According to Woj, the Utah Jazz were involved in a three-team trade with the Atlanta Hawks and the Indiana Pacers. The initial breakdown can be found here, and that includes much of the fan discussion so it's worth while to check out the comments section. The team gave up a 2016 NBA Draft 1st round, Pick #12 in the trade -- and apparently nothing else. Depending on who you listen to it could be called a coup, or something worse. For me, honestly, I like this move. I love young guys and I think that Gordon Hayward is better served chasing his professional goals on another team that is better served to support them. But even so, this is a good move for the team I root for. It's not an "A", but it's at the very least a solid "B" letter grade.
I would not have made this move if I was GM, but I can live with it. My big picture issue is the fulcrum of this (and the next) off-season -- trying to build around G-Time. I'm not a Gordon Hayward hater, I think he's a fantastic player reaching his prime. Sadly, the majority of the other Utah Jazz players are way behind him developmentally though. This trade sheds possible youth for a decidedly "win now" mode. After all, 30 year old point guards really serve no other purpose. So let's take a look at this roster. [N.B. Way more George Hill posts to follow.]
Everything going into today's NBA Draft:
(N.B. Future picks are not included because this table was already too clunky)
I've divided this roster up into different sections: players on the books; non-guaranteed players; free agents; current 2016 NBA Draft picks; and other. In the other section I did not include the rights to Shan Forster (who retired) and Peter Fehse (who is now coaching, but last I checked was not yet retired) -- just Oliver Hanlan, Mario Austin, and Ante Tomic. We don't need to spend much time on those guys though, so moving on . . .
1. Players on the Books:
The first thing you notice here is that Dante Exum is starting, not Hill. It's fair to say that Hill will start at the beginning of the season, but as a Jazz fan you HOPE that Exum is good enough to start mid-way though to the finish of the season and surpass Hill. Some of us fools still hold out hope that Exum can develop into a star player. I don't want him to finish this season worse than the 4th option on those somewhat okay Indiana Pacers teams that thought they could take the Miami Heat in the NBA Playoffs years ago. Exum's defense makes the Jazz hum like a well oiled, finely tuned machine. The 20.99 year old point guard (by July 1st, 2016 -- when Free Agency begins) will be ready to re-start his so-called career. Since he is not playing for the Boomers this summer he should play for the Jazz in the Summer League. But that's just me being crazy again.
He will share the ball with Rodney Hood and Gordon Hayward. G-Time is effectively in a contract year (hence the gold $ sign behind his current season's salary) as he is going to opt out of his last year (thank you based Player's Option). So sharing may not be what he wants to do, but if he wants to win it's what he must. I could go on and on with Hayward talk, but we'd end up right at the beginning again.
Hood should be even better than last season, and hopefully more competent on defense, and more reliable with his outside shot. Hood catches fire and gets cold. You can survive with some game to game fluctuation, but Hood gets extremely cold and extremely hot. It's hard to bank on.
Both Hood and Exum are still on their rookie deals, and should not be a head ache for at least two off-seasons.
The starters are anchored by Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert. Gobert kind of had a less than impressive season, but he looks all fired up to dominate going forward. It's also, perhaps not so co-incidentally, a contract year for him as well. His fire should be tempered with Favors' maturing game. Before he was just a tenacious athlete who could get at it with blocks, rebounds, and dunks. Now he has expanded his range and is a two-way threat who could start for many playoff teams. He will be going into his 7th year in the league, and is only 24 still. That's ridiculous.
The people over at NBA 2K may not think this is the best starting line-up possible. But I like this group.
Possibly the best Bench in the NBA:
Okay, that may be a bit of hyperbole, but there are some nice pieces here. George Hill is possibly the best point guard on the team since Deron Williams, and could be the best back-up point guard on the team since John Stockton was Rickey Green's caddy. (That was back before a lot of you were even born, man I'm old.) Hill can play defense, he can hit the three, he can finish at the rim, and he's played in a lot of games that matter. (In the table it shows him playing in 78.1 games per season, that's not because he is healthy, that is because it includes all of his playoff games -- without the playoffs he plays in 68.8 games per season) I'll go more into Hill in the next two posts, so just wait for them. One of the main reasons why I am (at least for now) putting Hill on the bench is because I did not want to start THREE guys in contract years. Hayward is in one, and has to start. Gobert is in one as well, and needs as much motivation as possible in order to evolve into the next level of Gobert. Hill is 30 years old, has been in the league for over 8 years, and is smart enough to know how to make his money without breaking out of the team concept.
