The season has just begun, but the Jazz may already seemed destined for a headache in the offseason. As many as nine members of the current roster will be free agents at the end of the year and it's almost unthinkable that the Jazz can or would keep all of them. What evil scientist would put a team in that position?
Kevin O'Connor, of course.
The Jazz's executive vice president said he and the folks he works with in the Jazz's front office built a roster that will give the team maximum flexibility when the new, punitive luxury tax kicks in after the season, when other teams may be trying to shed contracts.
"It wasn't [by coincidence]," O'Connor said in a wide-ranging interview with media Wednesday. "When we signed guys two years ago and this year, we looked at that."
The Jazz are only committed beyond this season to Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Alec Burks and Jeremy Evans, the young core of the Jazz of the future.
O'Connor said the Jazz were able to build a team capable of winning now and do it with players who have expiring contracts.
"I don't think you want to go with expiring contracts as king," O'Connor said, "because that means you're not dealing with players. And you have to have to players to win, but I think what you might see is a pretty good player at a price you might like that another team can't afford."
It explains how guys like Mo Williams and Marvin Williams wound up in Utah.
"Hopefully we put ourselves in a pretty good position," O'Connor said. "I'm not smart enough to write all the numbers down, but [Chief Financial Officer] Bob Hyde did and looked at it and said, 'Here's what it should look like.' "
When the offseason comes around, the Jazz are expected to be able to compete for any free agent, at least financially. The Jazz will also likely try to reach extension agreements with Hayward and Favors, on whom the team exercised options for the 2013-14 season last week.
Third-year power forward Derrick Favors entered the season with high expectations of improvement. Before the year even began, he'd upped one key statistic: His weight. After being listed at 248 pounds last year, Favors bulked up to 263 this year, adding extra layers of muscle.
In his chat with the media, O'Connor said he felt Favors, despite flagging offensive productivity in the preseason, had shown great improvement. Any holdups, he said, may have been related to that weight.
"I don't think he came in the shape he wanted to," O'Connor said. "I think he got a little surprised at how quick we were going to play this year."
The 21-year disagreed with the Jazz's top executive, saying, "I was in good shape" and that "my legs left me for a while, so I just knew I had to get them back."
The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. Coach Tyrone Corbin said Favors just "had to get used to a bigger body."
"Over the next few years," Corbin said, "maybe he'll go through some changes and try to figure out what's the best weight for him. He's worked his butt off to get his game better and I expect him to continue."