It's not a surprise to see the Utah Jazz be quiet during the first few days of NBA Free Agency. And sure, some the big name players (Kevin Love, Brook Lopez, Paul Millsap, Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard, Goran Dragic, Greg Monroe, Draymond Green, Tristan Thompson, DeMarre Carroll, Brandon Knight, Khris Middleton, Tyson Chandler) have already gotten a raise and found a home. And while some still wait to see where LeBron James / Marc Gasol / Tim Duncan (likely each to return to their original clubs) will go, the last few big names to figure things out are LaMarcus Aldridge, DeAndre Jordan, Dwyane Wade, Roy Hibbert, and Robin Lopez. It's sad, really. If you wanted to upgrade your roster all of the really transformational players are all ready all picked up. Even the smaller moves are being made now, with guys like James Anderson and Aron Baynes getting locked up. So let's look at the Jazz, let's look at who is left, and let's look at WHY sitting this one out isn't that bad.
The Jazz have 19 year old Dante Exum and 22 year old Trey Burke at the 1 and 2 spots on the depth chart. They just drafted 22 year old Olivier Hanlan. And currently on the roster they still have Bryce Cotton, also 22, on a non-guaranteed contract. Furthermore, they hold the draft rights to 23 year old Raul Neto. There is youth here, and some manner of depth. But you have the bad sides of both -- inconsistency of play, and a bunch of players who may one day be legit NBA players, but right now aren't just there. The team needs a steadying influence who can run a team while also not being someone who gets in the way of development.
There are a lot of guys on the market who would say no to a contract in Utah: Rajon Rondo, Patrick Beverley, Reggie Jackson, Matthew Dellavedova, Lou Williams, Kirk Hinrich (though he would be nice), Steve Blake, Jeremy Lin, Mo Williams, C.J. Watson, Raymond Felton, and Jameer Nelson.
There's a second list of PG's who may be okay with signing to join this Jazz point guard logjam: Andre Miller, Aaron Brooks, Norris Cole, Austin Rivers, Alexey Shved, Donald Sloan, Cory Joseph (another Canadian, also Spurs guy), Ronnie Price, Gary Neal, Will Bynum, John Lucas III, Jimmer Fredette, Justin Holiday, Shane Larkin, and Ishmael Smith.
Miller is an old guy who knows how to play point guard. He went to the University of Utah, and is really on his last legs. But I don't see him joining our squad. In fact, it's almost better to just figure out who will claim the point guard iron throne from the guys already on the team / are currently Jazz properties. Is Raul Neto better than Rajon Rondo or Reggie Jackson? No. But neither of those guys will play here. Is Neto better than Norris Cole or Donald Sloan? Probably.
Yes, I agree that the Jazz need better play from the point guard spot, but the short term solution would be to head-hunt for a better PG. The smarter, more long-term, solution is to do what is necessary to make our current point guards better. It has been the long held position of SLC Dunk that experience matters more than watching. And Dennis Lindsey is making sure that Quin Snyder is allowed to develop these guys. And he's doing that by not going for the quick fix.
Last season Trey Burke played 30.1 mpg, and Dante Exum played 22.2 mpg. Both need to keep playing a combined 50-55 mpg (and thus, there has to be some overlap as there is only 48 minutes in a game). Having a heady vet back them up is great, but like we've seen from Joe Ingles that vet can be a rookie in the NBA, but an experienced foreign player. That could be Raul Neto, who while he's only 23 years old, has played over 3k minutes over the last few years in Spain. Or you could keep Cotton around, as a great change up guard to the current roster.
I'd rather go with Exum, Burke, Hanlan, and one of Cotton or Neto as our four PGs on our 15 man roster than have to over pay for one of these available guys with dubious upside.
Shooting Guard and Small Forward:
The Jazz currently have Gordon Hayward (25), Alec Burks (23), and Rodney Hood (22) all on contract. They are three very good players with the potential to all be significantly important players on a strong playoff team's rotation. They all can make threes while none of them are three point specialists. None of them are defensive specialists either, however the team does have Elijah Millsap and Christapher Johnson (Chris Johnson) on non-guaranteed contracts for next season. These 3 +2 guys form a nice, flexible roster. Johnson (25) is a replacement level player, and Millsap (27) can be an athletic defender. I think Millsap, though older, is the better player who has a better chance to be an NBA player. Either way, both are not who you call on to be part of a normative four man wing rotation.
The Jazz have a restricted free agent available to them, Joe Ingles. Ingles (27) is the heart of this team. He communicates well with everyone and is the only one who really has big game professional experience. It's likely that the Jazz will retain the Aussie swingman. That means the team could say goodbye to either Johnson or Millsap. There would then be some depth needed at the wings. Who is available?
I don't think we're going to get LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Manu Ginobili, Tobias Harris, J.R. Smith, Gerald Green, Danny Granger, Arron Afflalo, Jason Terry, J.J. Barea, Tayshaun Prince, or Brandon Rush. Who are the next best players still on the market?