Alec Burks is probably good enough to start, but he didn't go to Duke University like Rodney did. Burks, hopefully with a healthy year, will provide a steady scoring punch off the bench -- something the team missed all year long. His ability to hit the three, get to the line, and actually pass the ball make him terrifying to defend against if you forgot about him. Most fans have. The teams, coaches, and players who do will pay for it, though. He is making an awful lot of money for someone who misses a lot of games, but each time his problems have been acute, not chronic. His play style does seem to put him on crutches a lot. Part of getting older is getting smarter. He only plays 1,193.0 minutes per season though, maybe he's just so behind the curve it's hard to judge him as a guy going into his 6th year in the league?
Joe Ingles gets steals, hits threes, is a capable ball handler, is a floor general, and is the guy who keeps the entire locker room together. He's like the older brother who is in college when you are in high school -- and all of a sudden you find him asleep on your parents couch and you realize that it's Spring Break for him. That said, he would be an amazing 5th wing in a rotation instead of being a capable 4th wing. If there is a chance to get an upgrade here at the wing depth chart I am good with it (within reason -- let's not trade Gobert or anything). Joe is technically in a contract year as well, but I forgot to indicate it on the table. But I don't think that is going to change how he plays.
Trey Lyles just barely turned 20 and should be playing a bigger role with the team this year. He's the only one on the team who has a financial plan set out all the way to the 2019-2020 season (by the way, the Jazz are $90.1 million under the cap for that off-season). Lyles has the ability to hit threes, while still being effective on offense posting up, on the break, on offensive rebounds, and off the bounce. He could be a less athletic Tom Chambers / Donyell Marshall in time. That's a great player, even without the legendary hops. Defensively he is still a ways away, but does block some shots. Developing players while trying to win was impossible for the former coach. Hopefully Quin Snyder can do what the last guy could not. Lyles, at 20, needs a lot of development.
Tibor Pleiss gets the nod here because he's actually under contract. I don't know how much he is going to improve over the next season -- which will take him to age 27. He needs to get stronger and be more mobile on defense / improve on his quickness. Offensively he is solid on tip-ins, offensive rebounds, passing, and spotting up (even from three). He is a challenge to get on the floor because he's just not ready for the speed of the American game right now, or the physicality. Like Ingles, if there's an upgrade here (and there could be just in the non-guaranteed section) you should try to take it.
If you are keeping track at home you see three empty slots for our 15 man roster. But if you are keen and have eyes you will first notice that these are point guards #3 and #4 on the books right now: Raul Neto and Trey Burke. I don't want to harp on this but Burke is probably going to get moved soon. Either at the NAB Draft or during NBA Free Agency. His strengths are not what head coach Quin Snyder wants out of his point guards. And the former NCAA Player of the Year found himself in a very new situation this past season -- not only did he somehow become the 3rd stringer, but he started to rack up DNP-CDs. His coach didn't even want to play him, and that's gotta sting. Burke is in a contract year, so that will only add to his motivation to perform on his next team. He has gotten better every year in the league, and if it was up to me I would still have him on the Jazz. (Very little return on the investment if they just move him, guys like Jerryd Bayless, D.J. Augustin, and heck, Jameer Nelson aren't great from day one -- but all became rotation players / occasional starters.)
Raul Neto is the hottness. He smoked Derrick Rose one on one in that Jazz / Bulls OT game. He is more than capable of helping teams win. Somehow he's also facing the minutes crunch here. He worked his way up from being a bench guy in other countries to being the full-time starter in Spain's ACB league. After starting most of last season now he is going to be on the deep bench again. Sometimes life isn't fair for the pretty ones. Raulzinho is among the prettiest. He's also one of the best values in the entire league.
