SALT LAKE CITY — Thabo Sefolosha and Ekpe Udoh signed two-year contracts with the Utah Jazz within four days of each other in the summer of 2017, joining a defensive-minded team and each coming in with solid reputations as defensive players.
While neither was a big part of the team over the past two seasons, both were valuable veterans that were a good presence in the locker room, who contributed in the limited number of minutes per game they were on the floor.
Now with the Jazz looking to shake up their roster and perhaps add a prominent player to the team’s young core, one or both of the players may not be back for the 2019-20 season.
The two are among the team's three unrestricted free agents, along with Ricky Rubio. Both players are over 30 and the Jazz may not be willing to pay similar salaries for them to stay on the roster. Sefolosha earned $5,250,00 this past season, while Udoh’s salary was $3,360,000.
Sefolosha, who turns 35 this week, was healthy for the entire 2018-19 season after missing the second half of the previous season because of a knee injury. The 6-foot-7 forward from Switzerland played in 50 games, starting two, and averaged 3.8 points per game, the lowest since his rookie season. He did lead the team in 3-point shooting at 43.6 percent in 78 attempts.
During the recent playoff series with Houston, he played in four of the five games, averaging 10.5 minutes, but scored just five points total.
Sefolosha was positive about his experiences playing in Utah the past two seasons even though his numbers were down significantly from his years playing for Oklahoma City and Atlanta.
“I enjoyed playing for the team, it’s been a great two years, just seeing the development of the team and the progress that we’ve made,” Sefolosha said. “I’m going to keep working — I think I have a good summer ahead of me being healthy. I’m going be able to add on a little weight and add to my leg strength."
He said he would like to come back to Utah if the opportunity presents itself.
“I’m going to keep my options open and see what makes sense,” he said. “Like I say, I had a great experience here for two years and I think it would be great if I can come back and keep working with this group and keep evolving.”
Udoh, who turns 32 in May, was known as much for his community book club as for his court time, which was limited the past two seasons, playing behind Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors.
The 6-10 center saw his playing time diminish significantly in 2018-19 as he averaged just 6.3 minutes per game compared to 12.9 last year and he played in a dozen fewer games. He averaged 2.3 points and 1.8 rebounds per game.
He didn’t play as much as he would have liked, but like Sefolosha, Udoh says he has enjoyed his time with the Jazz.3 comments on this story
“The two years have been good,” he said. “I didn’t get the opportunities I wanted, but I was with a great team, a great organization and was able to build relationships that will last for a lifetime. I’ll continue to push to get better and see what happens this summer.”
As for Ekpe’s Book Club, in which he shares and discusses books with members of the community, he said it was as successful as the Jazz were this year.
“Fifty wins is special, especially the way we started, but Ekpe’s Book Club went along with it,” he said. “It had a 50-win season too.”