Jazz offseason preview: A summer of reckoning

AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

Jazz offseason preview: A summer of reckoning

Jazz

Jazz offseason preview: A summer of reckoning

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The Utah Jazz postseason ended in sorry fashion yet again. They blew a large series lead in their previous two playoff eliminations and this time got shut out by a Mavericks team without Luka Doncic for half the games. It appears teams have figured out this Jazz squad, how to defend them, and where to attack them. There will be plenty of blame to share and it will be fascinating to see how Utah proceeds.

The franchise may be at a crossroads with this current core looking like it has peaked. Any improvement around Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert could be incremental as they lack the flexibility, draft capital, or talent to make a significant trade. The Jazz will need to figure out what direction they want to take going forward, which may or may not include their two All-Stars.

Plan A: Run it back and maximize spending

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Quin Snyder‘s future with the Jazz could be the first thing decided before any personnel changes are made. His name has been floated in rumors saying he could be a candidate for the Lakers head coach opening, as well as the Spurs’ if Gregg Popovich retires. With Danny Ainge now in charge in Utah, it’s possible he looks to install a head coach of his choice regardless of the team’s direction.

The Jazz are heading into the offseason a little over $6 million above the luxury tax with 11 players on the roster. They will have access to the $6.4 million taxpayer mid-level exception (MLE) to add a player who can help. They mainly need an adequate two-way wing player and a productive backup center. They also have a $9.8 million trade exception they could use to acquire such players.

They’ve been in the market for a defensive-minded forward and will probably continue to pursue one if they remain competitive. There may not be many of them available and the Jazz might not have the best offer to make for them. They are limited to trading just two first-round picks and three second-round picks this offseason. Even if the right player came along, it may not be wise for the Jazz to churn more draft equity for a potentially small window of contention.

Bojan Bogdanovic‘s $19.6 million expiring contract makes him a logical candidate to be salary filler in a potential trade. The Jazz will be able to bring back up to $24.6 million in incoming salary for him. If they want to keep him, they could also package a combination of Bogdanovic and other mid-sized salaries for a more expensive player.

If the Jazz maximize utilizing their exceptions and guarantee Hernangomez’s $7.4 million salary, they could be looking at a luxury tax payment in the $70 million range provided they don’t reduce the payroll elsewhere. In comparison, they paid a $19 million payment for this season after reducing it by as much as $15 million prior to the trade deadline. Unless they make a significant upgrade, they’re likely to keep expenses at a similar level as this past season.

Even if Utah is thinking of potentially resetting the roster this offseason, the repeater tax being a year away could delay such plans. There’s a good possibility that the Jazz remain competitive one more season and pay a modest luxury tax bill. If things aren’t improving, then they could make significant changes mid-season or next offseason and avoid the repeater tax for a team that might not be worthy of paying it.

Plan B: Blow it up

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The idea that the Jazz could break up the Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert duo has slowly gained momentum over the years. Reports of a potentially fractious relationship between the two surfaced as early as two years ago when the COVID-19 pandemic began. Aside from them, it appears that the overall mood in the locker room isn’t great. According to Tim MacMahon, an early playoff exit could result in a “franchise-altering” move, and Mitchell may not be long-term for Utah.

So here we are, and speculation on the futures of Mitchell and Gobert is sure to escalate. If the Jazz are open to moving one of them, the big decision they need to make is if they intend on remaining competitive going forward. Both players combine to earn 56 percent of the cap next season. There is a path where they could trade one of them for several established players, allowing them to deepen their roster cost-effectively.

Both players have their flaws which were exposed in their series loss to Dallas but their trade value shouldn’t be affected by it. Both remain All-NBA caliber players that most teams will covet and make strong offers for. The recent going rate for star players in trades has been a majority of a team’s future draft picks as well as multiple young talented players. That type of value should remain constant for both Jazz All-Stars.

Mitchell might be more coveted by both the Jazz and other teams due to him being younger and earning a smaller salary than Gobert. Both are under contract through at least 2024-25, with player options for the 2025-26 season. If the Jazz were to move only one of them, they might want to prioritize keeping the player more invested in the organization and city, since they’d have a better chance at extending them past their current contract. Gobert and Mitchell are much young and still in their primes, so interest in them should remain strong.

