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Kragthorpe: Jazz need to find perfect blend in free agency

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Kurt Kragthorpe

By Kurt Kragthorpe

Tribune Columnist

First published Jun 29 2013 04:04PM
Updated Dec 7, 2013 11:34PM

So now the Jazz have all kinds of money to spend and a bunch of roster spots to fill. They need to attract some good players — but not too good, or too many of them.

Yeah, that’s always a problem for this franchise in the free-agent market.

This truly is tricky, though. The Jazz obviously want to field a decent team in 2013-14, and they have to give coach Tyrone Corbin a reasonable opportunity to win as they evaluate him. They need the leadership and consistency that veteran players can provide.

But they also have to discover where this club is headed, exactly. As much as I endorsed the Jazz’s attempt to maximize their 2012-13 roster and honor the efforts of Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, the side effect was a lost season, in many respects.

Not nearly enough was learned about Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. Whatever moves the Jazz make this summer, they can’t take away playing time from those guys — not because they’re proven, but because we all need to find out what they might become. Nobody knows those answers, at this point.

That’s why general manager Dennis Lindsey’s approach to free agency requires some clever thinking and deft handling of his potential roster. The Jazz have to bring in veterans who are talented enough to help them win some games, yet comfortable enough to accept complementary roles and perform well. Point guard is a perfect example, in the search for a mentor and capable player to pair with first-round draft choice Trey Burke.

Not everybody can thrive in that setting. Millsap couldn’t, for instance.

Lindsey will execute a sound plan — or try to do so, seeking matches in the free-agent market. His method is to determine a value of every player and never exceed that cost, while trying to marry the Jazz’s wants and needs with the interest level of the players.

"There’s a lot of supply and demand," he said. "It will be interesting to see how the market goes, in relation to the championship contenders, the playoff contenders, the rebuilds. Everybody knows about the [salary-cap] room, the flexibility that we have built in."

He also promised the Jazz will be "disciplined," which is hardly shocking. But they also have to spend a certain amount of money, according to the rules.

Asked how he liked his team as of this weekend, Lindsey laughed, saying the Jazz would not be allowed to participate in the NBA with so few players. This cast needs several supporting actors.

Jazz administrators proved two things in Thursday’s draft: They’re willing to spend money, and they can respond under pressure. The morning of the 2005 draft, Kevin O’Connor made a deal that enabled the Jazz to move up and take Deron Williams. In the latest episode, Lindsey — who credited O’Connor, his boss, for gathering vital information — scrambled when the Jazz’s original plan was falling apart Thursday evening, and he managed to trade his two first-round picks and grab Burke at No. 9. The Jazz then bought back into the first round with a second-round pick and cash, taking center Rudy Gobert at No. 27. This franchise has come a long way since drafting and selling Dominique Wilkins in the pre-Larry Miller ownership era.

"I can assure you, I am as committed to excellence and winning as my dad ever was," Jazz CEO Greg Miller had said, two days before the draft.

He backed up those words Thursday, when the Jazz helped themselves considerably. Lindsey earned a lot of credibility in his first draft, but another critical month begins Monday. He also has to do this part perfectly.

kkragthorpe@sltrib.com" target="_blank">class="TEXT_no_Indent">kkragthorpe@sltrib.com

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