It's May right now and in the post NBA Draft lottery aftermath (the Utah Jazz dropped from #4 to #5) some people have e-mailed about NBA Free Agency. Furthermore, I've read a number of articles, fanposts, and comments that seem to hinge on impossibilities when talking about potential trades the team could do between now and the NBA Draft to move up. As a result, it's important to go over what the Utah Jazz have and currently do not have, in terms of assets.
Essentially, you can't trade a bird in the bush, only a bird in the hand. And I want to help educate people on what birds the Jazz still need to figure out about.
Current (2014-2015 NBA Season) Question Marks:
Essentially the fate of the Jazz may rely upon these 9 players -- both in the short term and the long term. Also this group displays the most non-Biedrins income inequality of any. Depending on what the front office decides all of none of them will be with the team next year, and every combination in-between.
- Gordon Hayward (SG/SF) -- Hayward is a Restricted Free Agent (RFA) as a consequence of not having reached an agreement on a new deal with the Utah Jazz before the deadline of October 31st, 2013. His situation was the opposite of what happened with Derrick Favors (where the Jazz agreed to pay him, and he agreed to get paid). And it's a grim portent to the potential future for Enes Kanter and Alec Burks. In a "prove what you are worth year" Hayward had the ball in his hands a lot and did a lot of great things with it. He also shot really, really poorly. Conventional wisdom would suggest that he had the potential to earn about a ho-jillion dollars if he played well; but what happened was that he probably moved his price by +/- 15%. Most indications suggest that between the two parties (the Jazz and Hayward), the Jazz received more leverage because of his season production. However, this is an issue of restricted free agency. And some team is bound (because they have money to spend, and the good free agents signed with other teams) to throw a dump truck full of money at him two weeks into free agency. In a way, the Jazz have a window of advantage here, because the longer Hayward's camp holds out, the greater the chance that some other team will step up to be used as a bargaining tool. Of course, if that happens then the Jazz have the ball back in their court on if they will or will not match. (And during that period that ties up the money for that other team, so they can't make other deals) It's a chess match. And the spectators are the fans. We would want him back. I think the Jazz want him back too. And Hayward has indicated that he likes it in Utah. The issue is money. And each party is going to have to give something up in this situation. The Jazz will have to give up money, or say goodbye to a fan favorite. Hayward will have to either give up on a market dictated pay day, or say goodbye to being a fan favorite here and top dog. This issue would be easier to deal with if the Jazz draft Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker. So . . . let's wait until the draft finishes before deciding G-Time's fate. Oh what? The Jazz pick 5th? Hmm.
- John Lucas III (PG) -- Lucas is a great guy, and I love how he went all Carlton Banks in that game against the Houston Rockets. But he is pretty much all diminishing returns at this stage. He's also a good indication of how attractive Utah is to free agents. (He was our big free agent signing last year) He has a non-guaranteed contract for next year which the Jazz will have to decide on. The team is really hungry for point guards because there's only one on the books right now (Trey Burke). So it makes sense that they'll need a reliable, veteran PG to steady the team. Right? It works out on paper; but in practice, ultimately, he doesn't produce -- and I'd rather have Earl Watson on the club than him. And let's be real, $1.6 million is just too much cheddar for JLIII. That's more than Rudy Gobert will make next season, and nearly as much as Jeremy Evans.
- Malcolm Thomas (PF/SF) -- Thomas also has a non-guaranteed contract for next season, and it's under $1.0 million. He has stretch four theory, but didn't really show it in the games he got in. He had some nice finishes at the rim, but for the production he gave the Jazz could be better served saving money and signing another D-League guy to do the same thing. The difference is that because Thomas played with the Jazz last season and finished the season with the team he's up for a raise. For about the same price as Thomas the Jazz could buy a 2nd round pick *and* also pay a D-leaguer to do the same things. Unless he really works his butt off I wouldn't expect him back. I would love to actually see what he can do, though. He looks like a player.
