With the 2022 free agency period just days away and the Utah Jazz facing a turning point in their continued search for a deep playoff run, what can we expect from the ‘crew?
Well, considering they have one of the highest payrolls in the league, they’re once again pretty limited in what they can do in free agency. In fact, the resources available to them amount to roughly excluding mid-level taxpayers of around $6.4 million (to be used between one or more players) and minimum contracts.
It’s not a lot. It’s not nothing either.
The hope is, of course, that the front office braintrust of CEO Danny Ainge and GM Justin Zanik will use it this time on someone who will end up playing a bigger role in the rotation of the next head coach. As for who this player (or these players) could be…
Well, theoretically, Quin Snyder’s replacement as the new head coach would have a say in what kind of players he wants, but he may not be in place. And so you default to some general archetypes, which frankly the Jazz has needed to amass for some time now: bigger wings with switching ability, guys that can hold their own at the point of attack on the perimeter, secondary playmakers, both large and mobile rim guards, and, as always, more shooting.
So let’s meet a few candidates who might fit the criteria.
• Nicholas Batum: He’s been everything for the Clippers that the Jazz hoped Jeff Green and Rudy Gay would be for them — a low-ball 5, a switchable defender, a good passer, a good outside shooter. He pulled out, but would be likely to re-sign with LA
• Bruce Brown: He is 6ft 4in tall with a wingspan of 6ft 9in. Averaged 9 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.1 rebounds, 1.1 steals, shooting 40.4 percent on limited 3s. Can keep 1-4. Made $4.7 million last year with the Nets and should get a raise.
• Amir Coffey: The 6-7 southpaw averaged 9 points on good range shooting (45.3/37.8/86.3) in 23 minutes per game for the Clippers. He’s limited, but after doing the minimum he could be taken away from the highly committed Clips squad with a better offer.
• PJ Dozier: He would be a minimum-contract type of driver, given his shooting inefficiencies, but at minimum, he’s a 6-foot-5, 205-pound winger who has shown defensive strengths for the Nuggets.
• Gary Harris: Is it really affordable for the average taxpayer, given their previous salary? Maybe, given his injury history. Still, he’s 27, 6-4 and averaging 11.1 points while shooting 38.4 percent from 3 last year at Orlando.
• Damion Lee: Had a regular bench role for the Warriors during the season, didn’t play a ton in the playoffs. He’s 6-5, 210. A proficient 3-point shooter (35.7% career), great FT shooter (86.8%) and good rebounder for his size (5.8 per 36 minutes last season) .
• Caleb/Cody Martin: The twins had remarkably similar production last year: Cody averaged 7.7p, 4.0r, 2.5a, 1.2s on 48.2% FG, 38.4% 3s in Charlotte; Caleb went 9.2p, 3.8r, 1.1a, 1.0s, 50.7% FGs, 41.3% 3s in Miami. Both are going 6-5/205, and both are restricted free agents who will get raises from the minimum.
• Wesley Matthews: He started his career with the Jazz, could he finish it with them too? Maybe not, because he wants a return to Milwaukee. His shooting has gone down in recent seasons (39.5% FGs, 33.8% 3s last year), but he remains a good defender in 2nd and 3rd places.
• Otto Porter: He made a minimum deal with Golden State and it paid off for both parties. He would be ideal for what the Jazz need (6-8/200, 8.2p, 5.7r, 1.1s, 46.4% FGs, 37.0% 3s last season), but could only leave the champions if he receives a crazy offer.
• Taurus Prince: With his body type (6-7/218) he might just be a forward, but still…in minutes off the bench for Minnesota, he was an efficient scorer, shot 37.6% on 3 and proved to be a versatile defender.
• Juan Toscano-Anderson: Golden State can’t keep Everybody, right? We will see. He could be an RFA if Golden State makes him a qualifying offer. Either way, he’s a solid passer and, at 6-6/209, has proven to be a capable multi-position defender.
(Note: we’ve ignored Joe Ingles and Danuel House, as these are known quantities to jazz fans.)
• Jevon Carter: The backup point guard has rebounded a bit and his size (6-1, 200) is a downside, but he’s a heady playmaker, good 3-point shooter (38.6 career percent) and defenseman of dedicated perimeter.
• Aaron’s Holidays: Being the shortest of the Holiday brothers (6-0, 185) isn’t ideal, but he’s a 37.3% career shooter from beyond the arc, and also known to be a bit of a defensive pest. . He’s a restricted free agent.
