Most Jazz fans know the team could have upwards of $30 million to spend in free agency this summer. After all, Ricky Rubio has come out and said the team has told him he’s not priority No. 1. And Derrick Favors’ salary doesn’t become guaranteed until July 6. Meanwhile, Thabo Sefolosha and Ekpe Udoh are unrestricted free agents unlikely to return.
That particular combination of factors — in concert with a young, talented team on the rise — have given many people near-unprecedented hope of the franchise’s front office adding a marquee name to the roster.
Except … What if Kemba Walker decides his loyalty (and an additional $80 million) is in Charlotte? What if Tobias Harris is perfectly fine being the fourth wheel in Philly? Or sees the bright lights of Brooklyn beckoning? What if D’Angelo Russell’s restricted status yields nothing more than three days of disappointment? What if none of the top players out there decide this is the place?
What do the Jazz do then?
While a failure to walk away with the franchise’s biggest free-agent acquisition since Carlos Boozer will be disheartening to some and outright disaster to others, the reality is that it wouldn’t inherently equate to an inability to improve the team.
What if, instead of spending all that money on one supposedly elite addition, the Jazz pivoted and split it up among multiple less-talented but also much less expensive players?
The Clippers jettisoned Harris at the trade deadline and then relied upon their depth and synergy to not only make the playoffs, but arguably give the Warriors a tougher matchup this postseason than anyone other than Finals foe Toronto. It’s an intriguing thought — especially considering the Clippers didn’t have anyone with the talent of, say, Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert spearheading the whole thing.
OK, then — who’s out there that might fit the bill? (We’re sticking primarily with unrestricted free agents for this exercise, and throwing in a few restricted too, as player and team options are still up in the air, and trades can come out of nowhere.)
If the Jazz can’t land a top-tier free agent this summer, they could use their cap room among smaller-salaried players to improve the team’s depth. Here are some potential options (by position, in alphabetical order — no rankings implied):
Name/Contract status/2018-19 salary
James Ennis/Player option/$1.621
Arguably the most plug-and-play option out there is 31-year-old Darren Collison, who averaged 11.2 points, 6.0 assists, and shot 40.7% from deep last season for the Pacers. However, considering he’s not the most dynamic guy at the position, and considering he’s likely to get a raise from the $10 million salary he made in 2018-19, he may not fit the bill.
So then — some cheaper options. How about one of those aforementioned Clippers? Patrick Beverley may not be perceived as a true lead guard by some, but beyond being one one of the league’s premier defensive pests, he averaged 7.6 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 3.8 assists, and shot 39.7% from 3 last year. He made $5.027M.
If you’re looking to project a bit, if the Celtics somehow manage to keep Kyrie Irving, they might not be inclined to match an offer sheet for restricted guard Terry Rozier. While he had a down year for Boston overall, he’s only 25, shares a Louisville connection with Mitchell, and demonstrated in the 2018 playoffs that he can produce in a bigger role (11.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 38.1 3P%). He made $3.05M this season.
Perhaps a tier below is Cory Joseph, a 27-year-old who’s been a productive reserve (and occasional starters) with the Spurs, Raptors, and, most recently, behind Collison with the Pacers, where he averaged 6.5 points and 3.9 assists this season. And while he’s not much of a deep shooter (32.2% this season), Seth Curry would absolutely fit that role. In less than 19 mpg, he averaged 7.9 points and shot 45.0% beyond the arc.
Danny Green has been resurgent in the Finals. The 6-foot-6 3-and-D specialist averaged 10.3 ppg and shot 45.5% from 3 for the Raptors this season, while making $10M. But has he played his way into a big raise?
If the Hornets spend big to retain Walker, they may be less inclined to pony up to keep backcourt-mate Jeremy Lamb. The UConn product is 27 years old, stands 6-5, and averaged 15.3 ppg and 5.5 rpg this season (while making $7M). While he shot only 34.8% from deep, he did connect on 37.0% of his 3s the season prior. He’s also regarded as a plus-defender.
Rudy Gay has reinvented himself as a proficient deep shooter (40.2%), and also contributed 13.7 points and 6.8 rebounds per game for the Spurs this season. At 6-8, 230, he can play both wing and stretch-four. He made $10.087M this season.
Reggie Bullock, meanwhile, is a guy who gave the Jazz fits in their two games vs. the Pistons this season. And while he struggled after being traded to the Lakers, he’s 6-8, 28 years old, and still averaged 11.3 ppg on 37.7% from deep this year. Actually, he’s a career 39.2% 3-point shooter, and he made only $2.5M this season.
The Blazers’ Al-Farouq Aminu is a bit of a tweener between the three and four positions, as the 28-year-old checks in at 6-9, 220. He averaged 9.4 points and 7.5 rebounds this year, and shot 34.3% from deep while making $6.957M.
JaMychal Green (6-9, 227) split the season between the Grizzlies and Clippers. In just 21.1 minutes, he averaged 9.4 points and 6.3 rebounds. The soon-to-be 29-year-old also shot a career-best 40.3% from deep while making a salary of $8.067M.
Ed Davis just celebrated his 30th birthday, and while he won’t help with outside shooting, the 6-10, 225-pound reserve is a rebounding machine (17.3 last season per 36 minutes) and efficient with his offensive opportunities (61.6 FG% last season).
And finally, DeWayne Dedmon is a 7-footer, but a legit 3-point threat. This past season with the Hawks, the 29-year-old shot 38.2% from deep (he’s made 37.0% for his career), and contributed 10.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.1 blocks, and 1.1 steals. He made $6.3M.