The Utah Jazz’s odds of adding D’Angelo Russell in free agency appear to be steadily increasing. But even so, they remain far from the favorite to land him.
It’s become no secret of late that the Utah Jazz could very well be interested in adding restricted free agent D’Angelo Russell to their ranks this summer. However, that interest comes very much with a caveat.
As a restricted free agent, the Brooklyn Nets would be able to match any offer the Jazz were to send his way. Therefore, it wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense for Utah to extend a max offer sheet that would force them to renounce Derrick Favors and tie up their other free agency options while they waited to see what the Nets opted to do with D’Lo.
In other words, unless the Nets actually renounce Russell, making it clear that they intend to move on from him and allowing him to become unrestricted instead of restricted, the Jazz likely won’t go too hard after him. In that sense, their interest, while real, is quite limited.
However, based on recent reports, that former limitation may very well break down in a big way sooner rather than later.
There’s already been ample speculation that Kyrie Irving is very likely preparing to sign with the Brooklyn Nets. That led many to believe that by adding a star point guard in Kyrie, the Nets wouldn’t have a need to keep Russell. And if they were seeking a second star, then they really wouldn’t have room for D’Lo at all and would have to renounce him.
Then again, there were also whispers that Brooklyn was actually willing to give the Russell-Irving pairing a try, meaning that Irving’s presumed addition to the Nets roster didn’t change much in terms of Russell’s free agent status of restricted versus unrestricted. However, if the most recent report is to be believed, that assumption is false. According to NBA reporter Ian Begley, the Nets are unlikely to keep D’Lo if they do indeed sign Kyrie.
And considering that all indications are that Irving is going to Brooklyn, well, you can put two and two together – Russell could very well become unrestricted and therefore available for the Jazz to aim to lure into their midst.
If you ask me, this report makes a lot of sense. A backcourt of Kyrie Irving and D’Angelo Russell just doesn’t quite seem logical as there’s a lot of redundancy between those two players. Not only that, but if the Nets get Irving, they should have a great shot at a second star, making Russell suddenly expendable.
In that instance, enter the Utah Jazz, who could be an attractive landing spot for Russell as they could extend him a max offer and he’d get the chance to play alongside his friend Donovan Mitchell and defensive ace Rudy Gobert on a stout playoff-caliber team in the Western Conference. There is a lot the Jazz could present that D’Lo could very well find attractive.
And Mitchell himself even fanned the Russell to the Jazz speculation flames by liking the very much related Instagram post shown below–
Such an action would seem to indicate that Mitchell is happy about the likelihood that Russell may not be returning to Brooklyn and that he could be available to join Utah’s ranks. And this entire string of events did a great job of sending the Utah faithful into an absolute tizzy. While some of the outburst of excitement regarding potentially wooing Russell to the Jazz mix is facetious optimism by many Jazz fans, some feels very real as if Jazz fans now are near certain that D’Lo is going to be suiting up in Salt Lake City next season.
Dennis Lindsey and Co. may very well be able to drum up that kind of monumental acquisition – I’m not denying that. But for Jazz fans that are acting like this is nearly a done deal, I’d caution them to pump the breaks dramatically.
First off, the injuries to Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson could literally alter everything we know or think we know about free agency. There’s no telling how their decisions will affect the plans of every other team around them. Beyond that, the reports and speculation about Kyrie are still far from confirmed and won’t be for quite some time. Irving may not even sign with Brooklyn. Whether he does or not, the Nets may ultimately be adamant about keeping Russell.
Lastly and most importantly, if Russell does actually become unrestricted after all this (which I actually think he will), the Jazz will be far from alone in their pursuit of the budding star. Teams like the New York Knicks, LA Clippers, Dallas Mavericks and Indiana Pacers, to name a few, could all be after Russell and have both money and intriguing situations to dangle in front of him.
And, in case you’d forgotten, the unfortunate truth is that the Jazz don’t exactly have a glimmering history of free agent success. Perhaps the stars will align and that will be broken by the Jazz adding Russell. But based on track record alone, I’d say the safe bet would be predicting against that happening.
In other words, yes, I’ll admit that up to this point if all the reports that have surfaced are to be believed, things are lining up quite nicely for the Jazz to have a legitimate shot at adding D’Angelo Russell in free agency. But even a ‘legitimate shot’ is nowhere near a guarantee. In fact, the Jazz are still far, far from the favorite, despite what we fans may hope or want to believe.
The Jazz will have a compelling argument for Russell, but so will many other teams as well. And to avoid heartbreak by counting chickens before they hatch, Utah Jazz fans would be wise to keep a level head about the D’Lo situation, keeping hopes high but also expectations in check. It’s still very much an uphill battle for the Jazz to acquire his services.
But if they do, I’ll happily eat crow and celebrate frenetically with the rest of the many members of Jazz Nation who are already beginning to do so.