For the first time since 2019, the Utah Jazz have real cap space to use in free agency.
And the team’s goal right now is simply to get “good players.” That’s been the mantra of Jazz front office CEO Danny Ainge and general manager Justin Zanik, repeated time and time again in both press conferences and impromptu conversations: The Jazz know that, most of all, they just need more talent on this roster.
That reasoning pushed them to acquire Atlanta’s John Collins on Monday, even though they already had an impressive array of frontcourt talent. While Collins will compete for playing time, getting him — for the low, low price of Rudy Gay and a future second-round pick — is too much talent for the price to pass up.
So what else can Jazz do? First, the amount of cap space they have can vary widely. At a minimum, they will have $10 million available. At most – if Jordan Clarkson were to opt out of his player option and leave the Jazz, and if the team were to waive Kelly Olynyk, Kris Dunn, Luka Samanic and Vernon Carey Jr. – they could have up to $34 million available in market space.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some leading candidates to get the money, candidates that make sense with the Jazz’s long-term focus.
Big contract vets in their prime
Kyle Kuzma, 28, Washington
Utah fans will be familiar with Kyle Kuzma, the 6-9 forward who won a title with the Lakers and then moved to Washington the past two seasons. Adding Kuzma would bring a 20-point-per-game scorer to Utah, but would also add to the Jazz’s logjam at that position. He has been a better passer in his career than anyone else in the Jazz’s front court besides Olynyk.
D’Angelo Russell, 27, LA Lakers
D’Lo is coming off a season where he was very efficient in scoring for the Minnesota Timberwolves and LA Lakers, posting a rare 57% effective field-goal percentage from a guard while shooting 40% from deep. And yet … he disappointed his coaches so much as a defender and playmaker that he found himself traded to Mike Conley before the deadline and then lost much of his playing time when the Lakers faced the Nuggets in the playoffs.
Still, he could be a good value for the Jazz on a smaller contract than his last ($31 million). He is the best point guard on the free agent market now and a marketable asset moving forward.
Fred VanVleet, 29, