The Utah Jazz don’t have a lot of flexibility heading into free agency. But, that doesn’t mean the team won’t have options.
The two main ways the Jazz can sign free agents this offseason are to either use the tax-payer mid-level exception, worth $5.9 million, or sign a player to a minimum salary contract.
With that in mind, I’ve rounded up five free-agent targets that would make sense financially and help out on the court.
The Jazz’s most glaring weaknesses were exposed during their second-round playoff series against the Los Angeles Clippers. The need for a small-ball five, versatility and to be able to win front-court battles in space were all things made clear when battling against the likes of Nicolas Batum. What better way to address those weaknesses than to go get the man who made you pay for having them.
It is not going to be easy to lure Batum away from Los Angeles. The Clippers made it past the Jazz to the Western Conference finals with Kawhi Leonard injured. If Leonard is staying in L.A. he’ll most likely be healthy by the time next season’s playoffs begin and the Clippers might have a better chance at winning it all.
It won’t be easy, but it’s not impossible to make the argument that Batum should head inland. Rudy Gobert and Batum have been friends for years with Batum serving as a kind of mentor to Gobert. The fellow countrymen, who have the same agent, are currently playing together in Tokyo on the French national team. Playing together through the NBA season could be an opportunity too good to pass on.
Batum’s value was obvious during the playoffs so it’s clear that he is worth more than the minimum deal he was on in L.A. this past season. The Jazz would be able to offer Batum the $5.9 million tax-payer mid-level exception and make the argument that with Batum on the roster, the Jazz could be headed for a Western Conference finals, or better.
When Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley were both injured during the playoffs, the point guard duties fell mostly to Joe Ingles, and that didn’t work out very well.
Wouldn’t it be nice if the Jazz could get a backup point guard on a minimum deal who already knows Quin Snyder and the Jazz’s system, has become more confident in his shooting over the past couple of years, and someone that the fan base is already behind?
Raul Neto spent a season in Philadelphia and then a season with the Washington Wizards. It probably wouldn’t be that hard to convince him to come back to a team with very little drama that would almost guarantee a trip to the playoffs.
The Atlanta Hawks are coming off a bit of a Cinderella story of a year, making it all the way to the Eastern Conference finals before losing to the eventual champion Milwaukee Bucks. During that run, the Hawks dealt with a ton of injuries and Solomon Hill was always available to be plugged in whenever the team needed.
Hill has definite offensive limitations, he’s not a slasher nor great off the dribble, and he is a career 33.3% 3-point shooter. But the offense is not something that the Jazz’s main core has problems generating. It’s the defense that needs help and Hill is a utility player that showed versatility during the playoffs.
He’s already coming off a minimum deal and could likely be had at the same price for the 2021-22 season. When looking for versatile forwards you could do a lot worse than Hill on a minimum contract.
There’s a chance the Phoenix Suns want to truly run it back. After losing in six games in the Finals to the Bucks, they might just want to make some tiny adjustments. Whether that includes bringing Cam Payne back hasn’t yet been decided.
There could be a few things at play here. Payne might be willing to go back on a minimum deal for another chance at glory. He might want to go elsewhere based on the fact that he might have earned himself a bigger payday after his performance with the Suns this past season. He might be looking for a bigger role. He might feel like he deserves more than the 10 minutes he played in Game 6 of the Finals.
Here’s what we know. Payne was excellent for the Suns and has shown significant growth. He shot 44% from 3 last season and is a great ballhandler.
Whether he will agree to a minimum deal with a team that isn’t Phoenix or whether it would take more money to get him, remains to be seen. But, it would at least be worth reaching out to his agent, who just happens to be Miye Oni’s agent.
It would be great if the Jazz could get a wing defender who can also produce a lot on offense and has a great shot percentage. But, if we’re being honest, you can’t always get what you want, especially when you have limited resources.
Maurice Harkless is a good finisher, shoots decently from the corner, but he isn’t a reliable shooter and doesn’t scare anyone from beyond the arc. But he is a versatile defender who can switch one through four without hesitation.
I think of Harkless as a player who hasn’t been in the right situation. He had good moments in Orlando and in Portland and he showed off some of his athleticism in Sacramento last season, but it has always seemed like too much has been expected of him offensively. If he’s given a clear role and is put in a position where his defense can shine, he could make a real difference.
He might be willing to take a minimum deal to be on a contending team.