By Mike Misek
2010/11 Utah Jazz Payroll: $54.8 million
2010/11 NBA Salary Cap: $56.1 million
Roughly: $1.3 million under cap
Carlos Boozer – Unrestricted Free Agent
Kyle Korver – Unrestricted Free Agent
Kyrylo Fesenko – Qualifying Offer for $1.0 million
Wes Matthews – Qualifying Offer for $932K
Sundiata Gaines – Qualifying Offer for $762K
Othyus Jeffers – Qualifying Offer for $762K
Draft Picks – 9th and 55th overall picks
The Good: The season of the Utah Jazz was nothing short of incredible. Blindsided by Boozer’s decision to opt in to his deal, Kevin O’Connor had to make multiple moves to save money all while the team won 53 games. There are not a long list of franchises who can move two former first round picks to save money, and replace them with an undrafted rookie and a NBDL alum, without seeing any effect on the team’s performance. The team was giving real minutes to Wesley Matthews, Othyus Jeffers, Kyrylo Fesenko, and Ronnie Price during the stretch run of the regular season. Fesenko and Matthews were starting in the playoffs. It speaks to the greatness of Jerry Sloan, the Jazz front office, and the legitimate stardom of Deron Williams that the team could take a Golden State approach to filling their roster and still make the second round of the playoffs.
The Bad: If the Jazz were able to turn straw into gold this past season, is it possible that they will be able to replicate the feat when their second best player leaves this summer as a free agent? The Jazz have none of their previous four first round picks left on their roster, and the second round has only netted them Paul Millsap and a pair of European prospects still in need of seasoning. It is one thing to find role players who can supplement the abilities of the stars, but it is another to find a star. For the Jazz to continue being a 50 win team, they will either need to hit a home run with their lottery pick or turn the clock back on Kirilenko to 2006.
The Future: The Jazz will enter the summer over the salary cap and one mid-level signing under the tax line. If the four restricted free agents are on the financial books for the qualifying offers, the Jazz will be about $4.5 million under the tax with one roster spot short of the league mandated 13. Such conditions make it difficult to see the Jazz working out a sign-and-trade with Boozer where they take back a matching contract. Also, it is not outside the realm of possibilities that Wesley Matthews receives a free agent tender sheet from another team. As great as he has been as an undrafted rookie, the team will have to determine what dollar amount will be too much to match.
At least theoretically, they could replace Boozer’s production offensively and would be a much better team defensively with Millsap, giving more power forward minutes to Kirilenko, and a drafted wing. If the Jazz are able to bring in another rangy small forward who can effectively spread the floor and defend the perimeter players who are too strong and long for C.J. Miles or Wes Matthews, they would have a pretty good chance of absorbing the blow that comes with losing a two-time All-Star and two-time member of Team USA in the Olympics.