SALT LAKE CITY — NBA free agent negotiations officially opened up Sunday at 4 p.m. MT with fireworks already exploding in the professional basketball world well before Independence Day.
While the Brooklyn Nets stole the show early on with the signing of superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, the Utah Jazz also made another splash as they look to get over the hump by signing Indiana’s Bojan Bogdanovic to a four-year, $73 million deal, which was first reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and confirmed by Deseret News sources.
Bogdanovic averaged a career-best 18.0 points and 4.1 rebounds last year for the Indiana Pacers while shooting 49.7% from the field and 42.5% from 3 in his sixth season.
The 30-year-old Croatian forward reportedly met with the Jazz on Sunday, according to The Athletic, on the first day of free agency.
Later in the night, former Nets center Ed Davis agreed to a two-year, $10 million deal with the Jazz, per Wojnarowski, to add a physical presence to the lineup. The 6-foot-10, 225-pound power forward averaged 5.8 points and 8.6 boards on 61.6 percent shooting during the 81 total games he played in Brooklyn for the 2018-19 season.
A Deseret News source also confirmed that former Jazz floor general Ricky Rubio has agreed to a three-year, $51 million deal in Phoenix. The Athletic’s Shams Charania was the first to break that deal.
Instead of declining the team option on veteran big man Derrick Favors, which would’ve made him an unrestricted free agent, a Deseret News source confirmed that the Jazz agreed to trade its longest-tenured player to the New Orleans Pelicans, as first reported by The Athletic.
Favors’ $16.9 million salary was set to guarantee on July 6 had the Jazz decided to exercise that option, but his agent, Wallace Prather, communicated back and forth with the franchise following the Bogdanovic news to come up with another path — which ended up being New Orleans. Terms of the trade were not immediately available.
Favors was drawing interest from several other teams in the league at just 27 years old after averaging 11.8 points and 7.4 rebounds on 58.6% shooting, while playing mostly out of position at power forward next to two-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert. He also posted a career-best effective field goal percentage (60.0) this season and ranks fourth in all-time rebounds in franchise history with 4,250 boards.
Utah was also reportedly interested in Nikola Mirotic, who was set to be offered a three-year, nearly $45 million deal in Utah, according to Marc Stein of the New York Times, before leaving the NBA for Euroleague club Barcelona in Spain. Washington Wizards restricted free agent Bobby Portis was another rumored target in Jazz land before talks fell through following the interest in Bogdanovic.
New Jazz general manager Justin Zanik vowed to be “aggressive” in the free agent market on draft night, just one day after agreeing to trade Kyle Korver, Jae Crowder, Grayson Allen and two first-round picks to Memphis for veteran floor general Mike Conley on Wednesday, June 19.
The Conley deal won’t become official until July 6, but the Jazz will likely have to waive another player such as Raul Neto or Georges Niang from the roster to incorporate Conley’s $32,511,623 salary into their cap space. The salary cap has been set at $109,140,000 for the 2019-20 season while the tax level for the 2019-20 season is $132,627,000. In order to make the current deal work, Utah needed the cap to jump to roughly $109.28 million, per Jeff Siegel of Early Bird Rights.
“We all know that anything can happen and I’m in that situation, too, so I try just to focus on my body, focus on my offseason and getting better and be ready for whatever comes next, whatever will be, and I think I’ll be ready so that’s what I’m focused on,” Neto told the Deseret News during a recent training session in California. “I’m not even thinking about all those trades and still there’s some things that will happen for sure before the free agency so I just try to focus on what I can control.”
Utah is coming off its third consecutive postseason appearance, finishing 50-32 this past season, before being bounced in the first round by the Houston Rockets. The Jazz have also owned a top-five defensive rating in the past three years, with the second-best defensive rating (105.2) in 2018-19, but the 14th-ranked offense (110.3) is looking to improve with the recent additions of Conley and Bogdanovic.
This is just the start of the ultimate goal.
“I can feel it. It’s always been on my mind,” Gobert said of Utah’s title pursuit. “I play every year to try to win. We feel like the planets are aligned and we will be there very soon.”