SALT LAKE CITY — Barring offseason trades, the Utah Jazz will have all of their key players back for the 2016-17 season.
That doesn’t mean every single player from last year will be back.
It’s extremely rare for any professional sports team to return the exact same team from the previous season. As much as the Jazz enjoy their current crop of players, they know not every one will be back for 2016-17.
Three players less likely to return are those who don’t have guaranteed contracts for 2016-17 — Trevor Booker, Jeff Withey and Chris Johnson. All three played important roles at times for the Jazz, but none was a regular, and they aren't considered building blocks for the future.
Another without a guaranteed contract for next year is guard Shelvin Mack, whose contract inherited from Atlanta includes a team-option $2.4 million for 2016-17. However, it is expected that Utah will pick up the option after the way Mack performed for the Jazz over the final two months of the season, when he averaged 12.7 ppg.
Booker has seen the most action over the past two seasons as one of the team’s top frontcourt players off the bench and the team’s “Energizer bunny” who brought life to the Jazz whenever he entered a game. His two-year contract is up and he’ll be a free agent with the chance to sign with another team come July.
Booker’s scoring average dipped slightly in 2015-16 from 7.2 to 5.9 ppg, while his rebounding went up from 5.0 to 5.7 and his field-goal shooting was virtually the same — 49.0 percent vs. 48.7 percent.
“I would definitely love to stay,” said Booker, who has always had good things to say about Utah. “I know it’s a business. I would love to stay, but you never know.”
Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey sang Booker’s praises in the postseason press conference, but almost sounded like he didn’t expect him to return for next season.
“We want to thank him for his leadership and energy,” Lindsey said. “He’ll have great options and he’s a guy a lot of teams have inquired about. Usually when that happens that means they’re going to have a good market. And we anticipate that being the case.”
Withey was added to the roster last August as a backup center and turned out to be a pleasant surprise for the Jazz. Although he only played in 51 games, averaging 4.3 ppg and 3.4 rpg on 53.7 percent shooting, he performed well when called on for major minutes in the middle of the season when Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors were sidelined with injuries.
The 7-footer from Kansas started 10 games and in those games he averaged a respectable 9.2 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.2 blocks on 51.5 percent shooting from the field and 70.6 from the foul line.
“I’m grateful I had an opportunity to play,’’ said Withey, who noted how challenging it was to go from playing 35 minutes some nights to not playing at all for weeks at a time.
“As a competitor, you always want to be out there, but you understand why,” he said. “It’s a business and you have to keep working. I hope (my future) is in Utah.”
Johnson joined the Jazz late in the 2014-15 season, and the 6-6 forward stuck with the team this past season. He played in 70 games and averaged 2.9 ppg and pleased Snyder with his hustle and defensive intensity.
However his shooting percentages of 37.1 overall and 27.6 from 3-point range, which declined as the season progressed, may not be good enough for the Jazz to consider re-signing him for next year.
While Booker may not be back, he does see great things in the team’s future.
“I see huge things coming in the next couple of years,” he said. “Next year I see them in the playoffs for sure. They have high character, smart players. The sky’s the limit for this group.”