Utah Jazz players’ contract options will impact next season’s roster

Beyond Jordan Clarkson, each of Talen Horton-Tucker, Rudy Gay, and Damian Jones can opt out, while the team will have its say on whether to guarantee Kelly Olynyk’s deal.

Sacramento Kings guard Davion Mitchell drives between Utah Jazz forward Kelly Olynyk, left, and guard Talen Horton-Tucker (0) during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Saturday, March 25, 2023. (AP Photo/Randall Benton)

Given their three picks in the coming draft, their available cap space, and a treasure trove of assets to use in the trade market, the Utah Jazz will have plenty of options this summer to reshape their roster.

There will also be some literal options in play.

Jordan Clarkson’s player option in his contract is perhaps the most noteworthy, considering his history and role with the team, but he’s not alone. Talen Horton-Tucker, Rudy Gay, and Damian Jones all have the ability to decide if they’ll be back with the team or not. Meanwhile, Kelly Olynyk’s contract being only partially guaranteed right now means the team’s front-office brain trust would have the ability to move on relatively cheaply if it so desired.

Here’s a more in-depth look at what those players (and others) had to say about their respective futures with the Jazz.

Kelly Olynyk

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz forward Kelly Olynyk (41) celebrates a three-pointer in the final 94 seconds of the game, as the Utah Jazz host the Sacramento Kings, NBA basketball in Salt Lake City on Monday, March 20, 2023.

2023-24 salary: $12,195,122

Contract detail to note: $3 million is guaranteed; contract becomes guaranteed for the full amount on June 28.

There’s probably not much intrigue surrounding the Canadian’s return, as it’s not really in question. Acquired just before training camp last season in the trade that sent Bojan Bogdanovic to Detroit, Olynyk wound up starting all 68 games he played in, and averaged 12.5 points (second-best of his career), 6.2 rebounds (also second), and 3.7 assists (best), while shooting 49.9% overall (second) and 39.4% from 3-point range (third).

When asked about Olynyk’s contract, general manager Justin Zanik noted the team would take some time to assess everything, but made the 32-year-old’s return sound pretty likely.

“Kelly was great for us. I think you saw how much his ability to be a playmaker and connect the rest of the group [helped],” Zanik said. “I think he did a great job this year. I would anticipate that we would be having him back. … I was really happy with Kelly’s contributions, and he’s fit in great here.”

Olynyk, meanwhile, said in his exit interview, he was excited to get a fresh start with the Jazz after appearing in only 40 games last year with Detroit, and splitting the previous season between Miami and Houston. He particularly enjoyed the camaraderie of the roster, and getting a chance to mentor some of the Jazz’s more youthful players.

“Coming back here, it was refreshing, a fresh breath of air to come here and compete and contribute to some successes, and try and help the young guys and bring them along and grow and learn, but still play and compete at a high level,” he said. “I want to do this for as long as I can. … Hopefully [this past season] shows that I’m still here and still wanting to play the game of basketball at a high level.”

Talen Horton-Tucker

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz guard Talen Horton-Tucker (0) passes the ball as the Utah Jazz host the Sacramento Kings, NBA basketball in Salt Lake City on Monday, March 20, 2023.

2023-24 salary: $11,020,000

Contract detail to note: Player option due June 29.

Other than Kris Dunn, who went from out of the league to looking very much like an NBA-level player, perhaps no Jazz player helped their stock more as the season unfolded than Horton-Tucker.

Early on, he was in and out of the rotation, while learning the nuances of playing point guard for the first time.

After Mike Conley and Nickeil Alexander-Walker got traded, and Collin Sexton was injured, Horton-Tucker saw his role — and production — grow astronomically.

“Us freeing up some of those minutes after the trade deadline allowed us to get a really good look at Talen,” Zanik noted.

It also gave the 22-year-old a chance to rehab his value. Before, there was a near-zero chance of him opting out of the final season of the three-year, $30.8 million deal he signed with the Lakers. But after showing some PG chops (his 6.7 assists per 36 minutes shattered his previous career-high) and ability to get downhill and score (he scored a career-high 41 points vs. the Spurs near season’s end), he’s shown enough promise that opting for a new deal now might be worth it.

“We saw Talen have some spectacular games late in the year,” said Jazz CEO Danny Ainge.

The guard wasn’t sure yet how the opt-out decision would go.

