Behind Door No. 1 is your longest-tenured player, beloved in the community and on the roster. He’s coming off of perhaps his best per-minute season, and is squarely in his prime at the age of 27 years old. He’s best utilized as a backup to your best player, but played at his very best in huge playoff wins over the course of the last three seasons.
Behind Door No. 1 is Derrick Favors.
Behind Door No. 2 is a cornucopia of possibility, a choice within a choice. With approximately $18 million in cap space available, do you want to try to sign a just-short-of-the-max free agent, like a Malcolm Brogdon or a Bojan Bogdanovic? Or do you split that money up into multiple players, sign a stretch power forward that might be a better fit than Favors, add a wing, and refill your depleted bench after the Mike Conley trade?
That’s the choice that the Jazz have to make on or before July 5, giving them five days to test the free agency market to see just what could exist behind Door No. 2. During that time, they can talk to free agents about who might be interested in coming to assist the contending Jazz, and what kind of contracts they’d agree to. Sources say they plan on doing exactly that.
Given the possibilities, Favors naturally is looking for a potential suitor should the Jazz move in a different direction, too. His agent, Wallace Prather, told The Athletic that he “will enter the free-agency period fielding calls from interested teams as if he will be an unrestricted free agent.” Whether or not he is one is at the discretion of the Jazz.
From the Utah front office perspective, whether they choose Door No. 1 or No. 2 is entirely dependent on who they can agree on terms with. To get an idea of which players might be available, NBA podcast Dunc’d On Podcast executed a “mock offseason," putting some smart representatives in charge of each team and representing each player. Then, Jazz fan Spencer Wixom wrote down a list of all of the contracts the parties agreed to during the negotiations.
Are there going to be some players who agree to more, and some who to agree to less? Of course, but the mock offseason followed the CBA rules to a T, and accurately reflected how much money is out on the market, and the sheer quantity of free agents out there, about 40% of the NBA. Among this market, the Jazz will have about $18 million to fill the holes on the roster, some of which would be opened further by Favors’ potential departure.
A power forward who could play next to Rudy Gobert would be at the top of the list of needs, and there are some potential fits, too. Would Julius Randle or Rudy Gay play for the Jazz for $12 million? Would Trevor Ariza or DeMarre Carroll make sense as small-ball four options? Or Jabari Parker, JaMychal Green, or Taj Gibson as more inexpensive choices?
But the Jazz’s wing rotation is relatively shallow now after the departure of Kyle Korver and Jae Crowder, too. Trevor Ariza, J.J. Redick, Kelly Oubre are among the more expensive options, but would they choose to come to Utah? (And would the Jazz have money to pay for them after acquiring a power forward?) What about Reggie Bullock, Justin Holiday, or Jared Dudley? There may even be some cheap veteran options that want to come to Utah in order to play for a contending team.
Without Favors, they’d also need a backup center. Luckily, replacement level on center is relatively high: there are a large number of available centers on the market as the league has become more focused on small-ball play. Among the budget options: Ed Davis, Robin Lopez, and even Richaun Holmes at the minimum. There are even internal backup center options at small money: Tony Bradley is looking to impress at next week’s summer league, and Willie Reed has significant playing experience at backup center in the NBA and wouldn’t embarrass himself there, either.
And of course, it’s not this easy: just because Trevor Ariza would sign for $12 million in an imaginary world with the Clippers doesn’t mean he’d do so for the Jazz. You can’t just pick and choose players so simply, the task ahead of executive vice president Dennis Lindsey and general manager Justin Zanik is much more complex.
The exercise does, though, give you an idea of the options involved, and just how difficult the decision is. Will the Jazz choose the player they know, or the depth they don’t?