Early indications are the Jazz will not be major players once the NBA free-agency period begins Dec. 9.
After two days of informal discussions between teams and agents, multiple sources told The Salt Lake Tribune that Utah will likely focus on making minor additions to what will be an 11-man roster once rookies Enes Kanter and Alec Burks are signed. The Jazz are expected to primarily focus on adding a proven backup point guard, and could use veteran minimum contracts to fill out the remainder of their roster.
Utah has expressed initial exploratory interest in unrestricted free agents Rasual Butler, Sebastian Telfair and Roger Mason, a source said. Meanwhile, a source close to forward Andrei Kirilenko gave no indication the Jazz are actively attempting to re-sign him. Kirilenko did draw immediate interest from multiple teams, though.
Sources also reiterated to The Tribune the Jazz are not expected to immediately use their amnesty clause on veteran center Mehmet Okur, and said Utah isn't actively pursuing a trade involving Millsap.
The Jazz have an obvious excess buildup in the front court, creating potential for a package deal. In addition, the organization has a possible moveable piece in veteran guard Raja Bell, who did not meet expectations during 2010-11 and has two years remaining on a $6.7-million contract. A source close to Bell said Thursday that Utah hadn't given any indication it's looking to move him, though, and he could be a reliable backup for C.J. Miles or Gordon Hayward at shooting guard. Rookie Alec Burks will also compete for time at the 2.
If the Jazz don't make a major move during free agency, it won't be because the team is being overly conservative or fiscally cautious. Instead, it'll be because the organization feels confident about its initial chances during a compressed 66-game season that will feature an abbreviated training camp and a chaotic free-agency period. With less time to prepare and make major changes, everything from team chemistry to young talent will be at a premium. The Jazz return a core trio of proven veterans in Al Jefferson, Devin Harris and Millsap, while second-year players Derrick Favors and Hayward showed promise toward the end of 2010-11.
The main areas the Jazz are expected to target during free agency: two backup point guard spots, small forward and perhaps shooting guard.
Harris is Utah's only point guard under contract. He is respected and well-liked by his teammates, and has expressed excitement about having a new start with the Jazz. But he has been injury-prone during his career — he missed seven games after joining Utah via trade on Feb. 23 and has only played in more than 70 contests three times in seven seasons.
Former Jazz point guard Ronnie Price told The Tribune on Thursday he wants to re-sign with Utah and considers the organization to be "family." If the team adds Price, the other point guard addition could be bulkier and/or have more of an outside shooting touch.
The small but speedy backup duo of Price and Earl Watson worked well for the Jazz last season, and complemented former starter Deron Williams. Harris is more of a drive-first point guard than a true outside shooter, though, which could leave Utah looking to add more muscle at the backup position in the attempt to create size mismatches.
Brian T. Smith
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