SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz were prepared to make Gordon Hayward the highest paid player in the organization’s history, but the All-Star forward decided to start fresh by agreeing to a contract with the Boston Celtics, leaving a massive void in Salt Lake City.
Now with Hayward officially off the books, the Jazz will have to get creative to replace him, especially since their finances will change from this past season.
This salary cap for the 2017-2018 season is $99 million — about $3 million less than it was projected to be a few months ago thanks in part since there were fewer playoff games than is typical. Utah had the lowest payroll in the league last year at $80 million, but as currently constructed, the Jazz already have about $106 million on their payroll.
Rudy Gobert, who was still under his rookie-scale contract last year, made $2.12 million, but his $102 million contract extension will kick in now, and he'll make about $23 million in the 2017-2018 campaign.
Utah management has to make decisions on Boris Diaw and Raul Neto, whose contracts are non-guaranteed ($7.5 million and $1.5 million, respectively). From there, the Jazz will see their salary numbers increase when considering Gobert’s extension, Joe Ingles’ new deal ($13 million annually), new point guard Ricky Rubio's $14.3 million and the rookie deals of Donovan Mitchell and Tony Bradley.
The NBA luxury tax line, something the Jazz have never crossed, will be set at $119 million. The luxury tax is designed to create parity in the league, as most teams avoid paying the penalty.
If the Jazz don’t want to surpass the luxury tax line, as most teams don’t, general manager Dennis Lindsey will have to make some moves to clear salary cap space. Since the Jazz waited on Hayward’s decision before pursuing any top free agents, most of the market has dried up. Still, there are a number of possible replacements that could get eight figure deals.
Two Utah players whose names have been discussed in trade rumors are Alec Burks and Derrick Favors, who are slated to make a combined $22.8 million in 2017-2018. Trading one or both of them for lesser contracts would create more room for the Jazz to improve the roster further.