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Utah Jazz face decision of pursuing free agents or standing pat

Utah Jazz General Manager Dennis Lindsey talks with the media at Zions Bank Basketball Center in Salt Lake City, Thursday, April 16, 2015.
Utah Jazz General Manager Dennis Lindsey talks with the media at Zions Bank Basketball Center in Salt Lake City, Thursday, April 16, 2015.
Ravell Call,

SALT LAKE CITY — Before the recently-concluded season ended, most experts figured the Utah Jazz would be signing a free agent or two for next year because of all the extra money they have to spend.

However, after the Jazz played so well down the stretch, going 19-10 after the All-Star break and finishing 38-44, the question became: Should the Jazz basically stand pat with their current young roster and not worry about pursuing any free agents?

Like several other NBA teams, the Jazz are well under the current NBA salary cap of $63 million-plus with an expected payroll of a little over $50 million for next year with their current players. Next year’s cap is expected to be around $67 million before making a major jump the following year when the new TV contracts kick in.

With a few dozen top players around the league available as free agents, either restricted or unrestricted, the Jazz have an opportunity to add a player or two for next season to give their young squad some experience.

Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey has yet to indicate which direction the Jazz are going.

“Good decisions are born out of a good set of options and through a lot of people’s efforts and we’ve got a good set of options,’’ Lindsey said at the Jazz's wrap-up press conference to close out the season. “We’re very confident that we’ll be able to move the group forward with the resources we have at hand.’’

Lindsey says the main focus for coaches and management this year has been the development of young players. With the season over, he’s encouraging everyone in the organization, from coaches to scouts to front-office people, to “argue” and “put every scenario up on the board” in regards to what the Jazz should do moving forward.

But one thing Lindsey is adamant about is that Jazz won’t spend money just to spend money. Lindsey says the biggest concern is spending the team's money wisely.

The Jazz ranked 25th in league salaries this year, even with Gordon Hayward’s maximum deal kicking in, along with Derrick Favors’ $12 million salary. Next year, Alec Burks' salary will increase from $3 million to $9 million and Trevor Booker will get around $5 million if the second year of his contract is picked up, which is likely.

Half of this year’s roster was made up of young, mostly undrafted players making less than $1 million a year. Some of those players will get raises and be back, but that still leaves a lot of money the Jazz could spend.

They have to look a couple of years down the line when a player — Rudy Gobert perhaps? — could be due a big payday. Still the Jazz aren’t going to sign a free agent just to get closer to the salary cap.

“Do we feel obligated that we have to? Absolutely not,’’ Lindsey said. “We could exist underneath the salary cap going into next season.’’

It’s difficult to say at this point who the Jazz might pursue on the free-agent market.

They won’t be in the running for max players such as LaMarcus Aldridge or Kawhi Leonard and certainly wouldn’t risk their chemistry with a player such as Rajon Rondo.

The Jazz could go after someone like J.J. Barea of Dallas or Louis Williams of Toronto, who both made around $5.5 million last year or perhaps an up-and-coming player like Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton, a restricted free agent who made less than $1 million last year. Or they could get nostalgic and sign one of their former players such as Wesley Matthews, Paul Millsap or DeMarre Carroll, who are all unrestricted free agents.

The other alternative is to make a trade or two using some of their stockpile of draft picks or perhaps moving someone like Trey Burke, who may be expendable because of the emergence of Dante Exum and Rodney Hood.

Lindsey says the Jazz have been consistent with their rebuild of recent years and he gives the impression that the Jazz are more likely to stick with the players they have than to take a chance on a veteran player who may disrupt the chemistry and cost a lot of money.

“If it’s working, why would you arbitrarily change the path unless it’s just fundamentally sound that spending every dollar available to us equates to wins and allows us to progress as a team,’’ Lindsey said.

It’s only May and we won’t likely know for a couple of months what the Jazz will do with their cap space.

“We’ll come up with something that is sound,’’ Lindsey said. “If sound means be bold then we’ll do that. The Miller family is fully committed to that. If it’s stay extremely young because we like the group, and it’s the best alternative we’ll go there. Or it could be anywhere in between.’’