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Utah Jazz: With LeBron's decision, pieces start to fall into place

Published July 11, 2014 6:28 pm

With Hayward's expected return and cap room left, Jazz could be a market player.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Dennis Lindsey could have a busy couple of days.

The Utah Jazz general manager has until Sunday at 9:59 p.m. MT to decide whether to match a max offer sheet for restricted free agent Gordon Hayward. Meanwhile, the NBA landscape has started to shift.

The biggest domino, the one with four straight Finals appearances and a pair of MVP awards to go with his two championship rings, has finally fallen.

Now the rest will follow.

LeBron James' decision to return home to Cleveland sent shockwaves through the basketball world Friday — and could have implications for nearly every other franchise, including the Jazz.

James took 11 days after the free agency period began in earnest to announce his decision, and for the last week and a half he's held most of the market hostage.

Now that the world knows he'll be back in Cleveland, other pieces are falling into place. Chris Bosh, James' teammate in Miami, will now return to South Beach on a max deal, according to multiple reports.

Bosh had previously been in talks with the Houston Rockets, who shipped point guard Jeremy Lin to the Lakers trying to clear cap space.

Had Houston and Bosh agreed to a deal, the Jazz might have been able to capitalize, taking on salaries in exchange for picks or young talent.

The Jazz are one of a handful of teams with the space to take on salaries, and the franchise has shown a willingness to facilitate deals in exchange for assets. Last season, Utah took on more than $20 million in contracts from the Golden State Warriors, picking up a trio of draft picks in the process.

How much room does Utah have? Even if the Jazz match the offer sheet for Gordon Hayward, which appears all but certain, the Jazz will still have about $8.5 million in cap space — and up to around $12 million depending on what the team does with the non-guaranteed contracts of John Lucas, Ian Clark, Erik Murphy and Malcolm Thomas.

Even with the window for a deal with Houston seemingly closed for now, there remain other possibilities. And Lindsey has said he is willing to listen to offers.

The Bulls could find themselves in a similar situation as Houston thought it was in should Carmelo Anthony choose Chicago over New York.

The Jazz could also help facilitate a sign-and-trade elsewhere.

James' announcement will also open up the rest of the market.

With James off the market, teams with money to spend will starting looking at Plans B and C.

The Jazz made a pair of signings Friday, though ones that were expected. The team officially inked deals with first-round draft picks Dante Exum and Rodney Hood. The two newest Jazzmen were to make their summer league debuts Friday night in Las Vegas.

And the Jazz on Thursday renounced free agents Brandon Rush and Richard Jefferson, officially clearing enough cap space to take on forward Steve Novak in a trade with Toronto.

Jefferson averaged 10 points and 2.7 rebounds a game last year, as the team's starting small forward. Rush played in 38 games, averaging 2 points a game off the bench.

afalk@sltrib.com