Realistic Free-Agency Targets for the Utah Jazz This Offseason

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Realistic Free-Agency Targets for the Utah Jazz This Offseason
Rocky Widner/Getty Images

What does a rebuilding team in a small market do when it has a bunch of money to spend?

The Utah Jazz will have loads of cap space in the summer of 2014, but Salt Lake City has never really been known as a hot destination for NBA free agents.

So team management may have to go bargain hunting, looking for a diamond in the rough or reclamation project; you get the picture.

Exactly how much money will be available depends on a couple of different factors. Utah may or may not have to pay Gordon Hayward the first year of a hefty extension, and there will also be a couple more first-round picks on the roster.

The bigger expense will almost certainly be Hayward.

On October 31, the team and Hayward missed the deadline to get an extension done this season. In the wake of that news, ESPN's Marc Stein reported that Hayward and his agent were seeking a deal for four years and upward of $50 million.

The two sides failing to reach an agreement ensured Hayward's status as a restricted free agent this summer. That means opposing teams will be able to offer a deal, but Utah will have the option to match if Hayward accepts something elsewhere.

Such a course could mean paying Hayward a lot of money. Former New York Post writer and NBA TV analyst Peter Vecsey relayed the Suns' interest:

And the mere mention of Hayward possibly reuniting with Butler coach Brad Stevens by Grantland's Bill Simmons set the internet ablaze with rumors:

So it looks like bringing Hayward back will tie up well over $10 million in cap space. For the sake of this discussion, let's assume they match Phoenix, Boston or some other team's offer.

Combine that with the contracts already guaranteed for next season and the two incoming first-rounders (one will be their own pick in the lottery, and the other comes from a trade with Golden State), and Utah's payroll will likely sit at around $37 to $45 million when they start bargain hunting. 

That leaves them plenty of space, as ESPN's Larry Coon shared the projected 2014-15 salary cap back in June:

But as was said at the outset, Utah isn't a hot spot and attracting a big name doesn't seem realistic.

Tying up the money in role players doesn't make much sense either. After the 2014 draft, the Jazz will have eight first-rounders from the classes of 2010-2014 (Hayward, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Alec Burks, Trey Burke, Rudy Gobert and the two forthcoming).

The six outside of Hayward and the already-extended Favors will be looking for new deals in a few years. So the best course of action is to spend very prudently now and have plenty of money in the future to retain the guys who develop the most.

 

Marvin Williams and Richard Jefferson

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Re-signing Williams and Jefferson would be pretty surprising and probably wouldn't sit well with a lot of fans, but each could be had for significantly less than they're making this season.

Both are on expiring deals. Jefferson's is paying him $11 million in 2013-14, while Williams is making $7.5 million.

Their production doesn't live up to those figures, but they've still been decent contributors as role players. Jefferson and Williams have been Utah's best three-point shooters all season long, posting long-range percentages of 40.4 and 42.7 percent respectively.  

But the fact that they're proving to be little more than three-point specialists at this point in their careers should make them very affordable this summer.

That doesn't necessarily mean Utah should sign them though. Especially if the team retains Tyrone Corbin, who's shown a dedication to veterans in a season that was supposed to be about growth for the young players.

If Utah does indeed have the eight first-rounders on the team next season, they should be the bulk of, if not the entire, rotation. The more minutes they play together, the faster they'll develop both chemistry as a team and experience as individuals.

 

Shaun Livingston

Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images

Dating back to this past summer, Utah has signed John Lucas III, Jamaal Tinsley and Diante Garrett. And yet, they still may not have a backup for Burke.

Lucas has been predictably bad, as his 33.8 percent shooting this season is six points behind his career high. Tinsley was cut after just eight games.

Garrett's been much better than the two veterans, but there's definitely still room for improvement in the role. 

Enter Shaun Livingston.

He's a nine-year veteran who's looking as good as he has since a horrific knee injury derailed his career in 2007.

The 6'7" point guard's season-highs in 2013-14 for points, rebounds and assists are 23, 11 and 11 (all in separate games). And his player efficiency rating of 13.8 is the second best of his career.

