After watching their beloved Jazz lose game after game in the most gut-wrenching fashion possible, Utah fans could use a distraction. Luckily, Bleacher Report is here to help.
If the Los Angeles Lakers continue to pull out miraculous comebacks at their current rate, it sadly may not be too early for the Utah front office to start making an offseason game plan.
The Jazz will have at least eight contracts coming off the books at the close of the 2012-13 season, which will have significant positive and negative impacts on the team. The high roster attrition could undo most of the hard work head coach Ty Corbin has put in getting everyone on the same page. Bringing in a slew of fresh faces will bring the team back to square one.
Conversely, the potential mass exodus of current Jazz players gives GM Dennis Lindsey tremendous financial flexibility. If the Utah front office falls in love with a particular free agent, they have the option of paying more than market value. If they see a team desperate for cap relief willing to depart with a coveted player, they have the option of taking on long-term salary in exchange for a high-caliber player.
Because Utah is not a highly desired market to play in, their free agency pickings are slimmer than those of the Los Angeles, New York and Texas teams. Thus, the Jazz front office has to either be more creative in finding good free-agent value or bite the bullet and overpay. Utah could be faced with being in danger of not meeting the minimum salary number if enough players decide to go elsewhere, further complicating matters.
As the 2012-13 season draws to a close, the Jazz should be paying special attention to the following five players, as each could help the Jazz in different ways and in different scenarios.
There are two schools of thought when it comes to Utah making Brandon Jennings its top priority in free agency.
Jennings is a high-volume scorer who can drop 40 on any given night. Considering Utah's toothless starting backcourt has only managed 21 points in the past three games, 19 of which came in one game, Jennings would fill that gaping maw.
Only 23 years old, Jennings also fits the bill as a young talent the Jazz could add to the so-called "core four" of Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks, Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors.
Signing Jennings would come with significant changes and complications for the Jazz. Jennings is a restricted free agent, meaning Milwaukee has the opportunity to match any offer sheet the Compton, California native signs with another team. Even if Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey sees it fit to break the bank for Jennings, there's no guarantee of landing Jennings.
Even if Milwaukee decides not to match, how much money is Jennings worth?
Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times reported that a source confirmed Jennings is looking for a max contract in an interview with WSSP 1250 (it was in the Feb. 7 post-game show after the Jazz toppled the Bucks.) Obviously, just because Jennings sees himself as a max contract player doesn't mean he will actually get that. But knowing what a high value Jennings sees in himself, would he sign with another small-market team for less than his full asking price?
Further complicating matters is the huge makeover Utah's offense would undergo with Jennings at the helm. I'm not 100 percent convinced Utah Jazz head coach Ty Corbin even knows what an "iso" is, let alone is ready to start running them for a player who shoots 40 percent from the field.
Despite the potential issues Jennings signing with Utah would have, the Jazz has to keep an eye on how Jennings finishes the season.
If the Jazz strikes out on Jennings or determine he's not worth his high asking price, Jose Calderon is likely next on the list of free agent point guards.
Calderon is the bizarro Brandon Jennings. He lacks the youth and athleticism Jennings is known for, but is a much better decision maker, shooter and distributor.
Since being traded to the Detroit Pistons from the Toronto Raptors, Calderon is shooting 49 percent from the field, scorching the twine at 48 percent from the three-point line and has been automatic from the charity stripe at 94 percent. Even taking his slightly lower stats from his time in Toronto into account, Calderon will come surprisingly close to joining exclusive 50/40/90 club.
If Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin believes in his flex offense, Calderon would be the best fit of all the free agent point guards Utah is in play for. (Chris Paul would do a decent job there too, but I'm pretty sure Utah isn't terribly high on his list.)
If Utah decides to bring back Al Jefferson, a sharpshooter like Calderon would be valuable. Opponents of the Jazz have had success against Jefferson by doubling him with the point guard's defender, which could easily be done while Utah was playing Earl Watson or Jamaal Tinsley. With Calderon in the mix, teams would not have the luxury utilizing this defensive technique, lest they leave Calderon wide open.
By signing Calderon, the Jazz would concede their point guard of the future is not available in the upcoming free agent pool, nor is he available via trade. Utah would still draft a point guard with one of their two first-round picks in the 2013 draft and have him back up Calderon until he was ready to start or until Calderon's contract was up.
Calderon doesn't come sans downside. Calderon would not improve Utah's porous perimeter defense, and may actually be a slight downgrade from the Mo Williams/Watson/Tinsley triumvirate.
Still, Calderon's veteran savvy and unique skill set makes him the most likely option Utah will pursue in free agency.
While Jennings and Calderon would be offensive improvements, Tony Allen is a free agent that would dramatically improve its porous perimeter defense.
One of the better perimeter defenders in the NBA, Allen brings a defensive toughness and dogged determination that the Jazz simply lacks. The past three games, Utah has been torched late by Jennings, Kyrie Irving and the dynamic Nate Robinson/Marco Bellinelli duo.
Allen's value to the Jazz would be augmented by Allen teaching Utah's younger perimeter players such as Alec Burks, Gordon Hayward and the new point guard the Jazz will inevitably draft this year how to plug defensive leaks on the perimeter, and instilling in them some much-needed attitude.
Allen garnered the nickname "Trick or Treat Tony" from Grantland's Bill Simmons for his inconsistent performances and occasional bone-headed offensive decisions. Since his arrival in Memphis, Allen's offensive head-scratchers have seemed to taper off, making this less of a concern for the Jazz.
If the Jazz can ink Allen for anywhere close to his current salary of $3.3 million, he could turn out to be the best value for their money.
Pretend for a moment that you haven't seen the name and picture above, and consider the two following players.
This year, Player A is an upcoming free agent averaging 14.9 points a game, shooting 45 percent from the field and and 39 percent from the three-point line. He is pulling down less than two rebounds a game and averaging four assists per game. He makes $6.1 million this year, and is likely to make as much or more in his new contract.
This year, Player B is also a pending free agent averaging 11.3 points a game, shooting 45 percent from the field and 45 percent from the three-point line. He's snagging four rebounds a game and averaging two assists per game. He makes $5 million this year, and is likely to sign for a similar amount in his new contract.
Player A is the highly-coveted J.J. Redick, and Player B is Kyle Korver.
Korver is a three-point specialist who would increase Utah's offensive potency. He would also improve Utah's historically bad rebounding backcourt and has the versatility to play multiple positions.
Just as importantly, Korver recently expressed a willingness, perhaps even an eagerness to return to the Jazz next season.
Redick would be a reasonable option to consider for the Jazz, and is a more dynamic scorer than Korver. For the money each is likely to command, Korver seems to be the better value.
At $4 million for this season, Carl Landry is a bargain.
Landry is averaging 11 points on 52 percent shooting and six boards off the bench for the Golden State Warriors. He has been considered underpaid with his one-year, $4 million contract. His consistent production makes Landry an ideal candidate to forgo his player option for next year. His offensive efficiency and toughness make Landry an ideal player for the Jazz to target.
While Utah's frontcourt is currently too crowded, starting post players Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson are both free agents after this year. With the recent stellar play of young bigs Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, letting both Jefferson and Millsap walk is now a real possibility for the Jazz, especially if Utah acquires a high-priced perimeter player via free agency or trade.
In that scenario, Landry would be an ideal player for the Jazz.
Landry has the flexibility of being either a great third big if Kanter and Favors sustain their play, or could be a competent starter if one of the young bigs regresses and/or proves to not be ready to start.
Landry is due for a raise but should still be affordable for the Jazz, and will likely be among the best values available.