With little money left, Jazz have to find shooting
One of the very, very few negatives of the Conley trade is the prolific point guard’s hefty contract. He’s set to make over $30 million in each of the next two years. If he can have a repeat of the 2018-19 season, which despite being his 12th year in the league in which he turned 31 was widely accepted as the best year of his career, he’ll be worth every penny in Utah. However, even so there’s no denying that it’s a large chunk of cash that has limited what else the Jazz can do this summer.
In fact, unless the Jazz decide not to guarantee the final year of Derrick Favors‘ contract, which would open up just shy of $17 million in space, Utah will have only the Room exception of about $4.8 million to use on free agents, along with any they can get to sign for a veteran’s minimum. Considering that the Jazz were strongly resistant to including Favors in the Conley deal, and that front office wizard Dennis Lindsey already referred to Derrick as ‘a part of the solution’, it’s very unlikely they’re going to let him go at this point.
I assume if an unforeseen free agent signing or sign-and-trade opportunity emerges that’s just too good to pass up, we could see it happen, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. Favors will very likely be more talented and fit Utah better than just about anyone they could add at his salary level this summer.
With that being the case, the trouble the Jazz will face is finding a meaningful guy for just $4.8 million. Nevertheless, it will be absolutely crucial that they do so. While dealing Jae Crowder and Kyle Korver to get Conley was certainly worth it, there’s also no questioning that it hurts Utah’s depth and shooting. They’ll need to make patching that up a priority by adding someone who can continue to serve as a floor-stretching threat.
Even though Crowder wasn’t all that consistent from deep, he still commanded a certain degree of gravity as opposing teams nearly always respected his perimeter shooting ability. This led to Utah’s starters sans Favors and with Crowder inserted to consistently post one of the better net ratings in the NBA. For the Jazz to continue to have that luxury, they’ll need to add someone who, if nothing else, can space the floor.
But at $4.8 million, we’re not talking very sexy targets. Think more along the lines of players pointed out in an excellent piece by Salt City Hoops’ Dan Clayton, such as Dewayne Dedmon or DeMarre Carroll (should their market value slip pretty significantly), or the likes of Mike Muscala, Dante Cunningham or Mike Scott. Personally, I’d love a reunion with the Junkyard Dog, who may be one of the few actually willing to take a discount to play in Utah considering that he loved it here before.
Clayton was mainly referring to stretch big men that the Jazz could add with that money in his piece, but I would even love the likes of guards such as one-time Jazzman Wesley Matthews or 3-point specialist Wayne Ellington. Yet again, I don’t know if they slip that low salary-wise, but they’re intriguing to keep an eye on.
Another one that could end up making a ton of sense is if the Jazz simply retain Thabo Sefolosha in spite of his free agent status. He already has chemistry and a connection with the team, and while he’s not flashy, he’s certainly serviceable.
Once the Jazz have figured out who to use the Room exception on, they’ll largely be relying on veteran minimums and praying that their very late second-round draft pick (assuming they’re unable to trade up) can somehow be a surprise bloomer once he hits the NBA.
As you can see, it’s hard to determine how exactly the Jazz would go about it, but the necessary outcome remains the same – they have to add more quality shooters to round out their roster to truly give them a shot at contending. Not only do they need to be able to better space the floor, but they simply need the depth. With Crowder gone and Ekpe Udoh likely out, their frontcourt rotation is looking pretty shallow.
The reigning champion Toronto Raptors showed this postseason just how crucial depth is for a long playoff run, and the Jazz, despite having a great starting five and initial core in place, will need to find a way to sprinkle in some additional meaningful bench players as well if they hope to truly become a real title contender.