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After six straight years of appearing in the playoffs, the Utah Jazz seems to be doing it all in rebuilding. This off-season, they traded All-Stars Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert for a bunch of shots that would make Oklahoma City Thunder executive Sam Prieste blush.
But is jazz over? What teams might still benefit from a fire sale in Utah?
With 17 players on guaranteed standard contracts (plus a pair of two), the franchise should drop to 15 regular contracts before the regular season. The team is also about $2 million less than the NBA’s minimum luxury tax threshold of $150.3 million — but it will be out if Mike Conley, Colin Sexton and Jared Vanderbilt all hit their motivators.
Since last season’s taxable teams took a $10.5 million bribe from those who finished, a pay cut could be a good business for the jazz.
Who are the guards?
The Cleveland Cavaliers’ players for Mitchell (Ochai Agbaji, Laurie Markkanen, and Sexton) appear to be the goalkeepers. Patrick Beverly, part of Joubert’s return from the Minnesota Timberwolves, has already been shipped to the Los Angeles Lakers for Tallinn Horton Tucker and Stanley Johnson.
It’s possible that Horton Tucker and a few returning young players (Jared Butler, Udoka Azubuike and Nikkel Alexander Walker) will get a chance to prove themselves with the Cleveland newcomers.
The team also selected Malik Beasley, Leandro Bolmaro, Walker Kessler and Jared Vanderbilt of Minnesota. Of the four, Kessler is the main prospect from Joubert’s trade. Finally, rising winger Simone Fontecchio landed a solid, fully guaranteed two-year deal worth $6.3 million.
The next nine pencils are on the opening night list: Agbagi, Alexander Walker, Azuboyeki, Butler, Fontique, Horton Tucker, Kessler, Markkanen and Sexton.
Bogdanovic stands out
Bojan Bogdanovic may be the most attractive of the veterans that jazz seems willing to let go of.
“I could see a lot of teams wanted Bojan. He can really pay it,” said one customer. “[Just] The contenders, though. He’s older now [at 33]. “
While the Jazz may have suitors, the challenge may be matching Bogdanovic’s outgoing $19.6 million salary. For example, if Boston wants to add a winger after losing Danilo Gallinari to a knee injury, the Celtics will likely need to include Derrick White. Utah may have no interest in a $54.3 million three-year investment in White.
Likewise, the Dallas Mavericks may be able to break from Davis Bertans to Bogdanovich. The Jazz will undoubtedly claim first the $49 million owed over three seasons. That’s more expensive (and over a much longer period) than Russell Westbrook’s $47.1 million salary. The Lakers may be open to taking Bogdanovic and other pieces of the jazz for the veteran goalkeeper, but they aren’t eager to give up on a first-round pick.
Others looking at Bogdanovich could include teams like the Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat and Sacramento Kings.
Poor market for Conley, Jay
While Conley was relatively solid last season (72 games, 40.8 percent shooting from three-point range), the Jazz may struggle to find a team willing to take on his contract.
“It’s over the hill,” said one of the executives. “Its production is not worth it [his salary]. “
Conley fell significantly in the playoffs against the Mavericks (20 percent from three). That’s a big question mark for a competitor: will the 35-year-old have the legs for a playoff? That risk might be too high for most people at $22.7 million and $24.4 million over the next two seasons (the last year only guaranteed $14.3 million).
Will the Phoenix Suns bet that Conley has more to offer as a backup for Chris Paul? Getting math would be very complicated (but not impossible).
Like me, 36, it’s like Conley on a much smaller scale with $6.2 million and $6.5 million (player option) over the next two seasons. Utah may be able to work with him on a more significant deal, but Jay is unlikely to provoke any of the suitors.
Unless there is a huge Westbrook salary deal, the Jazz might be better off sticking with the players until they are in the final years of their deals.
Clarkson probability, Beasley
Jazz may have more luck moving on than Jordan Clarkson ($13.3 million for 2022-23) and Beasley ($15.6 million). Clarkson has another year at $14.3 million (player’s option), but Beasley can be considered an expired contract with a $16.5 million team option for 2023-24.
Both are capable of scoring goals off the bench, notably Clarkson, who won the Sixth Man of the Year award in 2020-21. His production was down last season (particularly from a three-point range at just 31.8 percent), but he could certainly help a second unit earn points on the board.
As Minnesota Timberwolves have changed directions (with Anthony Edwards still coming in), Beasley averaged just 12.1 points in last year’s game after averaging 19.6 in 2020-21 and 20.7 in 14 games with Minnesota in 2019-20.
The Charlotte Hornets may be looking for total depth, especially if Jazz is willing to ditch Vanderbilt. Or maybe a New Orleans Pelican with Devonty Graham and Jackson Hayes as bait?
What about Vanderbilt, Bolmaro, Johnson?
Vanderbilt had a lot of suitors, but [the Jazz] You don’t need to decide on it right away. “It’s cheap next year,” said an agent.
A defensive-minded striker can earn up to $4.5 million this season and $4.8 million (with only a $300,000 guarantee) for 2023-24. Represented by Klutch Sports’ Rich Paul, could Vanderbilt be on the Lakers’ wish list?
He could be a Utah ranger, or the Jazz could look to trade him for draft assets if he wasn’t part of their plans.
Meanwhile, Bolmaro, ranked 23rd in 2020, has yet to establish himself.
Blossoms off the rose [on Bolmaro]”He hasn’t done much in two years,” said a former executive.
Utah must make a decision on Polmaro’s $2.6 million 2023-24 team option before the end of October. If Jazz isn’t willing to make that commitment, it’s either the player they give up to get to 15 or he trades fodder into a bigger deal. Jazz could even try to cash it in to a team with a cover room or trade exception.
Johnson, eighth in 2015, struggled to find a long-term home. He’s still young (26) and works hard defensively. One of his best games of the 2021–22 season was with the Lakers against the Jazz, in which Johnson scored 15 goals (striking specifically Jubert) to help end Los Angeles’ win.
If Utah does not find a viable deal for its older players, Bolmaro and Johnson could become the victim of a roster crisis.
Email Eric Pincus at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter Tweet embed.