The Utah Jazz have a full roster.
Thanks to the recent signings of Omer Yurtseven and Johnny Juzang, the Jazz have 15 players under contract, and three two-way deals done, too. Both of those are at the NBA maximum limits.
And yet the full roster doesn’t necessarily indicate that the Jazz are done with their offseason. For one, there are notable and numerous trade discussions happening all around the NBA, including of stars like Damian Lillard, James Harden, and Pascal Siakam. Other players around the league would be on the move to eventually accommodate those trades, too.
But there’s a bigger factor: While the Jazz have the right number of players, their roster isn’t very balanced right now.
The current roster
To get a snapshot of the current roster, let’s take a look at who the Jazz have under contract right now, along with their age and last year’s positional production ranking as determined by Estimated Plus-Minus (EPM), an all-in-one stat created by former Jazz statistician Taylor Snarr at DunksAndThrees.com. For simplicity, we’ll ignore the two-way players.
• Kris Dunn, 29, 28th
• Collin Sexton, 24, 33rd
• Talen Horton-Tucker, 22, 37th
• Jordan Clarkson, 31, 28th
• Ochai Agbaji, 23, 65th
• Keyonte George, 19, rookie
• Lauri Markkanen, 26, 5th
• Luka Samanic, 23, 65th
• Simone Fontecchio, 27, 105th
• Brice Sensabaugh, 19, rookie
• John Collins, 25, 41st
• Taylor Hendricks, 19, rookie
• Walker Kessler, 21, 14th
• Kelly Olynyk, 32, 30th
• Omer Yurtseven, 24, 78th
By this accounting, the Jazz’s worst position is power forward. But there are real reasons for optimism at that spot.
For one, while Collins had a terrible season by his standards there last year, he was ranked as the 14th-best power forward in the league in 2022, 11th best in 2021, and 7th best in 2020. If he can find that form again, he’s an above-average starter for the position.
Secondly, the Jazz just drafted a rookie with the No. 9 pick in Hendricks, who projects to be a very good player moving forward.
Finally, worst case, star Markkanen can swap down there; he played nearly half of his minutes at the spot last year and has played the majority of his career as a four.
Meanwhile, the Jazz’s guard options are a bit more speculative.
Right now, the statistically best Jazz backcourt is 29 and 31 years old — in their primes, but potentially declining in the future. Dunn had a terrific 22 games in a Jazz uniform, but it might be unrealistic for him to maintain that career-best performance over a whole season. Clarkson has never been a statistical darling, thanks to his relatively inefficient scoring and iffy defense.
The Jazz’s brightest hope in the backcourt comes from 19-year-old Keyonte George, who was perhaps the summer league’s standout rookie. Across his six games, he put up a 25 PER and showed flashes of young scoring we haven’t seen since Donovan Mitchell.
It would be unfair to set George up against Mitchell’s standard, who was one of the five best NBA rookies in the last 20 years. The far more likely outcome is that he’s not as good as the departed star. But after that summer league performance, it’s at least within the realm of possibility.
But regardless of whether or not George becomes a star, the Jazz will likely need to upgrade at the other backcourt slot.
The good news is that the Jazz can hope for growth there. Sexton certainly improved in his age-23 season last year, though didn’t stay on the floor consistently, partially due to the Jazz’s conservative approach to his injuries. Horton-Tucker was a good playmaker but a bad scorer last year — he’ll need to raise his game to become a deserving starter, too. Agbaji’s low rating is largely due to a passive start to the season, and he improved from March forward.
But it might be a bridge too far to expect any of those players to become above-average NBA starters. Average NBA starters earn about $20-25 million per season in the current NBA economy. Ask yourself this: Would you be excited about paying the players in the above paragraph that salary? I would expect that to be an overpay for those players moving forward.
Looking at the possibilities
That’s why I suspect that, despite the full roster, the Jazz are going to continue to be active in trade conversations for the rest of the year — heck, all the way through the trade deadline in 2024.
What opportunities exist out there? By far, the most frequently-rumored name for the Jazz to acquire right now is definitely Miami’s Tyler Herro, who would head to the Jazz in a three-team deal sending Lillard to Miami. Herro is under contract for the next four years at an expensive $30 million per season, but he’s the league’s 17th-ranked shooting guard at age 23, with presumed upside beyond that. You can understand why the Jazz are reportedly interested, though the contract means that they shouldn’t give up too much in such a deal.
Elsewhere, Chicago’s Zach LaVine has been in trade conversations. He makes even more money — nearly $45 million for the next four years! — but was the ninth-best shooting guard in the league. Toronto’s O.G. Anunoby ranked seventh last year among shooting guards (though he frequently played small forward). He’ll make $18 million this season but will be an unrestricted free agent after that. OKC’s Isaiah Joe, the shooting specialist, is a restricted free agent and ranked 20th last year, albeit in limited minutes.
At the point guard position, though, there are more limited obvious options. I suppose the Jazz could trade for 19th-ranked D’Angelo Russell, but he found his way out of major playoff minutes by the conference finals last year. Maybe 24th-ranked Kevin Porter Jr. is a young option, but is not exactly a team-first player. I don’t like those choices.
Given that, the Jazz will need George to star, see massive improvement from their current stable of young point guards ... or stay patient and wait for an all-in All-Star option. The dream is that 24-year-old Luka Doncic becomes available if Dallas starts to falter, but maybe a Trae Young or LaMelo Ball relocation could also be in the cards down the road.
Know this, though: just because the Jazz’s roster is full doesn’t mean the Jazz’s front office is done. Work remains to become a true championship contender, and the franchise will push toward that goal.
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