With former Utah Jazz players Deron Williams, Kyle Korver and Paul Millsap all set to be unrestricted free agents this offseason, would it make sense for the Jazz to pursue any or all of them?
Ask any Utah Jazz fan when the glory days of the franchise were and they’ll almost undoubtedly bring up the John Stockton and Karl Malone era which saw Utah qualify for two straight NBA Finals. Those were certainly some of the best years to be a Jazz fan, but that doesn’t mean that the franchise has had a lack of entertaining teams since then.
Until just this past season, the most successful Jazz teams since those glory days came with Deron Williams running the point in Salt Lake City. Although Utah was never a powerhouse, per se, they had several good runs during those years. In the five years following the draft selection of D-Will, the Jazz qualified for the playoffs four times, advancing to the second round twice and the Western Conference Finals once.
And although many would say that Western Conference Finals squad in 2007 was the most formidable, the team that I enjoyed the most was the 2010 squad that upset the Denver Nuggets in the first round of the playoffs despite playing without Mehmet Okur.
A big reason why I liked that squad so much was because it featured Deron Williams playing at full force (he averaged a whopping 24.3 points in those playoffs), Paul Millsap who was clearly emerging as the future number one option at power forward as he averaged 18 points per game, just under Carlos Boozer’s 19.7, and fan favorite Kyle Korver who converted on an outrageous 53.6 percent of his threes in the regular season and a solid 47.8 percent in the playoffs.
Those three were easily my favorite players on the team at the time and made for one exciting Jazz squad. In some ways it would’ve been fun to see where they would’ve ended up had they stayed together with some of the pieces Utah would go on to add down the road.
But alas, all three parted from the Jazz not long after. Of course Williams’ career went in the wrong direction after leaving the Jazz but he now finds himself in a reserve role with the title contending Cleveland Cavaliers alongside former teammate Kyle Korver. Korver actually played alongside Millsap for a while in Atlanta before being traded midway through the 2016-17 regular season.
Meanwhile, Millsap has been an All-Star every year in Atlanta since leaving the Jazz in free agency following the 2012-13 season. And with the news breaking today that Millsap has indeed opted out of his $21.4 million player option for 2017-18, it sent many nostalgic Jazz fans into a social media frenzy about the possibility of Utah adding their former big man now that he will join Williams and Korver as free agents this offseason.
Oddly enough, all three of those guys would fill significant holes on the Jazz roster – a solid backup (or perhaps starting) point guard, a reliable three-point shooter on the wing and a formidable power forward. Thus from a pure basketball standpoint, it makes a lot of sense that Utah should pursue those three former Jazzmen in free agency and put together a 2010 Reunion on the upcoming 2017-18 Jazz roster.
Unfortunately, as much as I’d love to see Millsap, Korver and Williams join the likes of Gordon Hayward, Joe Ingles and Rudy Gobert, there’s practically no way that it could happen.
It’s common knowledge that getting Hayward to re-sign is Utah’s number one priority this offseason, so assuming he does so at the max contract level he has merited, that already essentially nullifies the Jazz’s chances of adding Millsap who more than likely has opted out to pursue a max deal of his own.
Assuming that Hayward signs with Utah for his max amount of $30,900,000 next season and, for these intents and purposes, that the Jazz retain Ingles at $8,000,000 (which could very well be entirely too low) that would put the Jazz at a payroll of approximately $112 million with the guys currently under contract, well over the projected $101 million salary cap for 2017-18.
Add in Millsap’s contract which he’ll likely expect to be a max deal in the ballpark of $35 million, and the Jazz would be a whopping $46 million over the salary cap with two open roster spots. And that’s not even accounting for George Hill, who Utah would obviously have to let go if they were aiming to make such an investment on two max-level guys.
Just to pair Hayward and Millsap together and remain under the salary cap, the Jazz would have to forego re-signing Ingles and Hill, and somehow find a way to trade Derrick Favors, Joe Johnson, and Alec Burks as well as let Boris Diaw walk, then use their remaining $3 million or so to fill their remaining five roster spots.
In other words, unless the Jazz go absurdly into the luxury tax (which they couldn’t – not to the insane degree they’d need to anyway) or lose out on Gordon Hayward (which would give Millsap little incentive to sign in Utah), acquiring the former fan favorite power forward is nothing more than a pipe dream, let alone completing the reunion by adding him alongside Deron Williams and Kyle Korver.
However, the Jazz could very well have a legitimate shot of putting together a mini-reunion made up of just Williams and Korver. Williams agreed to play with the Cavs for the league’s veteran minimum and has reportedly expressed a desire to end his career in Utah. If that is the case, he may very well be willing to take a discount to help the team that drafted him be able to have some financial flexibility and reach new heights.
If Hill and the Jazz can’t come to a financially feasible agreement, then letting him walk, bringing in the veteran Williams as damage control and using that excess money to patch up a different area of weakness on the Utah roster could make a lot of sense.
Meanwhile, Korver is making $5.24 million on the final year of his current contract. With the recent salary cap spike, he could very well demand more than that on the open market, but he’s also 36-years-old and as such may not merit that drastic of a pay raise if any at all. Therefore, he also could potentially be wooed into once again playing for his former Jazz team and helping to improve a rising squad.
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So while a 2010 reunion featuring Paul Millsap, Deron Williams and Kyle Korver is essentially out of the question, it’s not outside the realm of possibilities that the Jazz could look to welcome two of their former players – Williams and Korver – back into the fold in free agency this summer.
And while that wouldn’t be a full-fledged reunion, I’d still be beyond thrilled to see that duo back in Utah to end their careers and hopefully serve as formidable role players that would help take the Jazz to the next level.
All stats courtesy of basketball-reference.com. All payroll figures courtesy of HoopsHype.