Malcolm Brogdon isn’t the most attractive option for the Utah Jazz in free agency. He also isn’t supposed to be. If all went well, Dennis Lindsey might very well managed to pull of signing a higher-caliber star like D’Angelo Russell, Tobias Harris,
Kemba Walker or, heck, maybe even Jimmy Butler or Kawhi Leonard (you never know).
But while Brogdon doesn’t set ablaze the newspaper headlines, he would be far from the worst in terms of a free agent haul. Brogdon wouldn’t be a consolation prize. He’s not a “sneaky-good pickup” in the range of Danilo Gallinari’s and Kevin Love — guys who would keep Utah playoff relevant but maybe not make them into playoff contenders.
The 26-year old Brogdon represents a bridge between the home run signing and the disappointing consolation. He’s just about everything you want in the third wheel of a “big three,” he’s just missing the All-Star punch of the other guys.
Taking a look at Brogdon as a player, the first thing you notice is that he’s and efficiency monster. He’s just a handful of percentage points away from being a career 50/40/90 guy in three season. This past season, he actually pulled off that very feat with a 50.5/42.6/92.8 shooting split. Brogdon did this while simultaneously setting new career highs in usage and scoring (putting in 15.6 points per game) and posting the lowest turnover percentage of his career.
Brogdon is basically the quiet star. The guy you hope is the next Victor Oladipo or D’Angelo Russell. A player who, when handed a larger role in a good system, is able to thrive and grow his game to a whole new level.
So how does Utah sign this guy?
Well, for starters, he’s a restricted free agent, which throws a huge wrench into the idea of signing him. Prying good RFA’s away from teams is like trying to get a toddler to relinquish his favorite toy or blanket. It ain’t happening unless you pull off a really tricky move.
The Bucks are in a place this offseason where they have to choose which great role players they want to keep. They have $70.6 million on the books guaranteed, with choices upcoming regarding Khris Middleton, George Hill, Brook Lopez and Nikola Mirotic.
Middleton is owed $13 million but has an Early Termination Option he could exercise and get a deserved raise. Mirotic and Lopez, paid $12.5 million and $3.4 million respectively, are now free agents. Hill is sitting on $18 million for next season, pending the Bucks approval as it’s non-guaranteed money.
Resigning all of these players to their respective options or 2018-19 contracts would put Milwaukee $8 million over the projected 2019-20 salary cap and just $14.5 million under the luxury tax. Unfortunately, the Bucks probably won’t be signing Middleton for $13 million and they probably won’t get Lopez on the steal-of-a-deal at $3.4 million. Any significant raise for those two players puts the Bucks way too close to the luxury tax to even consider re-signing Brogdon, who could top out at close to $20 million if someone felt that strongly about him.
Basically, that means one of Brogdon, Lopez, Mirotic, Middleton, Lopez or Hill is very likely gone. So the question becomes, which player do the Bucks value least?
Setting aside the likelihood of the Bucks letting the former Rookie of the Year award winner go, let’s take a gander at how Utah would potentially use a player like Brogdon.
Were he to join the ranks of the Jazz, Brogdon would be expected to assume a role probably reminiscent of George Hill when he was in Utah. He would be a high-efficiency off-ball shooting point guard, if that makes any sense.
2018-19 Brogdon vs 2016-17 George Hill Per Game
2018-19 Brogdon vs 2016-17 Hill Advanced
Brogdon wouldn’t be a more traditional points guard running the offense, he didn’t do a ton of that in Milwaukee and the Jazz wouldn’t be in a hurry to force him into that role. Even assuming adding Brogdon would herald the departure of Ricky Rubio, the Jazz would still have two players — Joe Ingles and Donovan Mitchell — that averaged north of four assists per game last year.
The old George Hill role would set Brogdon up as the second option on offense (even though Rudy Gobert averaged more points per game this past season). Brogdon’s usage would jump up a few percentage points into the mid-20s (he was at 20.7 this past season). Getting a bump up in usage and role on a team should lead to a similar bump in numbers and production.
It’s hard to say just how much of an impact Brogdon could have on offensive efficiency, given how little evidence we have of how well the current iteration of the Jazz plays with a career 40 percent 3-point shooter at point guard. But one thing is clear, when the Quin Snyder-era Jazz have had a decent scoring point guard, they win and they win a lot.
Going back to the George Hill comparison, the Jazz were 33-16 just in games where Hill showed up at all (that’s a 55-win pace FYI). Narrow the field to Hill’s games of 17-plus points and Utah’s record was 23-5. A 67-win pace just based off needing the point guard to score 17 points, which is something a higher usage Brogdon is very capable of doing.
Believe it or not, very similar trends exist with the Jazz and Ricky Rubio, Trey Burke, Dante Exum and even Shelvin Mack. Maybe it has more to do with having a second guy who can put the ball in the bucket than it simply being the point guard, but the argument stands regardless.
So would adding Brogdon put Utah over the top? No, probably not. His lack of elite shot creation for himself and others might put limits on him, especially in the playoffs where Utah has fallen short the most. Unless he suddenly pulls either of those out of his luggage when/if he arrives in Utah, the Jazz would need to add more high-level role players to the lineup (remember Gallinari, Love? Those guys) to give the new-look Jazz the final punch it needs to win it all.