In the event of a complete rebuild, this would likely mean players like Mike Conley, Bojan Bogdanovic, Royce O’Neale, and Jordan Clarkson could all become available. A trade involving Conley could be prioritized to avoid potential age-related regression. A Bogdanovic trade could also be prioritized since he is on an expiring contract. The extra years remaining on Clarkson and Gay’s deals could make them harder to move.

If the Jazz were to pivot to a full rebuild, Danny Ainge is more than qualified to implement one. He has experience in extracting optimal value for his best players going back to the Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce trade with Brooklyn. His decisions and asset accumulation helped set the Celtics up with the championship-caliber foundation they have today. The Jazz could conceivably stockpile a number of draft picks and young players that could lead them back to contention faster.

2022-23 SALARY SITUATION

Guaranteed salaries: $148,226,725

Non-guaranteed salaries: $7,419,505

Total salary: $155,646,230

Luxury tax space: $6.6 million over the luxury tax ($10.4 million tax payment)

Exceptions:

Taxpayer Mid-level: $6,392,000

Joe Ingles trade exception: $9,774,884 (expires on February 9, 2023)

Elijah Hughes trade exception: $1,517,981 (expires on February 9, 2023)

Miye Oni trade exception: $819,596 (expires on January 4, 2023)

Derrick Favors trade exception: $567.564 (expires on June 28, 2022)

Rudy Gobert

Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

2022-23 salary: $38,172,414

Remaining salary guaranteed: $169,655,174 through 2025-26

Additional notes: Gobert has a player option worth $46.7 million in 2025-26.

Donovan Mitchell

Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

2022-23 salary: $30,351,780

Remaining salary guaranteed: $134,896,800 through 2025-26

Additional notes: Mitchell has a player option worth $37.1 million in 2025-26.

He also has a 15 percent trade bonus that would be voided if traded since he is already earning a maximum salary.

Mike Conley Jr.

Mike Conley, Utah Jazz

Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

2022-23 salary: $22,680,000

Remaining salary guaranteed: $37,000,000 through 2023-24

Additional notes: Conley is partially guaranteed for $14.3 million in 2023-24.

He also has $1.5 million in annual unlikely incentives.

Bojan Bogdanovic

Bojan Bogdanovic, Utah Jazz

Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

2022-23 salary: $19,550,000

Remaining salary guaranteed: $19,550,000

Additional notes: Bogdanovic is extension-eligible throughout the season for up to four years, $105.1 million.

Jordan Clarkson

Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

2022-23 salary: $13,340,000

Remaining salary guaranteed: $27,600,000

Additional notes: Clarkson has a player option worth $14.3 million in 2023-24.

Clarkson will become extension-eligible starting on July 7 for up to four years, $71.7 million if he declines his player option. He could also pick up his player option and extend for up to three years, $55.4 million.

Royce O'Neale

Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

2022-23 salary: $9,200,000

Remaining salary guaranteed: $11,700,000

Additional notes: O’Neale is partially guaranteed for $2.5 million for 2023-24.

Juancho Hernangomez

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

2022-23 salary: $7,419,505

Remaining salary guaranteed: $0

Additional notes: Hernangomez’s salary becomes fully guaranteed if not waived by June 30, 2022.

If his contract gets guaranteed for next season, he will become extension-eligible starting on July 11, 2022 for up to four years, projected at $59 million.

Rudy Gay

Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

2022-23 salary: $6,184,500

Remaining salary guaranteed: $12,663,500

Additional notes: Gay has a player option worth $6.5 million for 2023-24.

Nickeil Alexander-Walker

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

2022-23 salary: $5,009,633

Remaining salary guaranteed: $5,009,633

Additional notes: Alexander-Walker is eligible to sign a rookie-scale extension by the day before of the regular season.

Udoka Azubuike

Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

2022-23 salary: $2,174,880

Remaining salary guaranteed: $6,098,364 through 2023-24 (assuming team option for 2023-24 gets picked up)

Jared Butler

Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

2022-23 salary: $1,563,518

Remaining salary guaranteed: $1,563,518

Xavier Sneed

Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

2022-23 salary: Two-way contract (Year 2)

Remaining salary guaranteed: $0

Eric Paschall

Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Cap hold: $2,228,276

Type of free agent: Bird (restricted)

Trent Forrest

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Cap hold: $2,011,516

Type of free agent: Early Bird (restricted)

Danuel House

Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Cap hold: $1,811,516

Type of free agent: Non Bird (unrestricted)

Hassan Whiteside

Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Cap hold: $1,811,516

Type of free agent: Non Bird (unrestricted)

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