11+ million), Andris Biedrins ($9 million), and Brandon Rush ($4 million). Well, that's not all. The Jazz also got a 2014 1st round pick from the Golden State Warriors, a 2016 2nd round pick from the Golden State Warriors, a 2017 1st round pick from the Golden State Warriors, a 2017 2nd round pick from the Golden State Warriors, and a 2018 2nd round pick from the Denver Nuggets, plus cash.

The key to this was having cap space, and finding teams willing to part with picks for a salary dump. Can the Jazz do this again? Let's find out!

What we will need:

  • A team with enough contracts that they can shed something like $24m onto us, like the Warriors did
  • Contracts owed to players that are performing poorly enough that you will pay someone draft picks to take them off your hands -- either because of their age, their ability, or both
  • A head coach who is an unashamed gerontophile
  • A team that actually has picks to give us in return for taking these guys off their hands
And remember kids, we're trading for vets in contract years that will expire NEXT off-season, so we're looking for players who have a contract that ends at the end of 2014-2015. BONUS: We can start them and pump up their trade value so we can trade them at the trade deadline. *WINK*

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Atlantic Division:

Player Team 2014-2015 Salary Condition
Earl Clark 76ers $4,250,000 Unrestricted Free Agent 2015

Clark is the only player Philly has who fits the bill, but his contract is worth only $4,250,000. He's also not ancient and on the downside of his career. He's not good, so that's a plus. But ultimately the Sixers don't have what we need here.

Player Team 2014-2015 Salary Condition
Rajon Rondo Celtics $12,909,091 Unrestricted Free Agent 2015
Jeff Green Celtics $9,445,000 Declines Player Option for 2015-2016
Brandon Bass Celtics $6,900,000 Unrestricted Free Agent 2015

Now this is more like it, there's nearly $30 million of salary here, but it's a little tricky. Jeff would have to somehow agree to decline his player's option for the 2015-16 season. The Celtics also have some picks they can dump on us. The problem here is that all three of these players are still actually pretty good. Making a trade here (maybe parting with Gordon Hayward) can still be seen as something constructive. No one is going to accuse you of tanking by trading for Rondo and these two forwards. Also, Boston isn't capped out, so this is unlikely to happen. Even if we have the flexibility to make it happen.

Player Team 2014-2015 Salary Condition
Amar'e Stoudemire Knicks $23,410,988 Does not terminate Contract Early
Carmelo Anthony Knicks $23,333,405 Does not terminate Contract Early
Tyson Chandler Knicks $14,598,888 Unrestricted Free Agent 2015
Andrea Bargnani Knicks $11,500,000 Does not terminate Contract Early
J.R. Smith Knicks $5,982,375 Declines Player Option for 2015-2016
Raymond Felton Knicks $3,793,693 Declines Player Option for 2015-2016

Oh my, this is heaven, right? It's tricky, some players would have to not terminate their contract early, others would have to decline player's options for their last seasons. But if that happens then we can fill up our cap with vets in contract years. The good thing here is that there are some great candidates for players who have a high perception of their value to a team who are on the downsides of their athletic ability and career. A guy like Tyrone Corbin would love to start someone like Felton or Amare. The problem in this case is that we don't have enough cap space to take all of their guys, and that the Knicks don't have the rights to all of their draft picks. Oh well. Back to the drawing board.

Player Team 2014-2015 Salary Condition
Brook Lopez Nets $15,719,063 Declines Player Option for 2015-2016
Kevin Garnett Nets $12,000,000 Unrestricted Free Agent 2015
Marcus Thornton Nets $8,575,000 Unrestricted Free Agent 2015

Okay, we may have a winner here. Garnett and Thornton both make too much and will be straight up UFA's in '15. The Nets are unlikely to dump salary though, so that's the problem here otherwise KG's age and usefulness would be great additions to our 'flexibility'. Thornton is unfortunately still a good player though, he's no Brandon Rush. I don't think we'd be in play for Lopez though, which is good -- he's still on the upswing of his career. Ultimately, though, we have no hope of having them dump salary on us unless their owner somehow loses billions of dollars on something stupid and pointless, like Joe Johnson's contract. (Oh wait...)

