, Ravell Call, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Whatever NSA employee gets to listen in on Dennis Lindsey's cellphone tonight will have some interesting info beginning at 10:01 MDT.
That's when the NBA's 2013 free agency period officially begins, and teams are allowed to begin negotiating directly with players and their agents.
Though they drafted three players (for other teams) and traded for three others (for their team) on a wild draft-day adventure, the Jazz still have a handful of team vacancies to fill.
"We're a little incomplete as far as roster spots go," Lindsey, the Jazz's general manager, said. "So, we have some work to do."
Lots of work beginning tonight (July 1 Eastern time), continuing through July 8 when contracts can be signed, and clear through fall camp when the roster has to be finalized before opening night.
Coming into the offseason, the Jazz only had six players with guaranteed contracts for the 2013-14 season — Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Alec Burks, Jeremy Evans and Marvin Williams (because he didn't exercise an early termination option).
Throw first-round picks and trade acquisitions Trey Burke and Rudy Gobert into the mix, and that brings Utah's roster up to eight.
Reserves Kevin Murphy and Jerel McNeal both have non-guaranteed contracts, and their roster spots aren't a certainty. Also, it appears likely that Brazilian point guard Raul Neto will return to his Spanish team for another year or two before trying to secure a roster spot in Utah.
With teams required to carry between 13-15 players, the Jazz will need to sign several more players before next fall to avoid being fined, as Lindsey jokingly pointed out.
The big question: Who will the Jazz pursue?
As currently constructed, the Jazz have intriguing young talent in all five positions, with Burke (20) at point guard, Burks (22 in July) at shooting guard, Hayward (23) at small forward, Favors (22 in July) at power forward and Kanter (21) at center.
"I think we have beginnings of a foundation," Lindsey said. "We're certainly excited about the guys we have under contract."
The Jazz GM, entering his first free agency period as the lead man in Utah after five years as the Spurs' assistant GM, said the organization would spend the weekend debating about how to complement that crew.
Should they throw Burke to the wolves like Portland did with NBA Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard? Or bring in a veteran playmaker to mentor him?
Should the Jazz throw big money at two of the most attractive unrestricted free agents who've happened to call Utah home for years or try to pull off sign-and-trade deals with bigs Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap?
Try to win now?
Or let the young guys play the majority of the minutes and develop regardless of the standings?
Make more bold moves or save flexibility for trades or next offseason when the draft is supposed to be loaded and a better free agent crop enters the market?
"The main thing for us, the fit has to be right for where we are in our development now," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said while talking about the team's need for more veteran leadership. "This group of guys is going to be special for us."
Even after signing Burke (around $2 million) and Gobert ($900,000ish), the Jazz will only have a team salary of about $28.6 million. That means Utah has a boatload of salary cap room to play with this summer. The Jazz will need to spend about $24 million just to get to the league minimum, which is expected to be in the neighborhood of $52.7 million (90 percent of the salary cap), according to ESPN reports.
Lindsey said the Jazz have a couple of specific areas that need to be addressed.
"Clearly, shooting is a priority," Lindsey said. "I think some veteran leadership is another thing that Ty probably wants relative to the youth of our club. But there’s quite a few things."
Lindsey wouldn't name names on the Jazz's wish list, of course. He wouldn't talk about specific positions they're trying to bolster, either. But he did rattle off a list of qualities potential Jazz players would need to possess to be a good fit with this organization.
"Some things are just characteristics — strong, smart, tough, unselfish — regardless of position," he said. "And then we'll get into position specific, then we have to marriage-make with finances relative to what the free agent market expectations are."
In other words?
"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 that we've built in."
With emphasis, Lindsey added: "We're not going to give bad contracts. We're going to be disciplined."
Purely by coincidence, Andrei Kirilenko, who once received a franchise-taxing $86 million deal from Utah, exercised his player option from his Minnesota contract to enter the free agent market Saturday.
As they did during the draft — when they brought in more than 70 players for pre-draft workouts — the Jazz are doing their homework to make sure every option is explored.
They might not be able to woo the guys they want to come to Utah. But they'll try.
And, depending on how things play out, they might need fans to be patient while they experience some rebuilding growing pains.
Building a championship-caliber team remains the ultimate goal, but it might take years to get to that point if all goes well.
"There's always pressure (to win) — always pressure because you want to do your best," Lindsey said when asked about ownership's expectations for returning to the playoffs next spring.
"I think they have a good idea of where we're at and what's realistic," Lindsey continued. "We're going to talk about the process and development and not skipping steps and not just arbitrarily put expectations on the team at this stage we're at right now."
For the next week — or couple of months if it takes that long — the stage is filling the roster.
"It's not my nature to try to skip steps. It's Ty's nature as well that we want to be systematic in how we grow the team," Lindsey said. "I think we're confident that we can execute a lot of different ways and put a team on the floor that's organized and makes sense."
Guaranteed contracts: Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Alec Burks, Marvin Williams, Jeremy Evans, Trey Burke, Rudy Gobert.
Non-guaranteed contracts: Raul Neto, Kevin Murphy, Jerel McNeal.
Unrestricted free agents: Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Mo Williams, DeMarre Carroll, Randy Foye, Earl Watson, Jamaal Tinsley.
LEADING NBA FREE AGENTS
The cream of the 2013 free agent crop, listed in order of CBSSports.com's rankings:
Point guards: Chris Paul (UFA), Brandon Jennings (RFA), Jeff Teague (RFA), Jarrett Jack (UFA), Jose Calderon (UFA), Beno Udrih (UFA), Mo Williams (UFA), Nate Robinson (UFA), Darren Collison (RFA), C.J. Watson (UFA), Devin Harris (UFA), Rodrigue Beaubois (RFA), Patrick Beverley (UFA), Eric Maynor (UFA).
Shooting guards: Manu Ginobili (UFA), Monta Ellis (UFA), Kevin Martin (UFA), Tyreke Evans (RFA), J.R. Smith (UFA), J.J. Redick (UFA), O.J. Mayo (UFA), Nick Young (UFA), Tony Allen (UFA), Gerald Henderson (RFA), Gary Neal (RFA), Randy Foye (UFA).
Small forwards: Andre Iguodala (UFA), Andrei Kirilenko (UFA), Mike Dunleavy Jr. (UFA), Corey Brewer (UFA), Kyle Korver (UFA), Chase Budinger (UFA), Al-Farouq Aminu (UFA), Dorell Wright (UFA), Matt Barnes (UFA), Martell Webster (UFA), Carlos Delfino (UFA, Francisco Garcia (UFA), Wes Johnson (UFA).
Power forwards: David West (UFA), Paul Millsap (UFA), Josh Smith (UFA), Carl Landry (UFA), Elton Brand (UFA), J.J. Hickson (UFA), Jason Maxiell (UFA), Tyler Hansbrough (RFA), Andray Blatche (UFA), Chris Copeland (RFA), Brandan Wright (UFA), DeJuan Blair (UFA), Antawn Jamison (UFA).
Centers: Dwight Howard (UFA), Andrew Bynum (UFA), Al Jefferson (UFA), Nikola Pekovic (RFA), Tiago Splitter (RFA), Zaza Pachulia (UFA), Marreese Speights (UFA), Timofey Mozgov (RFA), Chris Kaman (UFA), Chris Andresen (UFA), Byron Mullens (RFA), Samuel Dalembert (UFA), Greg Oden.
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