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Utah Jazz adding Rudy Gay, losing Georges Niang in free agency

Veteran forward agrees to the taxpayer midlevel exception, signing for two years, $12.1 million.

San Antonio Spurs forward Rudy Gay (22) battles Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young (11) for a jump ball during the first half of an NBA basketball game on Friday, Feb. 12, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Todd Kirkland)

Day 1 of NBA free agency saw the Utah Jazz bring back one of their own guys in Mike Conley.

Day 2 saw them bring in someone new to fill a hole.

Veteran forward Rudy Gay and the Jazz have agreed to a two-year deal worth $12.1 million, a source with knowledge of the situation confirmed to The Salt Lake Tribune.

The Athletic and ESPN were first to report the deal.

With the Jazz back over the luxury tax line due to the Conley signing, and their taxpayer midlevel exception now gone with the Gay signing, any remaining roster moves the team makes will come from either minimum-salary signings (including for second-round pick Jared Butler) or via trade.

Gay, a 34-year-old UConn product who now is listed at 6-foot-8 and 250 pounds, will slot in primarily as a stretch-4 and perhaps occasionally as a small-ball-5 and even an oversized 3, helping the team gain some of the positional versatility it was lacking in the 2021 postseason.

The 15-year veteran, a former lottery pick, has career averages of 16.8 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. Last season, he averaged 11.4 points and 4.8 rebounds, while shooting 38.1% beyond the arc.

He has played the past four seasons with the San Antonio Spurs.

There is also the possibility that he could fill some of the backup 5 minutes behind All-NBA center Rudy Gobert, now that Derrick Favors has been sent to Oklahoma City in a move that amounted to a salary dump. In Utah’s second-round playoff loss to the Clippers, they struggled mightily against L.A. lineups that featured five smaller, more mobile players. As someone capable of spending periods of time at small forward, power forward, and center, Gay should help address that deficiency.

The Jazz’s two free agent signings to this point actually have an extensive history together. Though Gay was selected No. 8 overall in the 2006 draft by the Houston Rockets, he was traded two weeks later to the Memphis Grizzlies. The next summer, the Grizzlies picked Conley out of Ohio State.

The two were Memphis teammates from 2007 until Gay was dealt to Toronto in January 2013. From there, he played 3.5 seasons with the Kings before eventually landing with the Spurs.

After being a starter for most of his career, Gay has primarily shifted to a bench role, starting just 6 of 130 games played over the past two seasons. He averaged just under 22 minutes per game in San Antonio this past season, and was productive during his on-court time, averaging 19.0 points and 8.0 rebounds per 36 minutes.

The Jazz will have a few more roster spots to fill, but as it stands now, the team has already has approximately $150 million-plus committed in salaries, and by the time they fill out the roster, will be looking at a luxury tax bill somewhere around $40-50 million.

GEORGES NIANG DEPARTS FOR 76ERS

Due to financial constraints, Georges Niang was a long shot to remain with the Jazz going forward. The Rudy Gay signing was the nail in the coffin for Niang’s tenure with the Jazz.

On Tuesday evening, Niang agreed to a two-year, $6.7 million deal with the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Iowa State product, who originally joined the organization on a two-way contract in early 2018, became a standout player for the G League affiliate Salt Lake City Stars and soon earned himself a full NBA contract for the 2018-19 season.

Niang eventually worked his way into one of the league’s best spot-up 3-point shooters, connecting on 40% or better from behind the line in each of the past three seasons. However, Niang likely played his way into a raise this season. That, combined with Utah’s desire to add some defensive switchability, led to Gay effectively taking Niang’s spot.

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