Player Team 2014-2015 Salary Condition
John Salmons Raptors $7,000,000 Unrestricted Free Agent 2015
Amir Johnson Raptors $7,000,000 Unrestricted Free Agent 2015
Landry Fields Raptors $6,250,000 Unrestricted Free Agent 2015
Chuck Hayes Raptors $5,958,750 Unrestricted Free Agent 2015

Sometimes the secret to getting a deal done is to go out there and get a lot of small, individually crappy parts, instead of trying to go out there and replicate greatness by getting one, vastly overpaid crappy part (Biedrins). The Raptors have four guys who will be playing 2014-2015 as a contract year, and all four of them are overpaid. As far as I can tell, Toronto has all of their picks (don't they? Peter?) and they are gearing up to be playoff contenders right now. (Pointless with MIA and IND, but no less pointless than GSW trying to do the same right now with SAS and OKC around.) They share a lot of similarities with GSW, and if we could do a three way where they get a good player to kinda put them over the top we could help them shed a lot of mediocre talent / expensive salary. It's a shame that our future coach may not be as crazy about Salmons as our current one is. It'll be a tough sell to the new coach.

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Central Division:

The Bucks don't have any really bad contracts that expire in 2014-2015 so we move on . . .

Player Team 2014-2015 Salary Condition
Carlos Boozer Bulls $16,800,000 Unrestricted Free Agent 2015

Downside of career? Overpaid? Non-complicated contract condition? Team may be willing to part with him? They have trade picks to send? Is it a lot of capspace? All of these answers is a yes. And this would be a troll move. KOC does it. DL does not. Shucks.

Player Team 2014-2015 Salary Condition
Anderson Varejao Cavaliers $9,704,595 Unrestricted Free Agent 2015
Kyrie Irving Cavaliers $7,070,730 Unrestricted Free Agent 2015
Tristan Thompson Cavaliers $5,138,430 Unrestricted Free Agent 2015

This one is easy, in order to make cap-space to resign Kyrie and get top level talent they salary dump Andy and TT to us. It's about a much as Boozer, but it's in two less good players. Andy is good, but old and not getting any better. TT could be okay, but I don't think we'd find out with the logjam we'd set up in our front court. I'm not sold on their draft picks situation though, so I don't think we can do this and not just be upset in general about it.

Player Team 2014-2015 Salary Condition
Roy Hibbert Pacers $14,898,938 Declines Player Option for 2015-2016
Luis Scola Pacers $4,868,499 Unrestricted Free Agent 2015

This one is more complicated because it means Hibbert is declining his P.O., and that's not likely to happen. Also both guys are still kind of good. Hibbert will not be available. Scola is on the downside of his career and likely to only get worse, but he's making only $4.9 million. He's not a big enough dump to eat up our cap.

The Pistons don't have any bad contracts that are available for the time frame that we want, so we go onto the next division.

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South East Division:

Player Team 2014-2015 Salary Condition
Al Jefferson Bobcats $13,666,667 Declines Player Option for 2015-2016
Gerald Henderson Bobcats $6,000,000 Declines Player Option for 2015-2016

Complicated and generally unlikely to happen. Even if their picks are reasonable. Big Al is doing things so they don't want to dump him anyway.

Player Team 2014-2015 Salary Condition
Paul Millsap Hawks $9,500,000 Unrestricted Free Agent 2015
Louis Williams Hawks $5,450,000 Unrestricted Free Agent 2015

This is much less complicated, but worth less, and less likely to be a salary dump -- Sap is an All-Star and Lou Williams used to be one. Both are in their physical peaks right now and at their best. It would have to be something special for Atlanta to want to get rid of them both.

