SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz brought in nearly a hundred players for observation prior to the NBA draft. It worked out nicely, even though Trey Burke wasn’t among them.
What next, 100 free agent visits?
Monday marks the start of free agency, which means things are seriously busy. With the NBA's second-most salary cap space (some estimates are as high as $40 million), the Jazz will be lining up like shoppers at a door crasher sale.
Stand back, ‘cause here they come, with money to burn.
After the dealing they did on draft night, one can only wonder what the next phase of shopping will bring.
“The nature of it is, there are fewer workouts (in free agency) — and they’re a lot more private,” general manager Dennis Lindsey said. “We might make 100 phone calls, but we won’t have 100 players. That’s a logistical nightmare.”
Still, it’s safe to say the Jazz aren’t ruling out much. With an expected cap of around $59 million, they are required to spend no less than $54 million on player salaries next year. The contracts of Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks and Jeremy Evans total around $20 million. Marvin Williams has an option on a $7.5 million deal.
With the remaining cap space, the Jazz should be able to say, “We’ll take that. And that. And that.”
Will they be as aggressive as they were on draft day?
“It’s hard say. We’ll do our diligence and make the calls, and if it’s appropriate for us to be very aggressive and make a big offer, we can do so,” Lindsey said. “Everybody knows about the room and flexibility we have built in with the threshold. But I will say this: We will not give bad contracts.”
In other words, the Jazz will play it like a certain Hall of Fame point guard, noted for his frugality and short shorts.
They may have millions but that doesn’t mean they’re spending it all in one place.
The team on Thursday traded for the rights to Michigan’s Burke. He showed up on Friday at Zions Bank Basketball Center to address the media, his first trip to the Beehive State. Team representatives were positively giddy with how things worked out. They got the national player of the year — a true point guard — and French center Rudy Gobert, who has a 9-feet-7 standing reach. Also acquired was Brazilian guard Raul Neto.
“We couldn’t be more pleased,” said Miller Sports Properties COO Steve Miller.
Happy as the Jazz management team was, it wasn’t about to relax. Lindsey will meet with coach Tyrone Corbin this weekend to confirm the direction they’ll go. The unexpected availability of Burke might have altered their plan on free agents. Lindsey declined to specify whether next year’s main components will be players they already have, or incoming troops. It’s possible the Jazz will skip trying to re-sign any of last year’s guards, and they might even skip bidding for Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap.
In any case, there has never been an off-season with so many options. By league rules, the Jazz must get up to 13 players. Right now they have about half that many. There are certainly some doozies on the market, primarily Chris Paul and Dwight Howard. But neither is likely to sign with a small market team, especially one that is nowhere near contention. Next tier down, without regard to whether they’re restricted or not: Jeff Teague, Brandon Jennings, O.J. Mayo, Josh Smith, Monta Ellis and Andre Iguodala.
In the department of seen-better-days: Andrei Kirilenko and Manu Ginobili.
The Jazz struggled for years to hold off free agency raiders such as Portland, which wooed Wes Matthews with superior dollars. It tried to make away with Millsap, too.
Now it’s the Jazz with the cash — or at least the cap space — and ownership has OK’d the team spending what it must to be a contender. That doesn’t mean it will be tossing money at risky players.
“We’re going to be disciplined and if the evaluation gets beyond where we think they belong, then we’ll move to the next guy,” Lindsey said. “If that means being more patient in free agency and being more value-oriented in August, so be it.”
Either way, for one of the only times in their history, the Jazz are virtually free to shop ‘til they drop.
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