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Updated Utah Jazz Cap Space and why they traded away Tibor Pleiss

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Hint: Derrick Favors

NBA: Houston Rockets at Utah Jazz Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Okay, after taking some time to figure all of this out (and using a lot of maths), it’s pretty clear that the Utah Jazz were basically led towards having to get rid of Tibor Pleiss. Not because he’s not a basketball player without value — averaging a double double in the NBA D-League while dropping threes like crazy in the Summer League prove that he is at least worth his salt. In fact, Utah trading Tibor almost has nothing to do with who he is as a person, or the things he brings to the table as a player. Frankly, it was just his salary. So in a way this was a roster move predicated by bean counting. But before we storm the Bastille here, know this: this was 100% the right move for the Utah Jazz.

So, let us recap what actually happened in that trade with the Philadelphia 76ers. Yes, the Utah Jazz traded Tibor Pleiss and “stuff” for Kendall Marshall and immediately waived him. Sure. But it goes a little deeper.

Utah and Philly Trade: August, 2016

While we may initially feel like giving up PICKS (our precious, precious 2nd round picks!) is a bridge too far — it really isn’t. The best pick out of the Detroit Pistons, Golden State Warriors, New York Knicks, and the Utah Jazz is probably going to be from which of those two Eastern Conference teams misses the playoffs. The worst is going to come from the Golden State Warriors. So the Jazz will be giving up a pick in the 30s and the 50s, while keeping whatever’s in the middle. That still gives the team an oppurtunity to do a “draft and stash” and select a four year NCAA player in the NBA Draft’s 2nd round. So I can live with using these picks to grease the wheel to make this trade happen.

Money isn’t really a problem for the Jazz right now, as they seem to be getting money from all places; heck, they just received $3.000 million from the Brooklyn Nets on Draft night back in June for trading away the #42 pick for the #55.

In fact, it seems that the only thing the Jazz gave up here was . . . a 7’3 question mark. Pleiss is on the books for 2016-2017, and his $3 million in salary is actually higher than that of Rudy Gobert’s 2016-2017 salary. Pleiss wasn’t going to come to the NBA from Spain’s ACB unless he was given a) a chance to play, b) get paid a similar market value to what he was making in Europe. So the Jazz had to throw the $3 million at him for him to even bite on their hook. In his exit interviews he professed a desire to actually play. After all, he can come off the bench in Europe. Starting in the D-League wasn’t what he wanted. In this way he may get what he wants, a chance to play in Philly while still getting paid.

It is also important to point out that Pleiss’ 3rd year of his contract (the next one after this year) is non-guaranteed. So for Philly they can waive him sometime before July 15th, 2017 and not have to worry about him at all. Ever again. But timing was important to Philly and Utah. Kendall Marshall’s contract WOULD have been guaranteed by the date of this writing (Saturday) — and while it was only in the $2 million range, Philly didn’t want to make that decision right now. So they traded him to Utah.

The Jazz waived him with impunity (having George Hill, Dante Exum, Shelvin Mack, Raul Neto, and Marcus Paige already all under contract as far as point guards go), in a way removing Tibor’s $3 million (or an equal contract of equal or lesser value, which is what Marshall’s was) off the books. Philly gets rid of Marshall’s contract too (which was a ticking time-bomb for them with it’s quick guarantee date), but instead get a player that they do not have to immediately have to make a decision on. Trusting the process means having to actually see what progress is being made. If Joel Embiid isn’t ready to go 100% then Tibor may be a more interesting prospect provided he shows up in training camp.

He could be the stretch big they need to allow #1 draft pick Ben Simmons to drive and dish all day long. Or they could waive him in training camp. Or do so after the NBA Draft next year with no on-going penalty. Or whatever. It’s their party.

So why did the Jazz get into a situation where they pretty much had to trade away Tibor’s contract? Two words:

Derrick.

Favors.

Utah Jazz v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

This dude.

Derrick Favors was the #3 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. While he hasn’t been an All-Star or All-NBA Player, it’s pretty clear that he’s among the most important pieces of this young (well, in their primes) Jazz team. He’s up for contract restructuring, but it’s a small window for his camp and the Jazz Brass to get it done. The earliest they can get the deal done will be October 19th, 2016 — and if they don’t get it done by February 28th, 2017 then D-Favs spends the second half of the season without long-term security and gearing up for his 2017-2018 contract year. Instead of letting that happen, and possibly losing him to NBA Free Agency for nothing in a year, the Utah Jazz and Favors can keep this thing going.

(Why you always gotta define what we are, and put labels on things, Amar?)

