Where Do the Utah Jazz Go with Their Roster from Here?
With all due respect to J.J. Redick, there were no franchise-altering pieces that switched jerseys at the trade deadline. The Utah Jazz front office decided to stand pat with the roster as it is currently constructed. In addition to solidifying the Jazz's ceiling this year, the decision to make no moves has ramifications that will be felt for years to come.
Utah had a chance in making a move at the trade deadline to remove a large portion of the uncertainty they are now sure to face. By dealing either Paul Millsap or Al Jefferson, both big men who have a young apprentice waiting in the wings to replace them, Utah would've shown their hand as to which big man they were planning on re-signing.
Without that trade to clear things up, Utah's future is uncertain as ever.
This uncertainty is something of a double-edged sword. Rather than looking at the situation as Utah refusing to clarify its future plans regarding its frontcourt surplus, the decision can be thought of as Utah simply keeping its options open.
Utah's front office is notoriously tight-lipped about roster transactions, so there's no way to tell if the Jazz made up their mind about keeping Jefferson and/or Millsap, but the lack of a trade serves as compelling evidence that no decision has been made between keeping Jefferson versus Millsap. If no decision has yet been made, then it makes all the sense in the world to let it ride for the rest of this season.
After injuries to Millsap and Jefferson forced Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter into the starting lineup last night, Kanter put up an insane 22-point, 23-rebound effort. Granted, it was against the Charlotte Bobcats, but nevertheless, the performance added gravitas to the argument that Utah could let both Jefferson and Milsap walk during the offseason and hand the starting frontcourt duties to Favors and Kanter.
In addition to resolving the frontcourt conundrum, Utah will need to address the slew of players whose contracts are up after the season. The Jazz have a whopping eight players who are free agents after this year, with a ninth who has an early termination option. With such a large number of free agents, it's all but a certainty that some of those, possibly more than half, will sign elsewhere.
Utah will also have to deal with the "problem" of having a very small amount of money committed to players beyond this season. The Jazz may actually have difficulty meeting the minimum salary next year, especially if both Millsap and Jefferson depart for greener pastures. The lack of marquee free agents seems to make it less likely that Utah will attempt to reach the minimum salary cap amount by throwing money at free agents, as that would virtually guarantee Utah would overpay.
This fact combined with Utah's difficulty in landing a big-name free agent in the first place seem to make it fairly clear it will attempt to solve both its cap conundrum and acquire a relatively big-name talent via trade. Look for the Jazz to do some wheeling and dealing on draft night 2013, when teams are at their most willing to make moves.
Finally, Utah will need to acquire multiple point guards, as all three of its bona fide point guards will be among the eight free agents this offseason. Aside from simply signing point guards to have depth, Utah will need to decide who its point guard of the future is.
There are two options by which the Jazz could resolve this issue. First, they could make a trade for a young point guard loaded with potential (such as Eric Bledsoe) and supplement the position with a reasonably priced veteran free-agent point guard.
In a draft where Utah will have two mid- to late-first-round draft picks, it most likely won't have a shot at any of the hottest point guard prospects. Trading for a young point guard would be the most immediate resolution to Utah's point guard issue, both in the short- and long-term.
The other option is to sign a good veteran point guard such as Jarrett Jack, or even re-signing Mo Williams, and using that point guard as a transitional piece while the Jazz groom a point guard they acquire via one of their first-round draft picks to take over the starting duties in a few years.
In this scenario, the Jazz would use one or possibly even both of their draft picks on point guard prospects whom they hope will be the next Tony Parker or Rajon Rondo, late-first-round draft picks who eventually are developed into lottery pick-level talent. Utah has had plenty of luck finding diamonds in the rough as late as the second round as Paul Millsap and Mo Williams have demonstrated.
With all the free agents Utah has coming up at the end of the season, including its two premier frontcourt players, the Utah Jazz will more than likely look very different next year. Next year's team is looking to be the most drastic cosmetic change to the team since Deron Williams was dealt.
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