Utah Jazz: Why the Jazz traded for Andris Biedrins, Richard Jefferson and Brandon Rush
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — If heads continue to be scratched about why the Utah Jazz traded for Andris Biedrins, Richard Jefferson and Brandon Rush, fans should remove all fingers from their scalps.
We don't want any hair to be pulled out by accident — or because the Jazz's intentions aren't understood.
Yes, those three Warriors will become California transplants in Utah this fall.
No, the Jazz didn't make the trade just to acquire them.
You've heard that phrase players occasionally spout about how the "NBA is a business," right?
Biedrins, Jefferson and Rush are heading to the Beehive State because they made a transaction work — not because Jazz management believes they have the potential to get the team further than Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Mo Williams and Randy Foye could.
While Jazz management has spoken positively about its new players, this trade was clearly done with the future in mind — a future that may or may not even include any of the additions who'll all be free agents next offseason.
Before Utah's "championship-caliber" distant dreams are realized, the organization first needed to reach the payroll minimum for the upcoming season. Its key returning pieces — Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter and Alec Burks — are all still on their very affordable rookie contracts. Even with Marvin Williams' $7.5 million obligation and new deals for Trey Burke and Rudy Gobert, the Jazz's payroll was only at about $29 million going into free agency.
Because the organization decided not to bring Jefferson, Millsap, Mo Williams or any other veteran free agents back from last year's team, it required multiple big salaries from elsewhere to get to the NBA's minimum payroll level of $52 million.
There weren't a whole lot of prized free agents within Utah's reach this offseason, so general manager Dennis Lindsey & Co. went wheeling and dealing for a solution. A quick fix presented itself via Oakland. Biedrins and Jefferson make a combined $20 million next season, and Rush is due $4 million. Eh, voila.
Keep in mind, Jazz brass also hoped to maintain the coveted flexibility Kevin O'Connor, the executive vice president of basketball operations, purposely arranged past the 2013-14 season. This was a non-negotiable part of any deals made this offseason. In this case, it was accomplished by adding the three ex-Warriors' expiring contracts and a handful of draft picks, including Golden State's unprotected first-rounders in 2014 and ’17 and three second-round selections.
Over the next few years, this will allow Utah to re-sign its own guys — Hayward and Favors are eligible for extensions this summer; Kanter and Burks next offseason — while still having enough salary-cap space to lure other enticing players and draft even more promising talent.
Welcome to rebuild mode, Jazz fans.
Bonus: The Jazz got a "significant amount of cash" (Lindsey's words) for helping the Warriors clear enough salary space to obtain shooting guard Andre Iguodala from Denver. That undisclosed amount of money, the GM noted while thanking the Miller family, will be used for basketball-related facilities, to improve scouting and/or to sign and trade for other players.
"We're going to invest that money in ourselves," Lindsey said.
In another element of the complicated three-way deal, Utah signed and shipped Foye to the Nuggets in exchange for a 2018 second-round pick — instead of getting nothing had he merely inked a free-agent deal in Denver.
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