3. Non-Guaranteed Players:
There are only three guys here, but right now that's three too-many if the team wants to add anyone new. Yes, Utah's GM Dennis Lindsey did trade away the guaranteed contract that would be a 1st round pick -- but if he elected to bring all three of these guys back then the team would be at the maximum allowed (without an injury exemption).
Shelvin Mack is Gordon's homie from Butler University. He was head-hunted from the Hawks at the NBA Trade Deadline and Quin Snyder loves him, probably more than he loves Booker. Mack was the starter from Game 2 of his Jazz career and was surprisingly effective for a career 3rd stringer. Mack has a non-guaranteed contract that needs to be figured out before July 7th this off-season. If we expect the lion's share of the point guard minutes to go to Exum, Hill, and possibly Burks, there may not be enough for Mack. (Man, I didn't even mention Neto!) Mack is versatile enough, and Snyder's Xs and Os are build for flexibility, to play shooting guard. But I don't think you win any championships like that. Mack can be replaced now that Hill is on the team -- taking over both the point guard starting spot for the time being, and also being a floor general and veteran presence.
Chris Johnson is an NBA Player. I've been harsh to him in the past, but he was given an opportunity last season and he did his best. He fills out a roster and should be used in emergencies. Unfortunately, almost all of last season was an emergency -- and he was called upon often. He may not be necessary going forwards though if another wing is added during the off-season.
Jeff Withey heeded the call of duty when Rudy Gobert went down and was very effective. He got rebounds, blocked shots, and shot a high percentage at the rim. I'd say that he probably would have started for Jerry Sloan back in those NBA Finals years, if he was on that team. Unfortunately, he wasn't on those teams, but on this one. And on this one the starting center is Gobert and the back-up is Favors. Withey, technically next in line, was pushed back. He's not very expensive and unless the team acquires a great center, I think you almost have to try to figure out a way to bring him back.
4. Free Agents:
I only put Trevor Booker in the table because he was the only guy who was left standing at the end of the season. Grant Jerrett was bought out before training camp. Elijah Millsap was waived during the season. Erick Green and J.J. O'Brien were on 10-Day contracts. None of them look to be on the team next year. You could make an argument to keep Booker. But I could make an argument on why it's okay if he leaves.
Booker is looking for a raise this off-season, but even the most casual search tells me that what he was able to accomplish in a contract year off the bench wasn't outstanding compared to what other "1st big off the bench" types averaged. Lovable guy. Handsome. Lots of energy. No fear. Shows toughness on a team that really needs it. But I don't know if he showed enough of his basketball game in order to be asked to return.
5. Draft Picks and Other:
After the Jeff Teague (IND) / George Hill (UTA) / 1st round #12 (ATL) trade the Jazz are left with three 2nd rounders this year: #42, #52, and #60. They aren't valuable by themselves, but perhaps the Jazz are able to move them with some assets for something useful?
I don't know.
Speaking of questionably useful things: Olivier Hanlan is turning into a solid professional point guard but that league may never be the NBA; Mario Austin is still not retired yet; and Ante Tomic is never coming over.
The most recent projections show the Salary cap rising to $94 million this off-season. The Luxury Tax will thus begin around the $113 million range. These are impossibly big numbers, and it's likely that the Jazz won't ever get close to the tax in the next few off-seasons. The next few seasons things continue to be crazy.
- [2016-17] Jazz salary on the books $64.561 M // Salary Cap $94.000 M // Luxury Tax $113.000 M -- Approx $29.439 M in cap space
- [2017-18] $32.666 M // $107.000 M // $127.000 M -- $74.334 M
- [2018-19] $14.901 M // $105.000 M // $126.000 M -- $90.099 M
- [2019-20] $0.000 M // $106.000 M // $129.000 M -- All of it
- [2020-21] $0.000 M // $112.000 M // $136.000 M -- All of it
Utah is close to being able to still offer someone over $25 million a season. On a team that is still missing a "Top Banana" I wouldn't be against putting a lot of eggs in one really good, actual All-Star, basket. Of course, Kevin Durant is only paying lip-service when he mentions
the Jazz small market teams as a possible destination (like he did in a recent interview).
At the end of this day the Jazz still have a lot of cap space, have a few places they can upgrade, but more than anything else, really don't have a lot of roster space left. But things can be done, and will!