Utah Jazz: Free agency frenzy kicks off
NBA • The team has plenty of cap space and officials say they will spend if the right player wants to come to Utah.
Published: July 1, 2014 09:53AM
Updated: June 30, 2014 10:39PM
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New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) keeps the ball from Washington Wizards forward Trevor Ariza (1) during the first quarter of an NBA preseason basketball game in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012. The Knicks defeated the Wizards 108-101. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)

Ready.

Set.

Go.

The NBA’s free agency period kicks off at 10:01 p.m. MDT on Monday, with teams clamoring for the services of players who might help them set aside disappointment, push them over previous stumbling blocks, or help fortify their roster for another run.

After opting out of their contracts, no two players will receive more interest than LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony.

But would James really leave Florida?

Would Anthony eschew new boss Phil Jackson for a chance elsewhere?

With Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade also opting out in Miami, it seems the Heat are organizing for another run — and James seems unlikely to leave South Beach. Anthony, however, could be a different story. Reportedly, the Knicks star will meet with the Bulls at the first opportunity, followed by meetings with the Rockets, Mavericks and Lakers.

The Utah Jazz have the cap space to be players this offseason; only the Sixers, Suns and, now, the Heat, have more space. And Utah officials have said they’re willing to speed up their timeline, going all in on a free agent acquisition if the right player is willing to say yes.

But Utah’s struggles luring top free agents has been well documented.

So as the clock ticks past 10 p.m., Gordon Hayward is to be among the first calls Jazz officials make.

The 24-year-old Hayward, the Jazz’s No. 1 option last season, will undoubtedly shop around, as he explores his first free agency.

Hayward provides a diverse skill set. He scored 16 points and averaged better than five assists and five rebounds a game last season. But his shooting struggled. Hayward had career lows in field goal percentage (41.8 percent) and three-point shooting (30.4).

He will command a substantial price in a market short on top-flight wing players, but how much?

The Suns and Celtics have been rumored as potential suitors for Hayward. But the Jazz have the right to match any offer — and have made it clear that Hayward is a key part of the team’s future.

Beyond that, the Jazz hope to add some veteran players, including a shooter, to help round out a young roster.

But again, that will likely involve a lower tier free agent option.

The market has some big veteran names. But Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki, L.A.’s Pau Gasol and Miami’s Bosh and Ray Allen are on the downward slope of their careers, and likely to stay put or seek out contenders.

The Jazz have interest in bringing back veteran forward Marvin Williams, who averaged nine points and five rebounds a game last year during his second season in Utah.

Utah could also round out its roster with players already under contract, but without guaranteed deals through the season.

After drafting point guard Dante Exum, Utah has interest in keeping John Lucas III as a veteran mentor for Exum and Trey Burke, according to a source.

And the upcoming summer league in Vegas could decide the future of Ian Clark, Diante Garrett, Malcolm Thomas and Erik Murphy.

afalk@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tribjazz