The Jazz will enter free agency on Saturday at 10 PM Mountain Time, and find themselves in one of the most difficult to predict situations as far as salary cap spending in the NBA. Whereas in years past, the Jazz have faced crucial free agency decisions, like whether Gordon Hayward would resign with the team, this year they seem to have a wide ranging list of possibilities with summer spending, and are in an enviable spot compared to most other NBA teams.
While it’s unlikely the Jazz are in the running for the league’s top free agents, i.e. LeBron James and Paul George, they could choose to clear up to $26M in salary cap space if they chose to be aggressive chasing players like Orlando’s Aaron Gordon, or Milwaukee’s Jabari Parker. The Jazz could get there by waiving Thabo Sefolosha, Jonas Jerebko, and Ekpe Udoh, and renouncing the rights to Derrick Favors and Dante Exum. While that would be a large gamble, the Jazz could use a talent upgrade on their roster, including finding a player who better fits between Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert. Still, this scenario seems unlikely, as neither Gordon or Parker aren’t can’t miss free agents.
More realistically, the Jazz could use their mid-level exception, one of just a few teams who have it at their disposal to find a role player who can come in and improve the team, close to the level of a Jae Crowder. As Zach Lowe pointed out in his great free agency preview, the Jazz, along with the Magic, Spurs, Grizzlies, and Knicks are likely the only teams that will have the nearly $10M chip at their disposal, and the Jazz are likely the team with the most to offer for a player looking to join a winning team.
Players like Tyreke Evans, Trevor Ariza, JJ Redick, and Will Barton could all be realistic options for the Jazz, and may be had by using the MLE.
Should the Jazz strike out on those deals, they wouldn’t be forced to use the exception, and could look to beef up the roster with smaller moves, including pursuing a rumored target in the Spurs David Bertans, Minnesota’s Nemanja Bjelica, or potentially the Miami Heat’s Wayne Ellington.
The Jazz may also choose to keep their 48 win roster together, resigning Favors and Exum to team friendly deals, and choosing to retain Sefolosha, Jerebko, and Udoh. While that may be the least interesting off season option for the Jazz, it’s safe to assume they would improve as the chemistry improves on the roster, and could put them over the 50 win total next year, competing for the 3rd seed in the Western Conference Playoffs.
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