Player Team 2014-2015 Salary Condition
LeBron James Heat $20,590,000 Does not Terminate Contract Early
Chris Bosh Heat $20,590,000 Does not Terminate Contract Early
Dwyane Wade Heat $20,164,000 Does not Terminate Contract Early

It is likely that Wade is the only one who doesn't not terminate their contract this off-season, and James and Bosh both look to test the free agent market. So I guess Wade is available. And he makes a lot. But he's still really good, but also old and injury prone. He could start at PF for us as a stretch big!

Player Team 2014-2015 Salary Condition
Jameer Nelson Magic $8,600,000 Unrestricted Free Agent 2015
Arron Afflalo Magic $7,750,000 Declines Player Option for 2015-2016

Arron is really good, and at his peak. Jameer is an old Trey Burke, so he would be a perfect player to start ahead of him. He's also over paid. And will be a UFA in 2015. The problem here is that Orlando doesn't have any OTHER bad contracts to throw our way as Arron will be off the table as a near-All-Star. Maybe they can bring Bo Outlaw back?

Player Team 2014-2015 Salary Condition
Andre Miller Wizards $4,625,000 Unrestricted Free Agent 2015

Like Scola, old, on the downside of their career, and only going to get slower and slower. But also, like Scola, not making enough money to a) necessitate a team wanting to dump him, or b) to take up most of our cap. He can't make is flexible enough. So we'll have to pass.

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South West Division:

Player Team 2014-2015 Salary Condition
Marc Gasol Grizzlies $15,829,688 Unrestricted Free Agent 2015
Tayshaun Prince Grizzlies $7,707,865 Unrestricted Free Agent 2015

Tay, with that contract and his geriatric age, would be a perfect dump candidate. He's old enough to make it here in Utah. Also the Grizz may be a piece or two away from being serious trouble, so they may want to dump salary like the Dubs did. They just can't dump enough to fill our entire cap, and are not going to do anything but resign Gasol. Also their picks are bound to be really bad as well. No sale!

Player Team 2014-2015 Salary Condition
Monta Ellis Mavericks $8,360,000 Declines Player Option for 2015-2016
Brandan Wright Mavericks $5,000,000 Unrestricted Free Agent 2015

This is way more like it. By this time maybe the Mavs are rebuilding, and don't want a bunch of over paid shoot first guys who are inefficient? We'd need Monta to do something irrational and leave money on the table by declining his P.O., but he's doing irrational things before. This would be around the same cap hit as Rush + Beans, so it's part way there. But not as great as the flexibility we got from the trade we did last off-season.

Player Team 2014-2015 Salary Condition
Eric Gordon Pelicans $14,898,938 Declines Player Option for 2015-2016

Now only if we could do a three-way with NOP and DAL and get Gordon too! But we'd need both of these guys to leave money on the table in order to come to us in contract years. So it's unlikely to happen.

Player Team 2014-2015 Salary Condition
Omer Asik Rockets $8,374,646 Unrestricted Free Agent 2015
Jeremy Lin Rockets $8,374,646 Unrestricted Free Agent 2015

I'm not crazy about either of these players. They aren't old enough or useless enough to be salary dumps. Asik would start here though, so that's a help. And both of them will be in contract years and thus we're not expecting them to do something like decline the last year of a contract. It would still only be $16+ million. And that's just not enough of a dump to fill us up.

Player Team 2014-2015 Salary Condition
Tony Parker Spurs $12,500,000 Unrestricted Free Agent 2015
Manu Ginobili Spurs $7,000,000 Unrestricted Free Agent 2015
Danny Green Spurs $4,025,000 Unrestricted Free Agent 2015

On the other hand THIS is enough contracts to fill our cap up, and they are also all UFAs in contract years. But it's very unlikely that any of them will be on the market. The Spurs are too classy.

