This is what a rebuild looks like.
The Utah Jazz on Friday lost two of their most popular players to free agency, while adding three players by trade whose primary purpose will be to preserve salary cap flexibility next summer.
Paul Millsap and DeMarre Carroll both signed free agent deals with the Atlanta Hawks late Friday, hours after the Jazz sent guard Kevin Murphy to the Golden State Warriors in exchange for Andris Biedrins, Richard Jefferson and Brandon Rush. The Jazz also received four draft picks, including first-rounders in 2014 and 2017. According to sources, Millsap signed with the Hawks for $19 million over two years, while Carroll’s deal is also for two years, but $5 million.
The deals can not be completed until Wednesday, when the league’s free agency moratorium ends and players can sign with new teams.
So how does that all happen?
The franchise resolves to grow by throwing its young core to the fire. Through their actions the first week of free agency, the Jazz have proved themselves deeply committed to building around Gordon Hayward, Enes Kanter, Derrick Favors, Alec Burks and rookie point guard Trey Burke, whom they acquired in a draft-day deal.
On a day Dwight Howard dictated the media cycle before ultimately announcing his intent to sign in Houston, the Jazz served as a facilitator for Golden State. The Warriors, who were previously in the Howard sweepstakes, needed to clear cap space in order to sign free agent Andre Iguodala. Per reports, the former Denver Nugget and Philadelphia 76er agreed to a four-year, $48 million contract. The trade was first reported by Yahoo! Sports.
In order to make the trade work, the Jazz had to renounce their Bird rights to Millsap, meaning the franchise no longer had the flexibility to sign the popular power forward for one year longer than any other team. The trade may have also foretold the end for Carroll. By adding Jefferson and Rush on the wing, the Jazz had less need for the hustling, dreadlocked small forward who endeared himself to fans with an active social media presence.
Carroll tweeted late Friday, "I like to Thank all my Fans in Utah. I like to thank Dennis [Lindsey], Kevin [O’Connor] & Ty [Corbin] for giving me the Oppurtunity. Atlanta here comes the #JunkYardDog!"
In seven seasons, Millsap rose from hard-working second-round pick to a franchise cornerstone. However, the team’s plans to develop a frontcourt of the future of Favors and Kanter left the former Louisiana Tech star on the outside looking in. In seven seasons, he averaged 12.4 points and 7 rebounds.
The Jazz have now lost three members of last year’s 43-39 team to free agency. Point guards Mo Williams, Earl Watson and Jamaal Tinsley, as well as shooting guard Randy Foye, remain unsigned.
Jefferson, 33, averaged 3.1 points and 1.5 rebounds for the Warriors last season, while Biedrins, 26, is a backup center who averaged 0.5 points and 2.9 rebounds. Rush signed a two-year, $8 million deal with the Warriors last summer, but appeared in just two games before tearing his ACL.
His agent, Mark Bartelstein, said the 27-year-old Rush "is rehabbing, is doing great" and that he "should be ready to go" for the start of training camp in October. He averaged 9.1 points in five seasons and is a career 41.3 percent 3-point shooter.
Rush, who played college basketball at Kansas, tweeted Friday night, "Thanks for everything Warrior fans. Ready for my new journey with the Utah Jazz."
The move allows the Jazz to fill out the roster (which otherwise consists almost entirely of young players), add some veteran pieces, and not impact their cap space beyond 2014. The $24 million in contracts the Jazz will pay Biedrins, Jefferson and Rush will come off the books after the 2013-14 season, giving the Jazz much-coveted salary cap flexibility for a key free agent class.
The Jazz, who had been quiet since free agency opened on July 1, took care of nearly all of their offseason needs in fell one swoop. With the additions, they have 12 players under contract for next season, and once they sign draft choices Burke and Rudy Gobert will still have roughly $8 million in flexibility to sign up to three more players. They are still expected to add a veteran backup point guard to mentor Burke.
The league’s roster maximum is 15.
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