Has there ever been such a critical period for a franchise than the last few months have been for the Utah Jazz? The team lost the games, secured the ping pong balls, won the coin flip, lost the lotto, hired a new head coach (Quin Snyder) owned the NBA Draft, and now have $30 million to play with in Free Agency. Utah now has to figure out how much is Gordon Hayward worth to them. And, some would say more importantly, figure out if they can lock up Enes Kanter and Alec Burks for the long term.
If you haven't yet read them, read Clark's opening dialogs on Enes Kanter (here) and Alec Burks (here), and read my piece on Gordon Hayward (here). Ideally, a larger piece of the Jazz capspace will go to these three players. (For Kanter and Burks we're talking about future cap space, which then would be ear marked away under the poison pill provision.) But that's not all.
Adding the players who have non-guaranteed contracts for the 2014-15 season the Jazz have a whopping 10 players they need to figure out about this summer. In addition to Hayward, and discounting Kanter and Burks, the Jazz need to figure out what to do with: Marvin Williams, Richard Jefferson, Diante Garrett, John Lucas III, Malcolm Thomas, Ian Clark, Brandon Rush, Andris Biedrins (listed here even though he was bought out), and Erik Murphy.
Personally, I still have that unreasonable love of Marvin Williams, and would want him back -- just not at his price last season. However, after the draft and picking up Rodney Hood the fear is that his replacement may already be on the team. Hood is a great three point shooter in that 3/4 tweener mold. Marvin is better right now, but Hood may be a way better value when comparing it to Marvin's price tag. Marvin is unrestricted and could easily find a good role on a contender for the mid-level exception, methinks. Malcolm Thomas ' fate appears to be somewhat linked to Hood as well, and I don't anticipate that he will be back.
Richard Jefferson is a super-duper vet who brought it every game he played in. He just didn't have much to bring anymore. I loved his surprising dunks, and feel like younger players could learn a lot from him. I just don't think he's going to be on our team next year, and I get the feeling that the Jazz front office feel the same way. RJ is unrestricted again, and will probably be looking for length on his next contract.
Diante Garrett and John Lucas III are BOTH in trouble because the Jazz drafted Dante Exum at #5, and the theory is that they will also try to bring Raul Neto over this year. Those are two young point guards who are better than Lucas (old) and Garrett (young-ish). Garrett and Lucas both have non-guaranteed deals for next season. Garrett, whom we like, will be scheduled to make $915,243; Lucas III will be making $1,600,000. If you add those up that's close to a payment to Neto's old club if you ask me. (But I don't really understand what the hold up is, as far as I can tell, Neto is an unrestricted free agent in Spain right now.) If the Jazz didn't get Exum I would argue strongly to bring Garrett back. I do like him, his size, and his three point ability. His play making comes and goes, but overall I liked his positive attitude. Pretty much everything Lucas does can be replaced by a guy like Earl Watson -- for cheaper than $1.6 million. But I don't know if that's even an option. Also, I wouldn't mind carrying four point guards, especially if two are rookies.
Fan favorite Ian Clark could be making $816,482 next season if the Jazz pick up his second year, it's cheap enough that it shouldn't hurt; however, I just don't see where he plays besides Idaho next year. I can't prioritize enough the point that a guy like Exum needs as many minutes as possible, even at the detriment of a guy I really like, like Ian Clark. We have the idea that Clark is a combo guard, and so is Exum. The difference here is that Exum is the #5 pick of the draft and a possible star. The Jazz need to put their eggs in that basket right now. So I can expect Clark to not be asked to return, unless the Jazz ARE serious about the Stampede.
Brandon Rush (UFA), Andris Biedrins (UFA, didn't finish season with the team), and Erik Murphy (UFA) should all be gone, and let's just move on from them.
The Jazz can go a little cheap by sticking with some of these younger players who have very small cap hits to fill some of their vacancies. I would at least offer Garrett and Clark training camp invites if no one picks them up by the time summer turns into fall. The Free Agent market may have some impressive names at the top, but the Jazz need to retain cap space for future seasons / lotto players (Kanter, Burks, Burke, Exum) -- so I would expect the Jazz to retain some of their flexibility. And that starts with saying goodbye to a number of these guys.
It's be fun Jazz mercs. Dennis Lindsey got the Mission Accomplished achievement by signing you, losing games, and getting a potential star. Your fates may already be decided, but remember, once a Jazzman, always a Jazzman!