“Really, just talk to my agents and I let them do their job. Honestly, I really try to stay away from it, I really just listen to them,” Horton-Tucker said of Klutch Sports’ Rich Paul and Lucas Newton. “I hired them because I feel like they’ll lead me in the best direction. So I really just let them do that.”

And while he acknowledged he has a ton of work yet to do, in terms of learning more point guard nuance, cutting down on turnovers, and improving his shooting efficiency, he was definitive when asked if he’d like to be doing that in Utah.

”Oh yeah, I love it. I love it, I love it here, honestly,” he said. “I got an opportunity here — and I’m appreciative of that. I don’t know anybody who wouldn’t love it.”

Rudy Gay

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz forward Rudy Gay (22) as the Utah Jazz host the San Antonio Spurs, NBA basketball in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023.

2023-24 salary: $6,479,000

Contract detail to note: Player option due June 29.

If Jazz fans are ambivalent about the forward coming back for a third season, well, he feels the same way.

When he signed in the summer of 2021, he thought he was being brought in “to help this team get over the hump.” But offseason heel surgery go him off to a slow start, and he never quite found himself in then-coach Quin Snyder’s good graces. When he came back this past season under Will Hardy, “I knew I was more of a mentor. … It’s two totally different roles, but you’ve got to be resilient.”

He did appear in 56 games (he was hampered late in the season by a broken nose and lower back soreness), but posted career-lows in minutes (14.6), points (5.2), rebounds (2.9), assists (1.0), field-goal percentage (38.0), and 3-point percentage (25.4).

Has the downward trend been difficult to accept?

“Yes, it is hard. To be honest with you, at 36 years old, I’d be expecting to try to be in the playoffs right now,” Gay said. “But you’ve got to play the hand you’re dealt, and if I was sitting here being a sourpuss that wouldn’t leave a good legacy for me. So I think the biggest thing would be just to help the guys that I can.”

He did say he enjoyed the season because he felt like he helped to play a small role in the development of rookies Walker Kessler and Ochai Agbaji by constantly giving them advice and harping on them about small details they need to absorb.

Still, while many would assume it’s an automatic that he’ll opt in, because there is no chance he’ll get a salary elsewhere that’s anywhere near what he’d be making in Utah, he did acknowledge an itch to try and contribute on the court somewhere.

“I don’t know yet. I have some time. But at the end of the day, I don’t think I’m done yet. It’s crazy to say — I still think I can get better,” Gay said. “For the most part since I’ve been in a Utah Jazz jersey, I’ve been asked to do something that I haven’t really done in my career. … I do still feel I have more to give — in whatever role. I don’t know how big that role can be.”

Then again, he also seemed to indicate that having one more guaranteed season could be something he could take advantage of.

“A lot of guys my age, when … they’re in a situation like I am, they’re just out,” he said. “Fortunately, I have another year on my contract, so I can go back into the lab and sharpen some things up and be able to be more of a resource to the team.”

Still, when asked point-blank about his future with the Jazz …

“Do I expect to be back here and do I want to be back here? Do I expect it? Let’s be honest — I didn’t expect to be here this year! So I mean, it is what it is,” Gay said. “But I’ve taken a liking to this team, I’ve taken a liking to the guys, and obviously Will. He’s somebody that I really want to see do well in this league. And I would love to be a part of this team. But I know how this business works, so whatever happens happens.”

Damian Jones

Orlando Magic's Jalen Suggs, right, is fouled by Utah Jazz's Damian Jones (15) as he goes to the basket during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Thursday, March 9, 2023, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

2023-24 salary: $2,586,665

Contract detail to note: Player option due June 23.

Jones, like Olynyk, probably doesn’t have much mystery surrounding his status. While a veteran-minimum deal anywhere else would be pretty commensurate with what he’d make with the Jazz, he really enjoyed the organizational vibes after arriving via trade from the Lakers.

“I was happy about it. I was looking for a change of scenery, and coming here was great,” he said. “… I plan on coming back, but we’ll see what’s up.”

Asked specifically about his contract option, he replied: “I’m definitely willing to pick it up. You know, I’m liking what’s going on here — the culture, teammates, the coaches. It’s great.”

He proved he had some value by making 10 of 13 tries from beyond the arc while with the Jazz, and noted that the offseason list of things to work on from the coaching staff entailed focusing on being able to switch one through five, while also becoming a bit more of a force as a rim-protector.