LAS VEGAS — The Utah Jazz can’t fill the void left by Gordon Hayward’s impending departure with one signing, but one of their moves Wednesday should help ease the pain of his loss a bit on defense.
Another move will help solifidy the team's big man depth.
Utah, in need of wing depth after Hayward’s decision to leave for Boston, agreed to terms with veteran small forward Thabo Sefolosha, according to sources.
The Jazz also reached an agreement to sign veteran power forward Jonas Jerebko, the Deseret News confirmed. His deal is reportedly worth $8.2 million over two years.
Utah now turns its attention to what to do with veteran forward Boris Diaw, whose $7.5 million contract becomes guaranteed on Saturday if it exercises a team option and keeps him.
Diaw could possibly still play into the team's plan as a backup big in a rotation that includes Rudy Gobert, Derrick Favors, Joe Johnson and Jerebko, but it’s also plausible the Jazz will use the 35-year-old's his contract in a deal or waive him.
Without Diaw’s deal on the books, the Jazz have about $102 million in salaries for 14 players next season. That’s just over the $99.1 million salary cap but not high enough to put them in luxury tax range.
The 33-year-old Sefolosha, a defensive specialist and solid all-around player, will sign a two-year deal worth $10.5 million.
These moves put the Jazz that much closer to finalizing their roster for the 2017-18 season, which will begin on Oct. 17, NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced Wednesday.
Sefolosha ranked in the top five of wings who saved the most points on defense last season, according to advanced stats compiled by NBAMath.com.
The 6-foot-7 small forward spent the past three seasons with the Atlanta Hawks, and averaged 7.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.5 steals last season. He played only eight minutes in Atlanta’s six-game playoff series vs. Washington, though.
“Thabo’s been a great influence in our locker room, first of all. He’s a real pro, came into work on a daily basis,” Atlanta summer league coach Charles Lee, a Hawks assistant, told KSL.com. “I think our young guys and everybody around him recognized how hard he played on a daily basis.”
The Swiss-born Sefolosha has never been considered an offensive threat in the NBA. He’s averaged 5.9 points on 44.6 percent shooting (34.5 percent from 3-point range) during an 11-year career that included stops in Chicago, Oklahoma City and Atlanta.
Lee, however, pointed out that Seflosha’s worth is deeper than just stats.
“Offensively, he was really good at being able to slash backdoor and be another ballhandler for us in pick-and-roll situations,” the Hawks coach said in the KSL.com interview.
“And then defensively, he was as versatile as they come as far as who he could guard. He can guard a point guard. He can guard a power forward. We’ll definitely miss Thabo.”
Sefolosha was in the news for an off-the-court incident in New York two years ago after he suffered a broken right leg while being arrested outside a Manhattan night club. He then missed Atlanta’s 2015 playoff run after needing surgery.
The New York Police Department ended up paying $4 million to Sefolosha in a lawsuit settlement after the NBA player sued for false arrest, excessive force, malicious prosecution and false imprisonment.
With the Jerebko, a 30-year-old from Sweden, the Jazz now have players from eight different countries on their roster.
The 6-foot-10 big can stretch the floor with his outside shooting. He's a career 35-percent shooter from 3-point range. Over his seven-year career with Detroit and Boston, Jerebko has averaged 6.2 points and 4.1 rebounds.