While the NBA was being flipped on its head, as Paul George decided to sign a four year contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder, and LeBron James joined the Western Conference by signing a four year contract with the Los Angeles Lakers, the Utah Jazz have stayed relatively silent. With the exception of guaranteeing the second year of Thabo Sefolosha, the Jazz have not made any moves.
First, some thoughts on the blockbuster moves, and non moves so far.
LeBron to the Lakers is both an enormous move, and also one that may not significantly change the NBA, at least if things stay as they are. The Lakers with LeBron are a playoff team, and as currently constituted, with the retention of Kentavious Caldwell Pope, and the additions of JaVale McGee and Lance Stephenson, I feel comfortable saying the Lakers can compete for home court advantage in the Western Conference. LeBron is still the best player in the world and while this Lakers team isn’t on par currently with the Warriors or Rockets, it’s hard for me to argue they can’t compete with the Jazz, Blazers, Pelicans, Thunder, Spurs, and Timberwolves. Considering the difference between the 9th seed in the West and the 3rd seed was 3 games last season, it’s safe to assume LeBron can put them in that conversation. If the Lakers can swing a deal for Kawhi Leonard, they can find themselves in the Houston Rockets caliber of teams, just behind Golden State.
Paul George staying in OKC is a strange move, but shows the value of gambling on adding superstar talent, and betting on your own culture. As we sat Saturday night when Free Agency opened, there was roughly a half billion dollars spent right as the flood gates opened, i.e. there was an enormous amount of tampering being done throughout the season to work on these deals. Tampering is the name of the game in some of these deals, and if you can tamper with a star for an entire year by having him live in your city, and travel and compete with your team, you should do it. The Thunder will strongly considering waiving and stretching the contract of Carmelo Anthony, which will save them around $90M this season in penalty taxes. OKC is a good basketball team, and the can get better by clearing out Melo, and simplifying their shot distribution. The interest Melo would get on the FA market for a one year deal would be interesting.
The Jazz re-upping Thabo Sefolosha likely means they aren’t going to make a major splash, pursuing a player with a $20 million dollar contract. They met with Derrick Favors today according to Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune, and Favors will make a decision tomorrow on where he plans to play in 2018-19. In all likelihood, the Jazz will look very similar to how they did last season when they advanced to the second round of the playoffs.
However, with money quickly drying up around the NBA, and the Jazz still having the full Mid Level Exception, it isn’t crazy to think the Jazz can add a significant player to the roster, who simply waited too long trying to find a more lucrative deal. The USA Today has an excellent free agency tracker, with the best free agents ranked.
I would track the landing spots for Tyreke Evans, JJ Redick, Jabari Parker, Avery Bradley, Luc Mbah a Moute, Seth Curry, and Wayne Ellington.