At the start of free agency period last summer many Jazz fans were high on having the Jazz attempt to sign Nemanja Bjelica in free agency. He was a restricted free agent, who had come into the league as an older European stretch-4 power forward, who could really shoot the 3-point shot (with an overall game somewhat remniscent of a young Mehmet Okur), and who reportedly was good friends with Jazz point guard Ricky Rubio--and thus had some interest in signing with the Utah Jazz. It appeared that Minnesota would probably fail to match a contract offer to Bjelica in the $5-7 mil. per year range, because doing so would likely put Minnesota over the salary cap for the 2018-2019 season.
The Jazz had already missed out on trading for one quality stretch-4 power forward in Nikola Mirotic, who had expressed interest in being traded to the Jazz prior to the 2018 trade deadline--but instead went to the New Orleans Pelicans in a trade deadline trade in February of 2018. The Jazz were still in need of more shooting, so it made sense that the Jazz might try to sign a stretch-4 PF in free agency.
However, the Jazz did not go after Bjelica when free agency started. I reasoned that it was because the Jazz already had Jonas Jerebko signed to a one-year, $4 mil. bargain contract, and he seemed to be as good or better as Bjelica, who would probably cost more to sign in free agency. However, the Jazz then unexpectedly waived Jonas Jerebko, and replaced him with D-League-player, (gorgeous) Georges Niang, for a contract in the amount of $1,512,601.00--reportedly, because the Jazz did not expect to be able to play Jerebko enough minutes to keep him happy during the 2018-2019 season.
Bjelica agreed with the Philadelphia 76ers to sign a one-year $4.4 mil. contract, but then changed his mind before the free agency moratorium ended--because he wanted a longer-term contract. He actually considered returning to Europe to play, but ultimately signed a 3-year contract with the Sacramento Kings for $20.5 mil. total, starting at $6.5 mil. his first year, and with the third year reportedly being non-guaranteed.
With a larger role and more minutes than he had in Minnesota, Bjelica is currently one of the top 3-point shooters in the league (shooting almost 4 3-point shots per game at a 51.6% efficency). He has good size for his position, and this season has also shown improved rebounding, play making and defensive skills. Although George Niang is also a very good shooter, he is undersized as a stretch-4 PF, and thus, has been best suited for only spot NBA minutes due to his lack of size, length and athleticism, which has resulted in some defensive deficiencies against larger, more athletic players.
The Jazz most likely could have had both players--Bjelica and Niang--on the team, and still stayed under the NBA salary cap. The Jazz most likely could have re-signed Georges Niang to a two-way contract, which would have allowed him to play a similar amount of minutes in a similar amount of games to what he will probably play for the Jazz this season as a regular roster player. Even after the Jazz signed Niang, they could have probably waived him and re-signed him to 2-way contract (if that is allowed under NBA rules--I'm not sure if it is), and signed Bjelica to a contract (for a portion of the mid-level exception) similar to that which he signed with Sacramento--and still been under the luxury tax cap of $123,733,000.00--wherein, even with Niang's contract, the Jazz's total 2018-2019 salary is at $117,052,671.00 (accordingly to HoopsHype NBA salaries website)--which is still $6,680,329.00 under the luxury tax cap. In hindsight, the Jazz had two opportunities to sign Bjelica, but passed on both chances.
As a Jazz fan, I am left to wonder if the Jazz might have been able to win many more games this season with another sharpshooter such as Bjelica on the roster, available to play effective minutes at the stretch-4 PF position--especially on a bargain contract, such as the one Bjelica signed with Sacramento (or was originally willing to sign with Philadelphia).
Signing (or trading for) stretch-4 PFs is always a crap shoot and doesn't always work out well, because many of such players tend to be very weak defensive players. However, I think the Jazz need to take a calculated risk on a somewhat unproven, young stretch-4 player at some point in the near future, because good stretch-4 PF shooting is in high demand in the current NBA, and it is reasonable to predict that veteran stretch-4 PFs with a proven track record are going to be paid (and overpaid) more and more of a premium in the future. It appears that signing Bjelica during last summer's free agency would have been a reasonable, calculated gamble based on the contract to which the Jazz probably could have signed him--and based on good scouting (along with good inside information about him that the Jazz could have obtained from Ricky Rubio)--but the Jazz whiffed on that opportunity.
The Kings were able to put the Jazz at a significant disadvantage the other night with both Bjelica and Bogdanovic shooting elbow 3-point shots at such a high efficiency. I'd like to see the Jazz with the ability to do that same thing to other NBA teams in the near future, so I'd like to see them take a risk (again) on a player similar to Bjelica in the near future--like they did with Mehmet Okur so many years ago.
Who are some young stretch-4 PFs who may be available in a trade, in free agency, or in the draft, in the near future, who you think the Jazz should attempt to obtain?