Is this the face of the franchise? Doubtful
Twenty-nine million dollars.
That is the amount the Utah Jazz owe Al Jefferson over the next two years, $14 million for this season and $15 million for 2012-13. By unloading Jefferson, Utah could help solidify additional minutes for its young big men, Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors, and it could use the cap space on acquiring a true center, along with a replacement point guard for Devin Harris.
Though Jefferson helped keep the Utah Jazz afloat after Deron Williams was shipped off to the New Jersey Nets and Jerry Sloan was sent packing in the middle of a turbulent 2010-11 season, his contract outweighs his potential for the franchise. The combination of Favors, Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks and Kanter are surely the building blocks of the Jazz franchise and the team should start planning for seasons to come.
Favors' recent 20-point, 11-rebound performance against the Philadelphia 76ers may help the front office feel more comfortable with moving Jefferson and giving the young guns additional minutes and valuable game-time experience.
There is little hope Jefferson will vastly improve over the next couple seasons, and one has to be concerned that injuries may be lurking around the corner. Injuries are always an issue for big men who put a lot of strain on their knees throughout standard NBA season, but this season will be particularly wearing.
Sixty-six games, with several back-to-back stretches on little rest prior, is going to put additional mileage on all players, but especially those with previous injuries. Jefferson tore his ACL while playing for the Minnesota Timberwolves during the 2008-09 season, which caused him to miss 36 games, and he has already been hobbled this season with an ankle injury. With the Jazz in a rebuilding mode, they may want to move some additional, bigger pieces while they have the assets.
Trading away Jefferson is certainly a better scenario, and I hope Utah's front office is actively working on a deal to move him, but if it's not able to find a team willing to take on his contract, the second option of using its amnesty clause on him is a viable solution.
If the Jazz were to use their amnesty clause on “Big Al” this season they would have to buy out his entire contract, throwing away $29 million (something the Miller family is likely not going to approve). It would make more sense to dump him after the season is over and clear $15 million off the payroll for the 2012-13 campaign.
Though it is doubtful GM Kevin O’Connor and the Miller family are willing to spend $15 million just to amnesty Jefferson, they do have a $10.8 million trade exception from sending Mehmet Okur to the New Jersey Nets that would essentially help buffer the cost. The trade exception, which will expire on Dec. 22, 2012 (one year after the trade), could help the Jazz land another promising, young talent.
In addition to clearing some room for more youth on a team building for the future, using the amnesty clause on Jefferson would allow the Jazz to keep Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter happy with more minutes. Though Kanter is a good, raw talent, the Jazz need another consistent center to help with their inside presence for rebounding and blocking. Clearing Jefferson off the books would also give the organization additional cap space to go after a young point guard to eventually replace Devin Harris.
It is true the Jazz may take some lumps in the win column by clearing Jefferson off the books at the end of this season, but building for the future is the best option for the young Jazz and will help the team thrive in the future.