• Victor Oladipo: Might be an ambitious claim given his talent, but considering he hasn’t played more than 36 games in a season since 2017-18 due to a horrific quad injury, his market could be down. . Obviously, he played limited games for Miami last year, but he shot 41.7% on 36 3PAs and showed he was once again a 6-4/213-pound defensive presence.
• Gary Payton II: After securing Golden State’s 15th spot on the roster, he earned a spot in the rotation by being a 6-3/190 perimeter nuisance who also averaged 7.1p, 3.5r and 1, 4s while shooting 61.6% FG (not a typo) and 35.8% over 3s. He will get a big increase in the minimum. Can it be ripped off?
• Austin Rivers: Well-known to Jazz fans as a guy who had some big moments against them, the 6-4/200-pounder is a streaky shooter (41.8% FGs, 34.9% 3s for his career) but a solid defender.
• Delon Wright: The ex-University of Utah star really didn’t look for his shot in Atlanta last season, but when he let it fly, he posted some pretty good 45.4/ 37.9%. He’s a good playmaker, and at 6-5 he has a good size.
The summer of 2019 is likely the last time free agency really worked for the Utah Jazz, thanks to the brilliance of a four-year, $73 million deal for Bojan Bogdanovic.
Of course, even this class of free agents proved mixed, given that the rest of the team’s rookies (Ed Davis, Jeff Green, Emmanuel Mudiay, Nigel Williams-Goss) passed away.
In the COVID-delayed 2020 offseason, getting Jordan Clarkson to agree to an extension was considered a win, but delivering the complete mid-level exception to Derrick Favors would subsequently be considered such a colossal mistake that the team later had to give Oklahoma City a first-round pick in 2025 just to get them to take the favor out of their hands and off their books. Shaq Harrison never made his way into Quin Snyder’s lineup.
As for the summer of 2021, Mike Conley’s takeover was big, and Hassan Whiteside — despite some ups and downs — delivered more than you could have asked from a veteran’s minimum contract. But again, the team’s mid-level exception (this time, the less tax-paying version) didn’t really pay off, given that Rudy Gay was benched by Snyder before the end of the regular season.
— Eric Walden
• Nemanja Bjelica: So many warriors on this list. He’s not much of a defenseman, but his points, rebounds and assists per 36 are all excellent (13.6/9.3/5.0). He would also give the team a legitimate stretch of 5, with his career 38.4% from deep.
• Chris Boucher: Rail-thin at 6-9/200, but he was an absolute defensive threat for Toronto, limiting opponents to 43.9% shooting. He is also 33.5% deep for his career. The only question is, will the average taxpayer be enough? This may not be the case.
• Thomas Bryant: Actually drafted by the Jazz in 2017 (but fired in exchange for Tony Bradley). He showed enough skill to once land a three-year, $25 million deal, but a torn ACL in January 2021 derailed him. Still, he is averaging 18.2p, 10.2r and 1.7g per 36. He has a 7-6 span and has shot 35.0% from 3 for his career. If he can get a cut, he could be a great candidate to bounce back.
• Nick Claxton: Probably a pipe dream, considering he’s an athletic 23-year-old rim runner who’s switchable and has shown flashes as a great inside defender. As a restricted free agent, is the Taxpayer average enough that the Net Taxpayers don’t match? Given his injury history, he strength be possible, if still unlikely.
• Dewayne Dedmon: A solid substitute 5 over the years, he’s well built (7-0, 245) and has a reputation as a good stretch-5, although he hasn’t really shot that well from deep since he started. hit 38.2% of his 3.4 3PA for Atlanta in 2018-19. He was at 40.4% last season, but on just 47 attempts overall.
• Gorgui Dieng: Again, technically a former Jazz pick (evicted on draft night as part of Trey Burke’s 2013 deal). Honestly, he’s not much of a rim protector, but he’s smart, a good rebounder and has become a good 3-point shooter – 42.6% last season and 36.7% for his career.
• Isaiah Hartenstein: A guy on minimum wage last year, the 24-year-old replaced the injured Serge Ibaka quite well. At 7 feet and 250 pounds, he is surprisingly mobile. Par-36 he averaged 16.7p, 9.8r, 4.7a, 2.3b, 1.5s. He also hit 14 of 30 of 3 tries.
• Thaddee Young: OK, so at 6-8, 235, and 34, he’s destined to give jazz fans some Rudy Gay vibes. The bet would be that in a similar role he could do a bit more, as he is a better passer and hopefully a more switchable defender.