It has seemed like a foregone conclusion that the Utah Jazz would re-sign George Hill once the offseason arrived. His presence at point guard elevated the Utah Jazz’s play and when he was healthy, the Utah Jazz were a force to be reckoned with. But unfortunately George Hill played in only 49 games in the regular season. The Utah Jazz traded their #12 pick last year to have George Hill’s services and the Utah Jazz tried hard during the season to try to extend George Hill’s contract during the season, but Hill and the Utah Jazz could not come to terms on a contract.
Now Dennis Lindsey has hinted that the Utah Jazz and George Hill might be farther apart on money than what it may appear. Yesterday, Dennis Lindsey spoke to the press in what has become his yearly “State of Jazz” address. He had this to say about George Hill courtesy of Andy Larsen of KSL.com:
He's a terrific guy, he's one of my pride and joys. I told him, if he gets a crazy offer somewhere else, and we helped him get that offer, you're not going to get one poor thought, much less word, if he goes elsewhere. And then there's a very good chance that we're each other's best option come July.
George Hill when he was healthy looked like a near max player. The Utah Jazz can’t afford to spend max money on Rudy Gobert, Gordon Hayward, AND then add George Hill to the max. Obviously, the Utah Jazz would love to add George Hill back to the roster. But the strategy that brought Hill to Utah might be the same strategy that leaves him priced out of Utah. Dennis Lindsey appears to be throwing out some signals to Hill’s camp that says, “We don’t want to pay you what you want so if you can find someone who will, we won’t hold it against you. But if you don’t find a partner at that price and your price meets our budget, you’re welcome back. No hard feelings.”
Dennis Lindsey has been a master at finding players whose value exceeds their contract value see also Joe Ingles, George Hill, Rudy Gobert, Boris Diaw, and Raul Neto. With the Utah Jazz and George Hill far apart on a potential agreement, Utah might not wait until free agency to re-sign George Hill or find a replacement. After all, with Utah poised to start their balancing act with the luxury tax they might look at the NBA draft with their two first round picks and the contracts of Derrick Favors and Alec Burks as ammunition to add additional talent to help entice Gordon Hayward to return for the 2017-2018 season.
In the age of a rising salary cap and record high NBA salaries the Utah Jazz would like to use their cap space on retaining their All-Star Hayward rather than retaining George Hill. The Minnesota Timberwolves have young guards Dunn and LaVine ready to take the reigns. This leaves Ricky Rubio as a possible trade target for the Utah Jazz. This is a dicey proposition trading inside the division.
Another trade target could be Eric Bledsoe. If the Phoenix Suns decide to clear the books and trade away the contracts of Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight that allows them to build their young core of Ulis, Booker, Bender, and their 4th pick. Then Phoenix is able to be a trade partner throughout the 2017-2018 season and beyond for teams seeking to shed salary. A perfect place for a rebuilding team. Utah can help them achieve those goals by trading the expiring contract of Derrick Favors + picks to the Phoenix Suns for Eric Bledsoe.
The Long Shot
Dante Exum. The Utah Jazz brought in George Hill to allow Dante Exum to return to action slowly. But that decision ultimately landed Dante Exum with a lot of DNPs as Quin Snyder showed his trust for Shelvin Mack. Dennis Lindsey in that same end of the season interview said the Utah Jazz gave Dante Exum some specific advice for the offseason.
We have to map out his schedule minute-by-minute. Dante's urgency has to match mine and Quin's urgency for him.
A long layup game, a floater game, a hard pullup game. I think a lot of Dante's mistakes come from that middle area and getting stuck with it. He also has to use his speed to break through the line to create shots for others. There's a lot of finishing stuff. Now that he's getting there, non-dunk finishes that are deep. We've got to catch up for some lost time.
This would also allow Utah to avoid the luxury tax. If Dante Exum can prove to the Jazz braintrust in the next month that he’s worthy of the investment, this could save Utah a lot of money and allow them to reinvest their cap space in Hayward and additional help for another playoff run.