It’s that time of the year again. The time where we dive into the financial books of your favorite NBA team, the Utah Jazz, and see what kind of contractual maneuvering is available in order for them to improve for the next season.
That’s usually something that’s pretty enjoyable, not just for me, but for Jazz fans, too. It’s often an intricate puzzle that includes poring over the collective bargaining agreement, the different exceptions available to the team, and how they might be able to finagle some sneaky deals.
Though, that’s not really the case this time around.
The Jazz have one of the most expensive rosters in the league and they don’t have a lot of wiggle room, and that’s actually a generous way to say it.
The projected salary cap for the 2022-23 season is $122 million with the luxury tax line set at $149 million. As things stand now, the Jazz are well above both those figures with just 11 players under contract.
If the Jazz were to head into next season with the roster as is — Rudy Gobert, Donovan Mitchell, Mike Conley, Bojan Bogdanovic, Jordan Clarkson, Royce O’Neale, Juancho Hernangomez, Rudy Gay, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Udoka Azubuike and Jared Butler — the team would have a total payroll of $155,646,230.
The Jazz can re-sign restricted free agents Eric Paschall and Trent Forrest as well as free agents Danuel House Jr. and Hassan Whiteside in excess of the cap. But, as a luxury tax-paying team, the Jazz would only be able to add other free agents with veteran minimum contracts or with the taxpayer mid-level exception ($6,392,000).
|Hassan Whiteside||Free Agent|
|Eric Paschall||Restricted Free Agent|
|Danuel House Jr.||Free Agent|
|Trent Forrest||Restricted Free Agent|
That’s it. The end. Fin.
But, you’d be hard-pressed to find a single person who thinks the Jazz are going to fully run it back with the same roster next season, and that’s where things get a little interesting and incredibly uncertain.
Gobert and Mitchell
Outside of bringing in free agents on minimum deals, the only way for the Jazz to get better next season is going to be through trades and there’s absolutely no guarantee that any trade made is going to make this team better.
The trade topic du jour when it comes to the Jazz these days revolves around their two highest paid players — Gobert and Mitchell. Who will the Jazz move forward with? Will it be one, or both?
The simple answer is that we don’t know.
The more complex answer is that league sources have indicated that if the Jazz were going to part with one of their dual franchise players that it would probably be Gobert, but the Jazz could be looking to retain both players.
There have been reports of teams that would be interested in the three-time Defensive Player of the Year, including Charlotte, Dallas and Toronto. But, just because there have been fewer rumors circulating around Mitchell doesn’t mean that there are not teams that would be willing to throw their hat squarely into the ring if he were made available.
A trade package for either Gobert or Mitchell would likely involve multiple players and future picks. But I wouldn’t get too used to the idea of the Jazz trading away one of the two just yet.
Reports that the Jazz could be looking to keep Gobert and Mitchell for the year that the team would host the All-Star break should be taken seriously. And, if the Jazz are going to move forward with both Mitchell and Gobert, what is the next likely path for them to take this offseason?
What about Conley?
While Gobert and Mitchell are the two top-tier players that would draw attention from other teams without much effort and provide easy fodder for flashy headlines, many around the league are anticipating that Conley will be the first player on the trade block for the Jazz.
Looking to get longer, taller and younger in the backcourt seems to be a likely path for the Jazz. That would make moving away from Conley an obvious choice, but finding a buyer who can offer something worthwhile might be a bit of a challenge considering Conley’s age and the care needed to prevent injury.
Outside of Mitchell and Gobert, Bogdanovic would be the Jazz’s most valuable trade asset. Though he’s no NBA spring chicken at 33, he has been incredibly consistent and valuable throughout the regular season as well as the playoffs. Of course, all of the things that would make him valuable to other teams are also reasons that the Jazz would like to keep Bogdanovic.
No player off limits
In all honesty, there isn’t a player on the Jazz that is off limits this offseason and that makes things both incredibly interesting and difficult to project. There are many different directions the team could go.
The Jazz know that where they currently are is not where they want to be. They know that the current roster, as constructed, has issues. But to what degree are they willing to retool things?
The Jazz could decide to keep the majority of its roster intact and just make changes around the edges as it did last season, hoping that they are just a small tweak away from being able to break through.
The Jazz could trade away some of the role players on the team and try to get younger and more athletic.
The Jazz could decide to move on from Gobert or Mitchell, causing a huge shift in the way the team operates.
And then there’s the final option — blow it up. The Jazz could do a complete teardown of the roster in an attempt to rebuild over the next few years. This is probably the least likely of all scenarios. NBA teams don’t like to throw in the towel and admit defeat and they usually languish for a while before doing so.
For the last few seasons, the Jazz seemed to have a pretty clear path and goal. The targets and needs were clear (though not always executed to perfection). But this is the first offseason with Danny Ainge and Justin Zanik in charge of the front office and this is the first time in quite a while where the direction of the team and the immediate future isn’t wholly understood.
With a lack of financial flexibility, we’re all just waiting to find out who the Jazz are going bank on for success, or who will be the first player to go.