Yesterday I wrote about the Utah Jazz cap situation, and back then I joked about how Dennis Lindsey had about $16 million difference decisions to make. That would be to reach the minimum allowed roster salary. One day and turn of the wheel in NBA Free Agency later and now that number has shrunk to $7 million.Though, in reality right now the Utah Jazz are about $14 million under the cap ... and have 11 players on the books. Point guards: Dante Exum and Trey Burke. Wing players: Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks, Rodney Hood, and Joe Ingles. And bigmen: Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert, Trevor Booker, Trey Lyles, and Grant Jerrett. The jazz need to add two more people to get to the NBA mandated roster minimum size of 13. And right now they need to somehow pay people another $7 million, at least. So what does the Jazz cap situation look like now, and how does it progress?
You all need to click on that to make it legible. It's worth it.
Yeah. I've separated it by player type here to make things easier to read. And there are options at each step of the way. The Jazz are rumored to be on the verge of signing both Tibor Pleiss and Raul Neto. That would bring the Jazz roster up to 13 players, and I could see them both totaling to over $7 million in contracts, but I really wouldn't want them to. That would be one way to tidy everything up -- but I think Dennis Lindsey is a wizard. And as a result, that's not going to be what happens.
The Jazz have a player under a non-guaranteed contract playing point guard for the summer league team right now in Bryce Cotton. Cotton was seen challenging Trey Burke last season, and would put up a strong fight against Neto too, if there was a proverbial "fly off". ("Anytime, baby!") Also complicating things is that there's rookie 2nd rounder Olivier Hanlan, who would be without a doubt the cheapest player to sign. Of course, the Jazz don't need to be stingy here, they need to make that minimum contract value somehow.
Shooting Guard and Small Forward:
There are two players here under non-guaranteed contracts, Elijah Millsap and Chris Johnson. I think Eli has earned the right to be on the team next season. And Chris is making a strong play right now to convince myself and others that he deserves to at least be brought into training camp. Frankly he deserves it move than Hanlan does. But outside of looking for a 5th wing, that rotation seems to be all settled with Hayward, Burks, Hood, and Ingles. If you wanted to add someone you want to add someone that either has a lot of upside, or brings something to the table no one else has. Millsap and Johnson are both on the wrong end of 25, but Millsap is a very tenacious defender and a better athlete. My bias is to retain Millsap -- which if we're also adding Neto and Pleiss brings the roster up to 14.
Power Forward and Center:
The Jazz have some assets here in Mario Austin, Peter Fehse (not pictured), Ante Tomic . . . and the hardworking Jack Cooley. Cooley is one of the four guys on non-guaranteed contracts. And in a pre-Pleiss world I think he gets a long look at auditioning for the 5th bigman spot. But there are not a lot of minutes to go around. I think Cooley would be okay with that. Perhaps the smart move is to keep both Tibor and Jack, but waive Grant Jerrett. Thus his nearly $1 still counts against our cap, but we have the space in the bigman rotation to also keep Jack and Tibor. This moves Cooley back to his natural PF, while letting him stay with the team or go back down to Idaho to work on his face-up game for another year.
If the Jazz do this they will retain 14 players . . . and that $7 million minimum would be split between Neto, Pleiss, Jerrett, Millsap, and Cooley. I think that's not impossible to do. That said, if the Jazz do elect to keep two of the four non-guaranteed guys, and keep or waive Jerrett (paying for him anyway), the team still need to spend $5.315 to make the minimum salary. (That's in the red section on the right hand side of the image.) That $5 million can easily be divided into the contracts of Neto and Pleiss if you ask me. And then we're good.
Of course, none of this deals with the obvious x-factor of . . . Olivier Hanlan. He's got confidence. He's got game. He just hasn't had an opportunity to play point guard yet for the Jazz. He's the cheapest guy out there and speaks French. (Rudy: "Oui?") I don't think the Jazz want to go against doctrine and bring 15 guys into camp with contracts already -- but they've shown the ability to eat guaranteed money before (Word up, Carrick Felix and Jordan Hamilton!) . . . so maybe that's how they get things done this year?
Ultimately, if I was a betting man, I expect Lindsey to package some of these non-guaranteed contracts as freebie assets to trade to other teams for a salary dump. Last year Lindsey traded away John Lucas III, Erik Murphy, and Malcolm Thomas to the Cleveland Cavaliers in a Cavs salary dump. Also last year he traded Diante Garrett to the Toronto Raptors for Steve Novak. In both cases he got cash and picks back. A season before he moved Kevin Murphy in a three team trade with the Golden State Warriors and the Denver Nuggets for Richard Jefferson, Brandon Rush, and Andris Biedrins. With limited spots available, lots of assets available, and a need to add at least $7 million more in contracts this may be the way Lindsey decides to proceed. Assets are assets, after all.