Wesley Matthews (talking with Raptors), Marco Belinelli, Corey Brewer, Omri Casspi, Alan Anderson, Leandro Barbosa, Rodney Stuckey, Michael Beasley, Richard Jefferson, Hedo Turkoglu, Wesley Johnson, Rasual Butler, Luigi Datome, Jason Richardson, Marcus Thornton, K.J. McDaniels, Nick Calathes, Willie Green, and some sort of Wayne Ellington / Cartier Martin / Dorell Wright hodge-podge.
You're almost better off a) sliding down Trey Lyles for spot duty, or b) keeping both Millsap and Johnson -- at least until training camp. Or c) keeping a spot open for someone in the NBADL or falls off a team during waivers.
There's no rush to fill out the SG/SF spot and make a logjam. The team will evaluate Millsap and Johnson during the Utah Summer League and Vegas Summer League. But they need to bring back Ingles. He's almost one of the best FAs available by now anyway! The need isn't for Top 3 wing talent, but for depth. The Jazz will get their insurance / depth. Do not worry.
Power Forward and Center:
Utah is anchored inside by Derrick Favors (23) and Rudy Gobert (23). Grant Jerrett (22) is also on the team, but yeah, I have a hard enough time remembering he is here. A bigger name, and ostensibly the 3rd big in the rotation, is Trevor Booker (27). Booker is a tweener who doesn't have the ball handling or three point shot to play any small forward; but his energy and physical play allows him to play at the four while being undersized. He's not a defender though, and doesn't have the length to be a difference maker in the paint. If Utah could upgrade their bigman rotation they would be unstoppable. Assisting this is Booker's contract which has him making $4.775 million this year; but, only $0.250 is guaranteed. I think the Jazz do retain him because, man, looking at who is available -- it's hard to do better.
The Jazz also have Jack Cooley on a similar non-guaranteed contract as Bryce Cotton, Elijah Millsap, and Chris Johnson are on. Though his days may be numbered if the Jazz do get an upgrade. And an upgrade could come from outside of the USA. Utah holds the rights to Ante Tomic and Tibor Pleiss. While Tomic has been discussed at length on this site, I've not written about Pleiss at all. He's a big guy. He has size. He also had an Andris Biedrins type of professional breakdown last season. He's better than his numbers show and a change of scenery could help him. Compared to some of the bigmen still on the board, well, he could be like Booker, hard to do better than.
LaMarcus Aldridge, David West, Marc Gasol, Tim Duncan, DeAndre Jordan, Robin Lopez, Roy Hibbert, Josh Smith, Amar'e Stoudemire, Brandon Bass, Kevin Garnett, Carlos Boozer, Kendrick Perkins, and Enes Kanter aren't coming over. You could start a discussion with guys like Ed Davis, Luis Scola, Derrick Williams, Mirza Teletovic, Andrea Bargnani, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Reggie Evans, Tyler Hansbrough, Thomas Robinson, Joel Freeland, Glen Davis, Charlie Villanueva, Jordan Hill, Bismack Biyombo, Kosta Koufos, Kevin Seraphin, and Jason Smith.
Davis and Scola are nice, if you can promise them the #3 spot in the bigman rotation. [Breaking News: Davis to Portland via Woj.] However, they both will be more expensive than needed. It would be hilarious to see stretch big Bargnani in Utah, but the Jazz are more likely to get Jason Smith. Personally, I like defense. So I like Mbah a Moute and Biyombo. I also am a sucker for crazy names, though. All in all, none of these guys would supplant Rudy or Derrick. And in reality, Trey Lyles could be better than most of them.
Being in a rush to upgrade the roster is nice. But I totally see why Dennis Lindsey is not doing that. He doesn't need to look for quick fixes, because he's already made a really good team. The best talent still want an opportunity to play. And in Utah, for the most part, the guys you could be bringing in aren't likely to challenge for minutes. The opposite is also true, the players who are likely to challenge the established Jazz players for minutes aren't likely to be guys you can bring in as free agents. The one true UFA on the team, Jeremy Evans, is someone that you probably bring back for a two year deal if you can't find an upgrade. He brings depth and does a lot of off-the-court stuff.
It's not a sexy off-season for the Jazz. But it's a stable one, one you can build upon. It's not a summer fling. It's an arranged marriage. At times it's awkward, but has a very low divorce rate. Whatever DL does do, it will be something he does with the bigger picture in mind. I remember my one week as a GM where I made a lot of moves that looked bad, but ended up turning out to be okay. Lindsey is doing the opposite behavior with the similar result -- the Jazz are going to be okay, even if this summer it doesn't look like we're making waves.
This is going to be a very good team. And that's why the Jazz front office don't have to run around this off-season like a chicken with its' head cut off. Sometimes being right and holding your ground will eventually be it's own reward. No Big Al. No Millsap on-again / off-again relationship. No quick fixes with vets. No mercenaries. Just development. Discipline. And Defense.
In Lindsey we trust.