Note: all cap holds are calculated based on this season’s salary cap of $58,044,000, and therefore only represent a ballpark figure. Also, the Jazz do not have any Bird Rights to any player up for free agency except for Paul Millsap, who declined a contract extension offered earlier this season, and Al Jefferson.
I previously had mistakenly thought Utah did not have Jefferson’s Bird Rights, however Dan Clayton set me straight during a Twitter conversation, reminding me that Jefferson has spent 3 full seasons in Utah, thus qualifying him for Bird Rights. This means the Jazz could sign him to a max deal without having to pay luxury tax on the deal if Jefferson’s contract took them over the tax threshold. As for Millsap and his Bird Rights, another team can sign him using his Bird Rights, and if Millsap chooses to return to Utah, the Jazz will be able to use his Bird Rights the same way they can use Jefferson’s.
Consequently, Mo and Marvin Williams were both signed using their Bird Rights and cannot be given another contract under the Bird Rights exception because they haven’t played more than 3 years here in Utah. Also, cap holds are calculated to determine the amount of money a player can receive based on his previous salaries. While the cap hold isn’t a set in stone figure, it represents a good ballpark for negotiation. Teams can offer more than the cap hold for a player if they want, so long as it doesn’t exceed the maximum player’s salary set forth in the new CBA. They can also offer less, but usually don’t successfully re-sign players by offering less than their cap hold. Also bear in mind if the Jazz are under the apron (not paying luxury tax or less than $4 million above the tax line) they can use the non-taxpayer mid-level exception, on the condition that it doesn’t take them over the apron. One more thing: salary caps generally grow larger and larger over time, so it’s safe to assume that next season’s salary cap will be at least the same as this season’s $58,044,000.
The Utah Jazz has quite a few players who can walk away after this season. Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Mo Williams, Raja Bell, Randy Foye, Earl Watson, Jamaal Tinsley, and DeMarre Carroll are all off the books following the conclusion of the 2012-13 season. Consequently, Utah is only committed to $26,116,788 of salary next season. One note has to be made here: Marvin Williams has an early termination option of $7.5 million. If Williams chooses to walk and take his $7.5 million with him, the Jazz are only committed to $19,405,660 of salary assuming that Kevin Murphy’s deal for next season is picked up. If the salary cap for the 2013-14 season is the same as this season’s $58.044 million and Williams doesn’t re-sign, that means the Jazz have $38,638,340 to spend this offseason in free agency.
So who are they going to spend it on? Before diving into the mess that is the 2013 free agent class, let’s first see who the Jazz currently have that they should keep.
Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson are both key parts to this Utah Jazz team. Both players bring a different skill set to the table and good arguments for keeping both can be made. However, Millsap declined the Jazz’s offer at the beginning of the season, meaning he’s going to test free agency and probably walk. Meanwhile, Utah doesn’t have the Bird Rights to Jefferson, which has prevented them from making him an offer already this season. With both players becoming unrestricted free agents at season’s end, Utah could potentially lose their two most productive players and receive nothing in return. So making a trade before the deadline would be advantageous if the Jazz think neither Millsap nor Jefferson will re-sign during the offseason.
If the Jazz were to retain Millsap, they’d end up paying him at least $12,905,450 for next season, based on his cap hold. While that’s a pretty fair price for a player of Millsap’s caliber, other teams such as Houston and Portland could likely throw more money his way. Keeping Millsap just probably isn’t going to happen.
Moving on, Jefferson would demand a $16,402,500 salary for next season, based on his cap hold. This is the maximum salary Jefferson can get, based on his years in the league. It’s safe to assume Utah won’t offer less than this max contract if they really want Jefferson to stay. Of the two frontcourt players, Jefferson is the most likely to remain in Utah. So, assuming that he does, his $16.4 million in salary leaves the Jazz with $22,235,840 left for other free agents.
Is Jefferson worth that much, though? He leads Utah in points and rebounds with 17.3 and 9.8 respectively per game, and is a tough veteran. Having a solid guy like Jefferson on any team is usually a good thing. The knock on Jefferson comes on the defensive end, where’s he often a step or two slow, and the amount of time it takes for him to create a shot for himself. Keeping Jefferson and either trading Millsap or letting him walk is the most ideal event for the Jazz, because it would insert young forward Derrick Favors into the starting lineup, and also make Enes Kanter the go-to big off the bench.
Now, small forward Marvin Williams would get a $7.5 million salary, finishing out his 2-year contract in Salt Lake City. While there is a chance Williams could terminate early and try to take his talents elsewhere, his play this season hasn’t necessarily merited a bigger contract than he currently has. Unless he decides to go title chasing in Oklahoma City or Miami and settles for a marginally smaller salary (i.e., the veteran’s minimum), Williams will probably stay in Utah. So adding his salary would leave the Jazz with $14,735,840 left to spend in free agency.
