Veteran forward Thabo Sefolosha hopes Jazz bring him back next season

Team holds $5.25 million contract option<br>

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz forward Thabo Sefolosha gets ready to speak with the media during exit interviews at their practice facility in Salt Lake City Wed., May 8, 2018, after losing to the Houston Rockets in game 5 of their Western Conference Finals during the 2018 NBA Playoffs.

As the Jazz roster languishes in the very beginning of construction for next season, Sefolosha probably holds the most wide-ranging of situations. Depending on moves made over the summer, one can make a reasonable argument for him being Utah’s starting power forward when training camp starts. There’s a reasonable scenario where Sefolosha isn’t brought back at all.

“There’s definitely a little uncertainty,” Sefolosha said. “Nothing is written in stone. Obviously, the injury (Sefolosha missed the second half of the season after knee surgery following an MCL injury) is something that I couldn’t control. But I would love to come back and have a full season. Utah is a fit for me.”

Sefolosha is still a good defender, but not the same lockdown defender he was in his days with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Injuries and age have robbed him of some of his lateral quickness in that regard.

Still, for the Jazz, Sefolosha was effective defensively, especially as a small ball power forward. He quickly established himself as a defensive playmaker, capable of guarding multiple spots. The Jazz became more difficult to play offense against when he was on the floor. In 38 games, Sefolosha averaged 1.4 steals, his second best output in that category since the 2009-10 season.

He was even better offensively. Sefolosha averaged 8.2 points per game, his best scoring season since 2008-09. He made 38 percent of his 3-point shots, his best number since 2013-14. He made 80 percent of his free throws, his best mark in five years. He made 49 percent of his field-goal attempts, the second best percentage of his career.

In almost every way, Sefolosha put up some of the best numbers of his career. And the Jazz missed Sefolosha’s presence, particularly against the Houston Rockets, when he could’ve assisted in guarding the likes of James Harden and Chris Paul.

“I didn’t know what to expect when I came here this season,” Sefolosha said. “But what we were able to accomplish this season speaks volumes about the organization. It’s an incredible team and front office.”

Sources tell The Tribune that the Jazz value Sefolosha’s locker room presence and leadership off the floor. Indeed, Sefolosha was able to make an instant impact on the likes of Donovan Mitchell and Royce O’Neale.

After the surgery, Sefolosha stayed engaged with team activities, hanging out at the practice facility and such. He came to games immediately following his surgery, wincing through pain on crutches when it was clear he probably would’ve experienced less pain staying home and watching on television.

As Sefolosha got better, he began traveling and working out with the team in the latter stages of the regular season and through the playoffs. Along the way, he was hit with a five-game suspension for violating the NBA’s anti-drug program, a suspension he is expected to serve at the beginning of next season.

But his veteran leadership to a developing Jazz core proved invaluable, even when the knee surgery sidelined him.

“I think with a bit of growth, we have a chance to play with the best teams in the league next season,” Sefolosha said.

So, where does he fit? A lot has to do with Derrick Favors, and whether the Jazz bring him back next season. Sefolosha and Jae Crowder fit what the Jazz are attempting to do with their power forward spot. Both offer shooting and defense and the ability to make some plays off the dribble.

At the same time, the Jazz want to be as deep and as versatile as possible, in as many spots as possible. Sefolosha said he will spend most of his summer in his native Switzerland with his family.

He hopes the rest will take care of itself.

“I definitely want to come back,” Sefolosha said. “I was happy here in Utah.”

Thabo Sefolosha file<br>Played in 38 games, starting six, before being sidelined with a knee injury<br>Says he will be able to resume basketball activities over the summer<br>Is the oldest player on the Jazz’ roster at 34