- Diante Garrett (PG/SG) -- Garrett has a non-guaranteed contract for next season which will pay him close to $1,0 million, but less than what Thomas is owed. Garrett can play both guard positions off the bench and distinguished himself as the only non- Richard Jefferson player to reliably make open three pointers. It's a no-brainer to bring him back and let Lucas walk. It would be an even bigger no-brainer to offer him an actually guaranteed three year contract worth $4.25 - $4.75 million total. Give him some security, and years, and lock him in at a low price. He's a capable backup, and at worst, one of the best combo third stringers in the league.
- Erik Murphy (PF) -- Murph, like everyone on this list not named G-Time, has a non-guaranteed contract. And it's another one that's less than $1.0 million. The Jazz did the Chicago Bulls a favor by claiming him off waivers so they saved some money and remained under the $71,748,000 million luxury tax threshold. He's a stretch big, but less versatile. And like Thomas, we really have no clue what he can do. I could see the Jazz keeping one of the two, but not both. Yes. Both are dirt cheap. But the standard non-guaranteed contract for a D-League guy in his first stint with a particular NBA team is half of what these guys are owed in their second year with the team. (I don't know all the rules, I'm inferring from actually looking at year by year earnings for D-League guys)
- Ian Clark (SG/PG) -- Clark is owed the same exact value as Murphy. Who would you rather have? And yes, this is another non-guaranteed contract. The Jazz need guards. Unless they leave the draft with three wings I see no need to not guarantee the 2014-15 season for him. He's a low risk / medium reward guy if you ask me. Someone like Murphy is a low risk / low reward guy. Or at least that's what the Chicago Bulls reporters, bloggers, and fans tell me. (I live in Chicago, the place he played before joining the Jazz)
- Ante Tomic (C/PF) -- The 7'2 Tomic is an asset. He is under contract in Europe for at least another season. And the rookie scale contract he'd get as a 2nd rounder would be a huge pay cut for him. The Jazz can't pay him more than the estimated value I put there (depending on the BRI for '14). They could pay an undrafted rookie more than one of the biggest, best, most successful players in Europe. Effectively he'd only play in the NBA if a) he really was motivated to play against people like Dwight Howard, Anthony Davis, and Andrew Drummond on a regular basis, or b) he earns enough money to not need money anymore. So this is why I call him an asset and not a future Jazz player. Sadly, we need to trade the rights to him because he's never coming over to Utah.
- Raul Neto (PG) -- Neto is in an almost completely different situation than Tomic. Tomic is like the David Robinson of Europe right now, one of the best most skilled bigs who takes his team deep in the playoffs every year and wins awards. Neto is like the Kenny Anderson, playing for a team that is bad and his career is going nowhere slowly. He's also (according to the data I have) an unrestricted free agent, so there's no buyout needed. He's younger, and expressed an interest to playing in the NBA. He also played in the summer league last season. His career is leading him to the L, and as a result, the Jazz. He is also under the same problem of the base level earnings as a drafted player that Tomic would face, but it wouldn't be as much of a pay cut. If Neto doesn't join the team this off-season then someone should be fired. This is a slam dunk.
- Peter Fehse (PF) -- I am almost 100% certain that he has retired or has been sucked into a parallel dimension. His twitter account is like a brief glimpse into the life of a potential Eric Bana style sci-fi themed romance movie. He's not coming over to Utah, and I don't think there's a market for him. Even if a trade filler. Don't let Tomic the asset become Peter Fehse. Either make the hard sell on the NBA to Ante, or trade him before his rights become worthless.
The three European players (well, two Europeans, and one South American playing in Europe) are assets that the Jazz can use to trade up with right now. The players with non-guaranteed contracts are mostly worthless right now. And Hayward can't be touched until July 1st at the earliest. So if your plan for the Jazz this draft involves moving Gordon go back to the drawing board.