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Jared Dudley says he could see himself with the Jazz; here's why he would be a good fit

Each July, the Utah Jazz are confronted with a challenge the team has seemingly faced ever since coming to the Beehive State, and it’s one that likely won’t ever go away: attracting free agents.

Accurate or not, there is a perception around the NBA that Salt Lake City is a boring town, and that the small market would be a hindrance to prospective players who are trying to build their brand off the court.

So on Sunday night, somewhat uncharted territory was entered when Washington Wizards nine-year wing Jared Dudley took to Twitter to say the Jazz are a team he could see himself signing with when he hits free agency next month.

Dudley’s declaration on Twitter followed his appearance on the Celtics Beat podcast earlier in the day in which he identified Utah as a team that could benefit from his veteran leadership.

In truth, Dudley joining the Jazz would be about as big of an addition as head coach Quin Snyder and company could realistically hope to have this summer for a number of different reasons.

To start, in merely looking at Utah’s roster, it’s clear the team needs more wing depth. Gordon Hayward, Rodney Hood and Alec Burks are expected to eat up a lion’s share of the available minutes at those spots next season, but if last season was any indication, a quality fourth player who can be productive on the wing is necessary.

While Hayward and Hood remained remarkably healthy during the 2015-16 campaign, Burks missed 51 games after fracturing his fibula on Dec. 26. With his absence, not only did Utah lose its top bench scorer, but Snyder had to rely on Joe Ingles and Chris Johnson to play more minutes, and neither was very effective.

The jury is still out on whether or not Burks can stay healthy, as last season marked the second in a row he missed significant time because of injury. Even if he is able to stay playable, however, some insurance and depth is certainly needed.

Perhaps the Jazz’s biggest challenge in finding wing insurance and depth, however, is getting a player who would be content being fourth in the pecking order. Barring Utah landing a superstar via trade, Hayward, Hood and Burks will be the main cogs on the wing, and a higher-level wing in the mold of Charlotte’s Nicolas Batum or Golden State’s Harrison Barnes would surely demand a higher amount of playing time that the Jazz wouldn’t be ready to give.

Enter the 6-foot-7, 225-pound Dudley, who acknowledged on the Celtics Beat podcast that he’d be a role player no matter where he went. He’s content with that, and is more concerned with providing leadership to whatever team he is on than logging a ton of minutes.

It’s not as though Dudley would merely be brought in because he fits from a chemistry and leadership standpoint, however. Utah hailed Steve Novak as a veteran who would help in the locker room when it traded for him two summers ago, and while he did that, he wasn’t effective enough on the floor and only played in 22 games before being dealt to Oklahoma City as part of the Enes Kanter trade.

Dudley, on the other hand, would likely still be a positive contributor off the bench. During the 2015-16 campaign with the Wizards, the Boston College product averaged 7.9 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists over 25.9 minutes per game while appearing in 81 contests (41 starts). Those might not be eye-popping statistics, but they’d be enough when joined by Hayward, Hood and Burks.

Even more than those numbers, though, Dudley’s strengths match some of the Jazz’s needs. Utah could use another player who can shoot from the outside, and Dudley is shooting just shy of 40 percent from downtown for his career, an impressive figure.

Furthermore, he has proven to be versatile in playing not only his primary position of small forward, but he can also slide over to power forward in small lineups, a luxury Snyder hasn’t really had during his first two seasons in Utah, and one that he could look to employ as a change of pace when big men Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert are resting.

Although this would likely be further down the list of considerations for Jazz management when deciding how hard they want to pursue Dudley in July, the fact is that he’s been a fan favorite in a number of the different cities he’s played in during his career.

On Twitter Sunday after he displayed interest in coming to Utah, fans from Phoenix, Milwaukee and Washington all expressed their appreciation for him, and in the cases of the Suns and Bucks, that they wish he would return.

Like virtually every team in the NBA this summer, the Jazz will have tons of money to spend since the salary cap will be increasing to about $90 million for the 2016-17 season. Dudley said on the Celtics Beat podcast that because he’s likely to be a role player no matter what, chances are good that he’ll choose the team in July that offers him the most lucrative deal.

Utah would be wise to be that team.

Ryan McDonald is a sports reporter at Follow him on Twitter @ryanwmcdonald.