Next up is DeMarre Carroll, a fan-favorite and the kind of hustle player every team wants. His shooting stroke has improved this year, as Carroll is shooting 45.6% from the field. There isn’t any reason to let Carroll walk, and he has a very positive impact on the game every time he steps on the court. Also, keeping him would only cost Utah $884,293 based on his cap hold, leaving the Jazz with $13,851,547 to continue spending. Utah could offer more to Carroll and may end up having to, but for the intents of this article, I’ll assume Carroll settles for his cap hold and re-signs.
Raja Bell will be gone. That’s all I’m going to say about him. But I’m sure David J. Smith will have many a thing to say about that!
Earl Watson, a tough and gritty point guard who’s got a good understanding of this Jazz offense, would want a $2,990,000 offer based on his cap hold. As much as fans and coaches appreciate his grit and determination to win, Watson isn’t worth nearly 3 million, especially when there’s a much cheaper alternative in Jamaal Tinsley.
Tinsley would only get an $884,293 offer based on his cap hold, the exact salary as Carroll. Since he has more of an offensive game than Watson, and is a better passer, the Jazz front office would be foolish to pass up a cheap, savvy veteran point guard on their roster. Taking Tinsley’s salary into account would leave Utah with $12,967,254 in spending money. Again, Tinsley can be offered more than that minimum amount.
Randy Foye, the best 3-point shooter since Kyle Korver, should also be re-signed. Any guy that can consistently shoot the 3 ball at a 43.7% clip like Foye does is welcome on any NBA team. And, he’s a relatively cheap shooting guard, at only $3 million based on his cap hold. Keeping Foye would still leave the Jazz with $9,967,254 for free agents. Foye too could be signed on more than $3 million if he negotiates it and the Jazz want him badly enough.
Lastly is Mo Williams, the point guard who’s like a prodigal son in Utah, and has made the most of his return here. Williams brings solid play and an up-temp approach to the point guard spot and is a pretty decent shooter, hitting 44.1% of his field goals and 93% of his free throws. However, based on his cap hold, Williams would merit a $12,750,000 salary next season. While his cap hold (and every other player’s previously mentioned) is that high, it doesn’t mean that’s the only salary he’ll agree to; however, it is the one he’ll be expecting. But nearly $13 million is quite a lot of money for an older, middle of the pack point guard. If Mo Williams will be talked down, he’d be a great keeper for this team. If he won’t be, and only wants his $12.75 million, the Jazz could do well to ship him off. Keep in mind however that Senior Vice President of Basketball Operations Kevin O’Connor really likes Williams and will probably try to do all he can to keep him. The way I see it, there’s three possible outcomes for this situation.
1 – The Jazz talk Williams into signing a smaller, cheaper contract. Say he signs for the veteran’s minimum, which would be $1,399,507 for his 10 years in the league. That leaves Utah with $8,567,747 plus their mid-level exception (MLE) of $5,150,000.
2 – The Jazz agree to sign Williams to his full cap hold contract of $12,750,000, and are over the cap at $62,226,253, but still able to use their full MLE as it wouldn’t put them over the apron. The tax threshold this season is set at $70,307,000 and that’s what I’m basing next year’s numbers on.
3 – Mo Williams leaves in free agency and the Jazz are left with $9,967,254 plus their MLE.
A lot of Utah’s free agent spending will depend on whether or not they decide to keep Williams and what they’re willing to spend on him. Based on his attitude about returning to Utah and him missing quite a bit of time this season due to injury, I don’t think it’s entirely far-fetched to hope to sign Williams to the veteran’s minimum and be left with $6 million and an MLE to spend on some free agents.
So, assuming the front office has things play out like I have, the roster for next season will be the following: Mo Williams, Jamaal Tinsley, Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks, DeMarre Carroll, Marvin Williams, Randy Foye, Al Jefferson, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Jeremy Evans, and Kevin Murphy. Only 12 guys under contract for $49,476,253 committed salary. If Dennis Lindesy can pull this off he’ll be a much loved man in Utah.
So who do the Jazz sign with their newfound cash? Who’s available? Well, that’s coming in part 2 of this post. Right now, I’d like to know what you guys think about who I decided to keep during my short duration as wannabe GM. Also, don’t be afraid to tell me which free agent you most want to see come to Utah!
I did a short Twitter poll to see what Jazz players fans want to see back next year – here’s a few of the tweets I received in response.
@Spencer_Durrant going to have to say Randy Foye, he brings something to the team we haven’t seen in a while and looks like he’ll get better @Spencer_Durrant Paul Millsap. He’s a Jazz man, a solid pro. @Spencer_Durrant Millsap but only if he’s willing to come off the bench as our 3rd big.