Coming off of a quick first-round loss to the Houston Rockets, the Jazz’s front office felt they needed to commit to serious changes in order to take the Jazz to the next level.
Consider those changes made — and in style.
The Utah Jazz agreed to contracts with two players on Sunday. Bojan Bogdanovic, a 30-year-old scoring forward who played last season for the Indiana Pacers, kicked off proceedings by agreeing to a four-year, $73 million deal. Later Sunday night, Ed Davis, a power forward and center who worked for the Brooklyn Nets last year, agreed to terms on a two-year, $10 million deal, The Salt Lake Tribune confirmed. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski was first to report both deals, neither of which cannot be officially completed until the NBA’s moratorium ends on July 6.
In order to fit Bogdanovic’s salary under the NBA’s salary cap, the move requires the Jazz to let go of forward/center Derrick Favors, the longest-tenured player on the team. Late Sunday night, the Jazz were discussing a trade to allow Favors to go to New Orleans, who have the cap space to take on Favors’ deal.
Bogdanovic’s addition completely changes what the Jazz’s offense will look like: Instead of facing a scrunched floor that put pressure on Donovan Mitchell to create despite a lack of room, the Jazz are all of a sudden one of the best shooting teams in the NBA. Bogdanovic was a 42.5% shooter from 3-point land last season, taking about five 3s per game. Even more promising for the Jazz, he hit 52% on corner threes. With new point guard acquisition Mike Conley’s solid outside shooting, Bogdanovic’s contribution, and Joe Ingles’ potency from around the arc, Mitchell — himself a good shooter — is now perhaps the least talented 3-point maker besides Rudy Gobert in the Jazz’s projected finishing lineup.
But Bogdanovic isn’t just a sniper. After star Victor Oladipo was ruled out for the rest of the Pacers’ season with a ruptured quadriceps tendon, Bogdanovic showed he could carry a scoring load, averaging 20.9 points per game after the All-Star break. Since coming into the NBA, the Croatian forward has expanded his game to be able to score efficiently from everywhere, getting to the rim (making those layups at 64% last year) and the midrange (a 42% overall midrange shooter) against defenses that were focused on stopping him.
The 31st pick in the 2011 NBA draft, Bogdanovic didn’t come to the NBA until 2014, when he signed a deal with the Brooklyn Nets. He was traded to the Washington Wizards in exchange for a first-round pick on trade deadline day, 2017, before signing a free-agency deal with the Pacers that summer.
The addition, though, means Utah will have to move on from Favors. The big man who arrived to Utah in the Deron Williams trade in 2011 as a teenager scored 11.8 points per game last year, spending most of the year in the Jazz’s starting lineup while also playing backup center minutes behind Gobert. Gobert gave Favors a heartfelt goodbye tweet:
According to ESPN’s Zach Lowe, the Jazz spent Sunday night “closing in on a deal” with the New Orleans Pelicans, sending Favors to the upstart roster where he would likely be their starting center next to No. 1 overall selection Zion Williamson. While the exact terms of the trade weren’t yet clear, the signings mean that the Jazz can’t receive any salary in return in such a deal, meaning they’ll receive some form of a draft asset or other consideration. The Pelicans also added J.J. Redick on Sunday, while losing Julius Randle to the New York Knicks on a big contract.
Adding Davis for the Jazz’s room mid-level exception, though, starts to fill the hole Favors’ departure left. A terrific rebounder, Davis averaged 8.6 rebounds per game in a backup role for the Nets, playing an average of 17.9 minutes per contest. He isn’t the roller and finisher that Favors is — hardly anyone is, to be fair — but Davis was an important part of the Nets’ defense last year. When Davis was on the floor, the Nets were 6.9 points per 100 possessions better on that end than when he wasn’t. In recent years, he’s played almost exclusively at center, though played significant power forward minutes as a young player with Portland.
Ricky Rubio is the second member of the Jazz’s starting lineup who officially left the team Sunday, agreeing to a three-year, $51 million deal with the Phoenix Suns. He’ll be that team’s starting point guard for new coach Monty Williams.
After signing Bogdanovic and Davis, any further additions would have to be players who sign for the NBA’s minimum contract. But the Jazz have significant depth and flexibility on the roster as is: Dante Exum, Royce O’Neale, and Davis can play at multiple spots on the floor, while Georges Niang, Raul Neto, and Tony Bradley provide depth at their specialized positions. Second rounders Jarrell Brantley, Justin Wright-Foreman, and Miye Oni also have good chances of making the squad.
All things considered, the moves contribute to Utah’s status as a true title contender in the Western Conference. While there are still shoes to drop after Sunday’s opening day of free agency — Kawhi Leonard’s destination remains unknown — the Jazz currently seem to have perhaps the most cohesive and well-rounded unit of starters in the conference, with talent at every position.
After 12 days that have changed the franchise, it’s only 113 more until the Jazz get a chance to put their moves to the test on the court.