Utah Jazz: Ready or not, Jr. Jazz movement is here after draft, trade
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
ORLANDO, Fla. — On Wednesday, the Utah Jazz officially welcomed NBA veterans Andris Biedrins, Richard Jefferson and Brandon Rush to the family while announcing that a massive three-way trade with Golden State and Denver had been formalized.
"We needed size. We needed shooting," Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey said. "Clearly, what we had on our roster after the draft, we needed some experience. We checked a few boxes there."
While the Jazz press release listed off the five draft picks and cash considerations the Jazz will also receive in the deal, it didn't mention the names Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter or Alec Burks.
It could have.
This transaction was about them.
The deal helps fill up Utah's roster for 2013-14, but it was mostly for the future.
Combine this wheeling and dealing with the fact that Utah is watching all of its 2012-13 free agents drift off elsewhere, and it's clear the Jazz have made a strong commitment to complementing a young core that now also includes enticing point guard Trey Burke.
Let the Jr. Jazz movement begin.
"Difficult decisions need to be made," Lindsey said. "I saw it as a dilemma where we really had several good options as far as signing guys back or going with a youth movement."
So long, grizzled veterans Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Earl Watson and Mo Williams. Good luck, Randy Foye, Jamaal Tinsley and DeMarre Carroll.
Have at it, kids.
"We really appreciate the patience and the trust that Alec and Gordon and Enes and Derrick have shown thus far, but they're ambitious and competitive," Lindsey said. "They wanted more opportunity, and here it is."
Ready or not.
Trading up to get Burke after Minnesota drafted him ninth overall set in motion a flurry of action by the Jazz.
So far, that's resulted in the Jazz acquiring a half-dozen new players — three on draft night, with Burke, Rudy Gobert and Raul Neto, and the three transplanted Californians in this trade.
In this latest deal, Utah also hauled in unprotected first-round picks from Golden State in 2014 and '17, second-round picks from the Warriors in 2016 and '17, the Nuggets' 2018 second-rounder, and what Lindsey described as "a significant amount of cash."
In exchange, the Jazz had to take on $24 million in expiring salaries from the Warriors, do a sign-and-trade with Foye before shipping him to Denver with a three-year, $9 million contract, and throw 2012 second-round pick Kevin Murphy to Golden State (which also gets shooting guard Andre Iguodala from the Nuggets).
That keeps Utah's options open as it negotiates extensions for Hayward and Favors this summer and looks to make a splash in a 2014 offseason that has a bundle of intriguing prospects.
"It also helps us keep our flexibility moving forward," Lindsey said. "We were able to pick up what we think were some key assets and some future picks to allow us to continue to add to the core that we have."
As Utah's roster currently stands, the Jazz have 11 players with guaranteed contracts for 2013-14. The Jazz will almost certainly continue shopping for another veteran point guard (not Mo Williams) to help mentor Burke, while guard Jerel McNeal (non-guaranteed contract) and summer league players hope to fill out the other one to three roster spots.
Lindsey said the Jazz will "let the dust settle a little bit" while evaluating the group of players currently playing in the Orlando Pro Summer league. It's possible Utah could engage in more trades to bring in players from teams looking to dump salaries now that the NBA's salary cap has been set at $59.679 million and the luxury tax threshold fixed at $71.748 million for next season.
Utah currently has about $52 million on its payroll next season, so it has room to grow and absorb expiring deals without taking a tax hit.
"We've jumped in the deep end of the pool as far as being aggressive in asset accumulation and we'll continue to look at that," Lindsey said. "We're uniquely positioned relative to the market to provide relief to take on contracts and pick up something for doing so."
A lot of wins likely won't be included in the group of something the Jazz might pick up next season. The makeup of this roster and much-ballyhooed flexibility are enticing for the distant future, but fans need to brace themselves for a rough short-term stretch.
Of course, you won't hear anybody from the Jazz admit that outright.
Even if Utah loses, it might win by getting a high lottery pick in the 2014 draft that will include potential game-changers like Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Marcus Smart, Julius Randle and so on.
"The Utah Jazz, as you know the history, we're never going to cede anything," Lindsey said. "We're going to compete to the best of our ability."
The organization, he added, is banking on continuing to keep its historical home-court advantage while fans embrace the young guys and veterans that've been added.
"Instead of getting into win-loss totals, we're going to talk about building a defensive foundation," Lindsey said. "We're going to talk about the continuance of the development of our young players and the players that we've added."
The Jazz remain hopeful Biedrins and Jefferson (even Marvin Williams) reverse the course of their fading careers and that Rush recovers from last fall's ACL surgery to become an effective outside shooter again.
However, what matters most is the continued development of the players they added in this draft, the 2010 draft (Hayward), the 2011 draft (Kanter and Burks) and the Deron Williams trade (Favors).
"We needed to find out what this young group could do," Lindsey said, "and then we can make decisions from there, and we'll live with the results."
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