Two media reports emerged over the weekend that may go a long way in shaping how the Utah Jazz approach filling their starting point guard spot this summer.
On Saturday, The Athletic's Jared Weiss reported that Charlotte Hornets star Kemba Walker's "first priority" in free agency is to return to the Hornets (it stands to reason he'll be targeted by Utah). Then on Sunday, Spanish reporter Ernest Macia tweeted that during an interview, Ricky Rubio said Jazz leadership has told him he's not "a priority for them."
So where might Utah turn for help at floor general?
To be clear, it's not completely ruled out at this point that neither Rubio nor Walker could end up in a Jazz uniform. While Walker can get about $80 million more from Charlotte than from any other team after qualifying for a supermax contract, he has previously expressed a desire to go to a winning team, which the Hornets aren't.
As for Rubio, Utah executive vice president of basketball operations Dennis Lindsey said during exit interviews in April that he could see scenarios in which the Spaniard returned, although that could mean simply that bringing him back would be among the last options if the Jazz strike out elsewhere.
The mechanisms for Utah to get a starting point guard are to sign one in free agency, trade for one or have one of the team's current players move to that spot. Here's a look at what each of these choices might involve.
Signing a point guard in free agency
The Jazz could be in position to have about $30 million in salary cap space this summer, and there are a number of good point guards who are or who could become available via free agency. Rubio himself made about $15 million last season, and that salary coming off the books could help Utah fill his spot in some fashion.
While the Jazz probably won't be in the running for Boston Celtics floor general Kyrie Irving, perhaps the Brooklyn Nets will opt to move on from D'Angelo Russell (the Nets are one team being linked to Irving)?
The challenge with Russell, as well as Milwaukee Bucks guard Malcolm Brogdon, is that they are restricted free agents, meaning their respective teams would have three days to match another team's offer, and the offering team's salary space would be occupied until the match was made.
Los Angeles Clippers guard Patrick Beverley would be a tier below the above-mentioned players, but if Utah spends a bunch of its money on someone at another position, signing a point guard with a smaller salary would make some sense.
Trading for a point guard
If the Jazz don't sign a point guard, the other option for acquiring a new one is via trade. Utah tried to trade for the Memphis Grizzlies' Mike Conley in February before talks died. Those conversations could be revived, although without Rubio, sending Memphis matching salaries for Conley's big contract could be difficult, and would almost certainly include trading Derrick Favors.
Any player could become available at any point, but the Nets' Spencer Dinwiddie and the New Orleans Pelicans' Jrue Holiday are two who, it stands to reason right now, could be on the trading block. In Dinwiddie's case, it's a possibility if Brooklyn signs Irving. With Holiday, would the Pelicans consider a complete rebuild around presumptive No. 1 draft pick Zion Williamson if (when?) they do in fact end up trading star big man Anthony Davis, as he has demanded?
Finding one already on the roster
The third option for filling the starting point guard spot would be to put a player already on the roster in that spot, with the most likely candidate being Donovan Mitchell.19 comments on this story
In his second season in the NBA, Mitchell played some significant stretches as the starting floor general thanks in large part to injury. He played well, although it was often against some of the worst teams in the league. Could he be counted on to do it for an entire season?
Dante Exum and Raul Neto are the other options, although Exum is injured and Neto isn't a great option to be a permanent starter.
Finding a starting point guard will undoubtedly be one of Utah's top priorities this offseason, and something that will go a long way in determining how good the team can be moving forward.
Can the Jazz end up with a good player in that role?