They put up big bucks last fall to lock up Derrick Favors, their defensive anchor.
It cost even more to bring back Gordon Hayward.
And now the Utah Jazz front office is once again faced with key decisions regarding the futures of two fourth-year players, as they begin extension talks with shooting guard Alec Burks and big man Enes Kanter.
This is the reality of life in the lottery, where the Jazz have made five picks in the last five seasons, while acquiring a sixth (Favors) via a trade. There is the influx of talent-and then the inevitable cost of keeping that talent.
Venturing forward, however, Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey is confident.
“We knew Gordon was going to receive a substantial offer,” he says. “We’ve tried to maintain our flexibility so that we can still bring in a free agent if the right one wants to say yes to us, and to have the ability to keep our own young players.”
It’s a process that started even before Lindsey took control of the front office, with former GM Kevin O’Connor and company lining up contracts set to expire in the summer of 2013. Last summer the Jazz pushed reset, letting veterans Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson, Mo Williams and Randy Foye leave, clearing millions of dollars in cap space for the Jazz to allocate elsewhere, and specifically on the team’s young core.
Already, a chunk has been spent.
The Jazz have committed just over $111 million to Hayward and Favors, the team’s young co-captains a season ago, over the next four years.
Even so, Jazz officials have room to work.
How much it will cost to keep Burks and Kanter — should the Jazz decide to do so — remains to be seen. Kanter is set to make $5.6 million this year and Burks roughly $3 million. Both will be in line for raises after this season. Keeping both is a costly proposition.
But as the NBA’s salary cap continues to rise (it jumped nearly $5 million from last year, and could see an even bigger increase when the league renegotiates its television deals), there will be greater spending flexibility.
The cap should rise to over $70 million during the lifetime of Hayward’s deal. That could be especially important in the summer of 2017, when Trey Burke and Rudy Gobert will most likely come off their rookie deals, and again in 2018, when the Jazz will likely be negotiating with point guard Dante Exum.
In the interim, the Jazz have added players without adding heavy commitments.
Forward Steve Novak, acquired in a trade with Toronto, will cost just over $7 million during the next two years.
But forward Trevor Booker, signed for two years and $10 million, is guaranteed just over $200,000 during the second year of his deal. Guard Carrick Felix, acquired from Cleveland in exchange for the non-guaranteed contracts of John Lucas III, Erik Murphy and Malcom Thomas, is in line for just $800,000 this season. And while he has two more years on his deal after that, neither is guaranteed.
The Jazz have just $37 million in guaranteed deals on the books for 2015-16 (excluding the cap holds for Kanter and Burks, and assuming the team exercises options on Burke and Gobert). And Utah would be on the hook for about $48 million the following season, if it picks up options on Exum and rookie Rodney Hood.
Jazz players’ contract statuses
Trevor Booker • Free agent forward will make $5 million in his first year with the Jazz. He’s guaranteed just over $230,000 in the second and final year of the deal.
Trey Burke • Entering the second year of a four-year rookie deal; team owns options on years three and four.
Alec Burks • Beginning the final season of his rookie contract. Can be extended this summer.
Ian Clark • The second-year guard’s contract (worth less than $1 million next year) is not yet guaranteed.
Jeremy Evans • Will be a free agent next summer after making $1.8 million this year.
Dante Exum • In the first year of a four-year rookie deal.
Derrick Favors • Entering the first season of a four-year, $48 million deal.
Carrick Felix • The former Cleveland guard is guaranteed about $800,000 this year and has two non-guaranteed years on his deal after that.
Rudy Gobert • In the second year of a four-year deal.
Gordon Hayward • Signed a four-year $63.2 million contract this summer; the final year is a player option.
Rodney Hood • His rookie deal is worth approximately $6.3 million.
Enes Kanter • Like Burks, in the final year of his rookie deal and eligible for an extension.
Steve Novak • Has two years, $7 million left on his deal.