SALT LAKE CITY — This could be the most exciting offseason in Utah Jazz history. Perhaps even more exciting than the just-completed season.
The Jazz have eight players accounting for some $40 million in salary who will be free agents. If the Jazz choose not to sign any of them, they’ll have that $40 million to play with on the free agent market or save for the future.
Ideally, the Jazz can convince Chris Paul to sign a $20 million contract and their point guard concerns will be solved. But that’s not going to happen.
They’re going to have to find some solid free agents to go with their “core four” of Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter and Alec Burks.
The Jazz can’t keep both Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson — at least it wouldn’t be smart to commit $25 million for the two players for next year and beyond. One or both are likely to be gone next year.
If the Jazz don’t bring in another experienced big man, then they will have committed the future to Kanter and Favors and may drop back for a year or so as those two get more experience.
The bet from here is that Jefferson, despite his strong play this year, won’t return, mostly because of his $15 million salary, and that the Jazz will keep either Millsap or Mo Williams, who both make around $8 million — but not both. Earl Watson ($2 million) is also unlikely to return.
I think the Jazz should do their best to keep Randy Foye ($2.5 million) and DeMarre Carroll ($885,000), barring outrageous offers by other teams. Jamaal Tinsley might be valuable to tutor young players and be the third point guard. He would likely come back for around $1 million.
Nothing is going to happen until July, but it should be a very interesting summer for the Jazz.
MILLER TIME: It looked like March of 1998 all over again Saturday in Denver as Andre Miller carried the Nuggets on his back to a victory over the Golden State Warriors, just like he did for the University of Utah in the NCAA tournament more than 15 years ago.
The 37-year-old Miller, the 11th-oldest player in the NBA, scored 20 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter and hit the game-winning shot with 1.3 seconds left to give Denver a 97-95 victory.
The amazing thing about Miller’s heroics is that he said afterward it was the first game-winning shot of his life. He said before Saturday, he’d never made a game-winning shot as a pro, in college or high school.
EXCITING DRAFT: I always say the NFL draft is the most overhyped — and least interesting — sports event of the year. But even I have to admit this year it should be exciting for local football fans, at least Thursday night's first round.
For the first time ever, we should have not one, but two local players taken among the first 10 picks of the entire draft. BYU’s Ziggy Ansah could go as high as No. 3 to Oakland, while Utah’s Star Lotulelei is expected to go around 9 or 10 but perhaps in the top 5. If Ansah does go that high, he will be the highest NFL pick ever for BYU, ahead of Jim McMahon, who went No. 5 to Chicago in 1982.
SPRING BALL: As long as I’m talking about overhyped sports, spring football has to be included on the list. It’s fun for football-starved fans to watch and follow after basketball season while they wait for summer, but it’s hard to draw many definitive conclusions from spring scrimmages and games. About half of the key players on most teams are held out of action, which makes it deceiving when you see players making big plays against a bunch of guys that will never see a minute when fall comes around. However, spring football is a very useful time for football coaches to evaluate players for the upcoming season.
RARE PRAISE: Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis has often complained about the way other teams play against his team, either overly physical or too conservative with too much counterattacking. So it was refreshing to hear the RSL coach praise his Saturday opponent, Chivas USA, for its aggressive soccer style. He may not have been so complimentary if RSL had lost, but the fact that RSL took a 1-0 victory made it easier to throw out the compliments.
SOX START: Finally, have you noticed which baseball team has the best record in the American League? It’s the Boston Red Sox, who were picked by many experts to finish among the also-rans in what may be baseball’s toughest division. That’s great for Red Sox fans like me, but it’s also great for the city in the wake of the recent tragedy that befell Boston.