Jazz strike deals with Thabo Sefolosha, Jonas Jerebko

First Published      Last Updated Jul 12 2017 10:26 pm

Jazz » Sefolosha will bolster what is one of NBA’s top defenses; Jerebko proves depth at power forward.

Looking to bolster depth, the Utah Jazz signed Thabo Sefolosha and Jonas Jerebko on Wednesday, each to two-year contracts.

Sefolosha, a 6-foot-7 forward, is a 11-year veteran, playing last season for the Atlanta Hawks. He averaged 7.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game. Sefolosha adds depth at small forward for the Jazz, who are still reeling from the loss of free agent forward Gordon Hayward.

Jerebko has been with the Boston Celtics for the past three seasons, and is a 6-10 forward who can stretch the floor. He shot 35 percent from 3-point range last year, and played 15 minutes per game.

League sources tell The Tribune that Sefolosha's contract is worth $10.5 million, and Jerebko signed a two-year contract worth $8.2 million.

Utah, league sources tell The Tribune, will attempt to find a true backup for Rudy Gobert at center before wrapping up the free agency period.

Among the names who also have held interest for Utah is Dante Cunningham, who played last season with the New Orleans Pelicans. Heat big man Willie Reed also is a player the Jazz are looking at.

Cunningham and Reed are players the Jazz particularly like, as they are tough and athletic defenders. Cunningham has developed into a dependable 3-point shooter — hitting nearly 40 percent of his 3s last season — and is a solid defender both on the perimeter and in the post. Reed had a breakout season for the Miami Heat.

To create salary cap space to bring in another player, league sources have told The Tribune that the Jazz are looking to trade Boris Diaw's contract, and they could waive the power forward if no suitor is found. Diaw's contract becomes guaranteed on Saturday, so a move is expected before then.

While he won't help replace the scoring punch of Hayward — Sefolosha has never averaged double-digit points in an NBA season — the 33-year-old bears a reputation as a defensive menace. He was an all-defensive team honoree in 2010 with the Oklahoma City Thunder, where he enjoyed his most success.

With a 7-foot-2 wingspan, the Jazz believe Sefolosha's ability to stop scorers on the perimeter will help the organization maintain and perhaps improve its defensive identity built around Gobert.

The Jazz were No. 3 last season in defensive rating (102.7) behind the San Antonio Spurs and the Golden State Warriors. General manager Dennis Lindsey remarked last week that he would like to improve to No. 1.

The Tribune has learned that Sefolosha, an unrestricted free agent, was drawn to the Jazz because of their pass-heavy, international style of offense. Having thrived in a similar system in Atlanta, Sefolosha was sold on Utah's pitch.

Sefolosha may be a rotation player behind Utah's other big free agent signing — Joe Ingles — who agreed to a four-year deal earlier this month.

The move is the latest in an eventful offseason for the Jazz, who are trying to round out their roster. The franchise also traded for point guard Ricky Rubio and moved up in the NBA draft for guard Donovan Mitchell, who has wowed in Summer League play.

Wednesday's deal marks the first major move the Jazz have made since losing Hayward, the franchise's first All-Star since Deron Williams.

Born in Switzerland, Sefolosha started his career in 2006 with the Chicago Bulls before a six-year stint with Oklahoma City. He has played for the Hawks the past three seasons.

tjones@sltrib.com and kgoon@sltrib.com

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