What Offseason Moves Are Next for the Utah Jazz with the NBA Draft Complete?

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What Offseason Moves Are Next for the Utah Jazz with the NBA Draft Complete?
Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

Turns out, the Utah Jazz didn't need a top-three pick to land a potential superstar in the 2014 draft.

Dante Exum fell into Utah's lap at No. 5, and the fanbase rightfully rejoiced over the opportunity to cheer for someone who could potentially be the next Penny Hardaway.

They piled on more good vibes at No. 23, when they selected Rodney Hood, another prospect who slid further down the board than most expected.

With two steals on draft night in the back pocket, the goal now is solidifying the rest of the roster around Exum, Hood and the other youngsters under contract.

Priority No. 1 has to be re-signing Gordon Hayward, a point forward in the middle of the lineup who has the versatility to hold everyone around him together.

 

Bringing Back Hayward

Rocky Widner/Getty Images

The Jazz took a small risk in not extending Hayward's contract back in October. Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Hayward's camp was looking for a four-year deal worth north of $50 million, an amount Utah was unwilling to pay without seeing what the open market dictated.

That's what will happen now, as Hayward is officially a restricted free agent following the extension of a qualifying offer as reported by Jody Genessy of The Deseret News:

As expected, the Utah Jazz extended a qualifying offer to Gordon Hayward for the 2014-15 season.

The transaction ensures that Hayward will be a restricted free agent come July 1, a move that will allow Utah the first right of refusal on any offer that might come the small forward's way next month.

Hayward may field a solid offer from the Phoenix Suns or Boston Celtics, but his career-low shooting percentages in 2013-14 should temper the market to the point that he makes less than, or at least around, $10 million per year.

Genessy continued:

Although other teams very well could try to lure the versatile 6-8 wing away from Utah, Jazz management has made it clear that Hayward remains in the organization's long-term plans.

Most recently, Jazz vice president of player personnel Walt Perrin scoffed when asked if the team was looking for a possible replacement for Hayward in this draft.

'Nope,' Perrin said. 'That doesn’t come into our thinking because we think we’re going to have Gordon with us next year.'

The team's desire to bring Hayward back makes sense. When you look at it in the right light, his first season as the top dog in Utah was a success.

Sure, he shot just 41.3 percent from the field and 30.4 percent from three-point range, but he showed he's one of a rare breed of legitimate point forwards.

Among players who stand at least 6'8", only Hayward, LeBron James and Kevin Durant averaged at least 16 points, five rebounds and five assists.

  Per Game
Player Ht Age MP TRB AST STL BLK TOV PTS
Kevin Durant 6-9 25 38.5 7.4 5.5 1.3 0.7 3.5 32.0
LeBron James 6-8 29 37.7 6.9 6.3 1.6 0.3 3.5 27.1
Gordon Hayward 6-8 23 36.4 5.1 5.2 1.4 0.5 2.8 16.2
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/27/2014.

And when you throw Hayward's averages for steals (1.4) and blocks (0.5) into that equation, the list narrows down to include only Utah's young wing.

His ability to run the offense and make his teammates better took a ton of pressure off Trey Burke during his rookie season. He can do the same for Exum in 2014-15.

 

Add Depth Inside

Melissa Majchrzak/Getty Images

Heading into free agency, Utah has four bigs under contract: Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Jeremy Evans and Rudy Gobert.

Gobert's still as raw as steak tartare, Evans is a tweener and Kanter struggled so bad defensively last season that Salt City Hoops' Dakota Schmidt put together a five-minute lowlight reel of his work on that end.

The lack of depth inside is a major reason why many saw the Jazz taking Noah Vonleh or Aaron Gordon with the fifth pick Thursday. Obviously, passing on Exum's potential wasn't an option, and that hole will now have to be filled in free agency.

A big name isn't realistic, or even necessary. Utah just needs someone who's solid and won't mind playing behind the developing duo of Favors and Kanter.

One option could be re-signing Marvin Williams, who didn't blow anyone away last season, but did look like a real stretch 4 for at least part of the season, shooting 40.1 percent from three-point range before the All-Star break.

Josh McRoberts would also make sense. The 27-year old is coming off a solid season with the Bobcats, in which he averaged 8.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists. That kind of playmaking ability is rare for a 6'10" player, and it would add another wrinkle to Utah's offense.

 

Figure Out the Point Guard Situation

Melissa Majchrzak/Getty Images

Yes, plenty of teams are employing two-point guard lineups these days, but that doesn't necessarily mean Utah should.

Sure, Burke had a decent rookie season, but he doesn't have the same size, physical gifts or athletic potential as either Exum or Alec Burks. And that's really the duo that should be seen as Utah's backcourt of the future.

Both are 6'6", both are extremely athletic laterally and Burks is a phenomenal athlete vertically. The matchup problems those two would create far exceed anything any duo including Burke would.

For what it's worth, Burke does seem excited about the opportunity to be on the floor at the same time as Exum.

And this year's fifth pick has already drawn comparisons to Kobe Bryant, who is of course, a shooting guard.

But Exum has asserted throughout this process that he's a point guard, which is where he needs to be to fully realize his potential.

It's easy to see why some have said his ceiling could potentially be the next Penny. Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman went a step further:

What separates the top-tier players from the second-tier players is the ability to tap into their elite talent on a game-to-game basis, Exum happens to have that top-tier talent. For him, it's just going to be a matter of channeling it into consistent, everyday production. 

If he eventually catches the current and hits his NBA stride, we could be talking about a potent blend of Penny Hardaway and Russell Westbrook.

Becoming a blend of Hardaway and Westbrook would obviously be a lofty goal for Exum, but he already has the body and side-to-side explosiveness to do it.

Now imagine he hits that ceiling and plays alongside the fantastic slashing ability of Burks. Again, that's the backcourt of the future.

So what does Utah do with Burke?

Who should start in Utah's backcourt?

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During ESPN's telecast of the draft, Jay Bilas said that he thought Exum and Burke would start together at first, but that Exum would eventually replace him at the 1.

If Burke can accept being a backup, he'd be a great asset to the Jazz. The second unit could use his steady hand to run the offense, and if his shot improves, even better.

If Burke can't accept that role, maybe he built up enough trade value last season to net Utah a backup big man.

Either way, the old cliche holds true for now, as it really is fine that the Jazz have too many good players at one position.

According to Genessy, Utah general manager Dennis Lindsey said, "We’ll let nature take its course..." following the draft.

That course looks to be a one-way street, and Exum starting at point guard is at the end of it.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all stats are courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com.

Andy Bailey covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him at @AndrewDBailey.

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