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North West Division:

The Nuggets don't have any bad contracts to dump that year, so moving on . . .

Player Team 2014-2015 Salary Condition
Kendrick Perkins Thunder $9,654,342 Unrestricted Free Agent 2015

Old. Best days behind him. Limited. Vet. Expensive. Team may want to get rid of some salary. We could have a winner here!!! It's just not enough, but I guess if we combine it with some other teams we may be able to replicate what we did with the DEN-GSW-UTA deal of 2013.

Player Team 2014-2015 Salary Condition
Kevin Love Timberwolves $15,719,062 Declines Player Option for 2015-2016
Ricky Rubio Timberwolves $5,070,686 Unrestricted Free Agent 2015
Chase Budinger Timberwolves $5,000,000 Declines Player Option for 2015-2016
Corey Brewer Timberwolves $4,702,500 Declines Player Option for 2015-2016
J.J. Barea Timberwolves $4,519,500 Unrestricted Free Agent 2015
Luc Mbah a Moute Timberwolves $4,382,576 Unrestricted Free Agent 2015

There are many players and bad contracts to pick from here -- but only a few are going to be pure UFA's in contract years. Three of the players will have to decline a player's option. And a lot of them are still young and possibly good. Of course, if their GM wants to blow it up and start over we have enough cap space to absorb a lot of what they may want to purge. But I really don't see some of these fringe NBA players saying no to money that's on their contract. That sucks, because this is a franchise that's known for making mistakes. But we all know that it would be a mistake NOT to pawn off $20+ million in a salary dump to us, for the price of some draft picks. Right? RIGHT?

Player Team 2014-2015 Salary Condition
LaMarcus Aldridge Trail Blazers $16,006,000 Unrestricted Free Agent 2015
Wesley Matthews Trail Blazers $7,245,640 Unrestricted Free Agent 2015
Robin Lopez Trail Blazers $6,124,728 Unrestricted Free Agent 2015

These players are in their primes, good, and will get paid by a contender. They won't be available.

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Pacific Division:

Player Team 2014-2015 Salary Condition
DeAndre Jordan Clippers $11,440,124 Unrestricted Free Agent 2015

Makes a lot of money, is limited, and will be in a contract year. He's just not old enough, I mean, c'mon, wouldn't you rather have Kendrick P here instead of DeAndre J? I think we all know the answer to this one.

Player Team 2014-2015 Salary Condition
Derrick Williams Kings $6,331,404 Unrestricted Free Agent 2015
Jason Terry Kings $5,850,313 Unrestricted Free Agent 2015

By themselves, it's not enough money -- but Terry is almost perfect in that he's inefficient, old, and thinks he should still start. If we could mix this with the OKC dump of Perkins we could really start something awesome. I do think that the Kings probably value their picks a little more than other teams do. On account that they're likely to always be lotto picks.

Player Team 2014-2015 Salary Condition
Steve Nash Lakers $9,701,000 Unrestricted Free Agent 2015

Okay, new plan, retain flexibility by getting Perkins and Nash, and picks. Done. Starters for life.

Player Team 2014-2015 Salary Condition
Goran Dragic Suns $7,500,000 Declines Player Option for 2015-2016

Too young. Needs to be at least Nash's age to really be a dump candidate, with respect to his current career trajectory.

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Conclusion:

I think the Jazz can find some broken down players who are overpaid and think too much of themselves to be a part of a salary dump trade this off-season. It's just going to be hard to replicate the bounty we received by taking $24+ million in one transaction like we did last July. Some teams may be able to give us picks too -- but what matters if flexibility. And you maintain that by consistently filling your roster (and salary cap) with old guys playing in contract years.

You know that. Our coaches know that. And our front office knows that too.

And yes, flexibility can be used to make trades at the deadline, but that's just for impatient people. You gotta wait to let those guys walk in free agency, and then get cap space to do it all over again! That's how you win!


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