As a member of the Jazz, Livingston could serve as a great change of pace off the bench for Burke. His size makes him a unique mismatch for point guards and his ability to pass out of the post increases the threat of an inside-out game for Utah.

He's also shown the ability to play off the ball in spurts for Brooklyn this season, so lineups featuring both Burke and Livingston would be possible.

 

Danny Granger

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

If Utah chooses not to re-sign Williams and Jefferson and misses out on Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker in the draft, it could be in the market for a small forward.

Indiana's Danny Granger may be available.

In the last year of his deal with the Pacers, Granger is adapting to a role as a reserve. And with Lance Stephenson occupying the wing opposite Paul George, it doesn't look like Granger will be a starter there again anytime soon.

If he wants a chance to play more minutes and resurrect his career after struggling with injuries over the last few years, he may need to look at a team like the Jazz.

He could fill the role that Jefferson is currently playing, and since he's three years younger, he'd turn back the clock on the position at least a little bit.

 

C.J. Miles

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Signing C.J. Miles would obviously be contingent upon the same factors outlined for Granger. There's a good chance Utah won't need another wing based on what it does in the draft.

If they do happen to come out of June without a 3, Miles is an interesting option. 

The Jazz drafted Miles in 2005, and he spent the first seven seasons of his NBA career with Utah. During that period, he shot 32.9 percent from three-point range and averaged 8.4 points a game.

If signed, he would return to Utah as a better long-range shooter and a more viable threat on offense. Since joining the Cavaliers in 2012, Miles is shooting 39.2 percent from downtown and scoring 10.9 points.

 

Jimmer Fredette

Rocky Widner/Getty Images

Even if there wasn't a picture of him at the start of this piece, you had to see this one coming. Jimmer Fredette with the Utah Jazz simply makes too much sense not to happen.

The former BYU Cougar became a national sensation during his senior season in Provo, Utah when his incredible offensive ability spawned "Jimmermania."

There are still plenty of fans in the Beehive State and around the country who would love to see him lighting up defenses once again. But it's becoming increasingly clear that won't happen in Sacramento.

Even though Jimmer's been without question the second-best guard on the Kings' roster, he's still playing a smaller role than both Marcus Thornton and Ben McLemore.

A comparison of the three shows he's been significantly more effective than both even while getting less than half the playing time of each. The following numbers are from Basketball-Reference.com and are per 36 minutes:

 

Player FG% 3P% FT% TRB AST PTS
Jimmer Fredette .450 .500 .923 4.9 4.5 18.1
Ben McLemore .360 .336 .792 4.2 1.5 11.5
Marcus Thornton .370 .310 .848 5.1 1.6 12.4
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/13/2014.

 

The difference is even more drastic when you look at a few advanced statistics:

 

Player PER TS% eFG% DRB% AST% ORtg DRtg WS/48
Jimmer Fredette 16.4 .557 .532 13.4 21.4 105 110 .078
Ben McLemore 7.3 .470 .437 10.3 6.2 95 112 .003
Marcus Thornton 10.7 .480 .449 11.5 6.8 101 110 .045
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/13/2014.

 

As he did last season, Jimmer is proving to be a serious offensive weapon.

And now, numbers are suggesting he's no more of a liability on defense than his backcourt mates. His defensive rating (or DRtg) estimates that he allows 110 points per 100 possessions. That's tied with Thornton and starting point guard Isaiah Thomas and two points better than McLemore.

But even though he's proving himself worthy of more playing time (he's averaging just 11.2 minutes), he's having to bring the Jimmermania in very limited stretches:

The lack of playing time in spite of his success would suggest the Kings don't think Jimmer is a part of their future. If he's on the open market this summer, Utah would be insane not to pursue.

His outside shooting ability would do so much to create space around the rim for Hayward, Favors, Kanter and Burke that he would instantly be a fan favorite.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all stats are courtesy of Sports-Reference and NBA.com and are current as of Jan. 13, 2014. 

For 140-character pearls of wisdom from Bleacher Report's Andy Bailey, follow him on Twitter: @AndrewDBailey. 

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