When the Jazz and Grizzlies agreed last week to the framework of a trade that will bring veteran point guard Mike Conley to Utah as of July 6, the team essentially took itself out of the running for being a significant player in July’s free agency period.
So long, Kemba Walker. Adios, Tobias Harris. Buh-bye, D’Angelo Russell.
Except … what if that wasn’t the case? What if the Jazz aren’t content to simply let the rest of their summer play out with the “Room” midlevel exception and maybe a minimum salary or two? Are they capable of pulling off another big move this summer? Something that will vault them yet closer to contention?
Turns out, they have some options.
Some of them are easier than others, and none of them would be painless. After the team was widely hailed for landing Conley without having to sacrifice not-yet-guaranteed big man Derrick Favors or talented-but-mercurial-and-injury-prone point guard Dante Exum, there’s no getting around the fact that one or both would have to be jettisoned for sure this time in order for the team to pull off something substantial.
So, what are we even talking about here? Not Walker or Russell anymore, certainly, as that would make the Jazz’s backcourt a bit crowded. But, for those who’ve noticed that including Jae Crowder in the Conley deal leaves the team without a stretch-four other than Georges Niang, well, Harris looks like the dream-scenario fit there, doesn’t he?
This past season, he averaged 20.0 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and shot 39.7% from 3-point range. Meanwhile, there are reports circulating that he still has interest in playing for the Jazz.
MAY THE FOURS BE WITH YOU
If the Jazz decide they need a different body at the four position next season other than Derick Favors or Georges Niang, here are some potential free-agent options, and how they shot from 3-point range in 2018-19:
• Tobias Harris (4.8 3PA, 39.8%)
• Julius Randle (2.7 3PA, 34.4%)
• Bojan Bogdanovic (4.8 3PA, 42.5%)
• Harrison Barnes (5.7 3PA, 39.5%)
• Nikola Mirotic (6.9 3PA, 36.5%)
• Paul Millsap (2.3 3PA, 36.5%)
• Thaddeus Young (1.8 3PA, 34.9%)
• Marcus Morris (5.2 3PA, 37.5%)
• Jabari Parker (3.0 3PA, 31.3%)
• Rudy Gay (2.7 3PA, 40.2%)
• Al-Farouq Aminu (3.5 3PA, 34.3%)
• Bobby Portis (3.8 3PA, 39.3%)
How does Utah’s front office get there, then?
It’s pretty tricky. Harris has played eight seasons in the NBA. Assuming the 2019-20 salary cap comes in at the projected $109 million once the new league year rolls over, a player with up to nine years of experience can make a maximum of $32.9 million. And Harris is widely expected to get the max or something close to it.
Simply not picking up the second-year option on Favors’ contact before it comes due on July 6 would create about $16.9 million in available cap space. So, then, just find some team with room under the cap, and send Exum there. There’s another $9-ish million. Now we’ve got $26 million in cap space.
Is that enough for Harris to come to Utah? Hard to believe that a guy who hasn’t made anything close to this level of salary before is willing to leave that much on the table, especially when the Sixers (with whom he finished last season) have vowed to make a max offer to retain him, and several other teams are apparently willing to make max offers to lure him away.
What now, then? Well, the Jazz could still have some options left to potentially clear more money to make room for Harris. It might entail parting with backup point guard Raul Neto and big man Tony Bradley to serve as additional cap filler. And beyond that, it would necessitate either another team or two agreeing to take part in a sign-and-trade, or the Grizzlies agreeing to alter the already-agreed-upon parameters of the Conley deal and still pulling in a third team. and adding some of these extra pieces.
Landing Harris, at this point, isn’t impossible, but it would require some cap gymnastics and the help of outside parties.
Which means that maybe some of those options short of trying to add a max-level guy such as Harris perhaps make more sense. If the Jazz were to let Favors go, or both Favors and Exum, they’d still have options on the free-agent market. Would they be better than Favors and Exum? Well, that probably depends on how you feel about, say … Julius Randle? Bojan Bogdanovic? Harrison Barnes? Nikola Mirotic? The return of Paul Millsap?
A tier or two below those guys, there are alternatives as well: Thaddeus Young; Marcus Morris; Jabari Parker; Rudy Gay; Al-Farouq Aminu. Wizards restricted big man Bobby Portis is out there too, and has reportedly expressed some level of interest in the Jazz, as well.
And those are just the stretch-four options. It’s entirely possible the Jazz target wing depth, or outside shooting, or something completely different. Now comes the interesting part of figuring out how they go about landing their targets.
Jazz assistant leaves Utah, returns to Spain
Jazz assistant coach Fotis Katsikaris was officially hired as the head coach of Gran Canaria in the ACB league of Spain on Wednesday, ending the Greek coach’s one-year stint with the Jazz.
Jazz head coach Quin Snyder issued a statement upon Katsikaris’ departure.
“Fotis Katsikaris was a tremendous addition to our staff this past season and we thank him for his contributions to our organization. Returning to the ACB League as a head coach, where he had a great career in the past, is an incredible opportunity,” Snyder said. “While I know what a difficult decision this was for him, we all look forward to following his success. Basketball is thriving as a global game and we will continue to grow with it as we explore opportunities to learn from international coaches.”
No announcement has been named about Katsikaris’ successor. The Jazz now have two vacancies on their coaching staff after assistant Antonio Lang went to join the Cleveland Cavaliers last week.