Anyway, Derrick is on the books for making about 11.7% of the current 2016-2017 Salary Cap. By restructuring his contract he can get a raise TODAY, while adding years to his contract, keeping him in a Jazz jersey for potentially the next five seasons. Also, he could be somewhat locked up at a lower value, as we know a 2016 off-season MAX is going to be less than a 2018 off-season MAX, right, what with the cap going haywire the next few seasons.

The bottom line is that the Jazz and Favors’ camp haven’t agreed to a value yet. By my estimation it’s to get Derrick making between 20% to 25% of the current Salary Cap. Going from 20% from 11.7% is a nice raise, but it’s not market value. How can we even trust a market that is paying Hassan Whiteside nearly 25%, but whatever. So if Whiteside is making that much Favors’ camp may feel like they need to get a competitive offer that’s in the mid 20% range, and not 20% flat. Utah would like to pay Favors a fair value, but still it’s in their best interest to pay him less than the absolute MOST they could pay him. (That’s the same case with all of their players though, so don’t take it personally.)

With Tibor on the team they could give him a raise to 20% of the cap, but the fact that they moved Tibor to get more space tells me that Favors’ camp wasn’t down for just 20% (a +9.3% increase of the cap space). By moving Tibor the Jazz got $3 million more cap space, and now can — if they have to — go all the way to 25% land on a contract restructuring deal.

Behold:

Derrick Favors raise scenarios, 2016

The Jazz now have the space needed to give Derrick his pay day (he took less than market value in his last contract, if you forgot) while still remaining UNDER the cap. And that would take the Jazz’ 2016-2017 Cap Space down from $14.8 million down to $2.3 million (enough for the guaranteed money that would be owed to some of our non-guaranteed guys, like Jeff Withey, Chris Johnson, and/or Marcus Paige).

Do not fret, as this doesn’t mess up any long-term plans for the team. Utah will have to pay Gordon Hayward (if he opts out, and he has a player’s option to do so) and Rudy Gobert (currently in the last year of his rookie deal) next off-season. But they will have the money to do that. Right now the Jazz are $68.7 million under the 2017-2018 Salary Cap. Favors at 25% (or let’s say 23% to 24% plus) is going to take a bite out of that, but only +$13.500 Million more than he was already on the books for. That would still leave +$55 million to fill out the roster, including +$20 million each for G-Time and the Gobzilla.

Nah, for reals:

Utah Jazz 2016-2021 Cap Space, August 27, 2016 AllThatAmar

You should probably just open that in another window and zoom on it.

Utah is financially placed to keep their most important players, and pay them. Which is important. Of course, they aren’t done making moves. Right now there are still 17 guys on the roster, with three of them on non-guaranteed deals: Jeff Withey, Chris Johnson, and Marcus Paige (who has $125,000 guaranteed this year). Tibor was redundant in terms of size, but not skill set. He will be missed, especially his free throw shooting and face-up game. But the team will move on. I’d rather have a locked-up Derrick Favors going into this season knowing he has a home and security here.

I think all parties want that.

And if the price to pay are draft picks and the possibility of Tibor becoming an NBA player, I’d sign off on that trade every single time.

As for the rest of the roster? Well, I figure that both Shelvin Mack and Raul Neto are being shopped, the about 1/5th of Marcus Paige’s contract being guaranteed helps put in the idea that they aren’t just fighting against one another but also look behind them for someone cheaper who does something neither of them does — is a light’s out shooter. Even without Paige (and his $125,000 guaranteed may be a sneaky retainer for him to represent the Salt Lake City Stars this year, and not go to Europe to play for much more in Latvia or whatever), Mack and Neto were heading towards a zero-sum game.

With wings like Gordon Hayward and Rodney Hood handling the ball more and more, and with Alec Burks being point guard capable (thank you based Corbin), it’s hard to justify FOUR point guards on the roster. Mack is star player Gordon Hayward’s (Butler) and head coach Quin Snyder’s (Atlanta Hawks) boy. Raul Neto is so much cheaper and more than two years younger.

Of course, the Jazz are at 15 if they keep both Neto and Mack, but say good-bye to Marcus Paige (likely), Chris Johnson (also likely), while retaining Jeff Withey (necessary as he’s the only other 7’ player on the roster now). There isn’t an immediate need to jettison a returning point guard. I just think that they have value; and as we clearly see, Dennis Lindsey isn’t against making fall roster moves.

For example, if Mack was traded away in a similar way (no players back that couldn’t be waived with no penalty) then the team would have over $15 million in cap space — and much more room to work with going forward into the 2016-2017 season.

Still, though, Utah is now placed to show Derrick Favors all the money he could possibly earn. And thanks to Tibor, because without him this wouldn’t have happened.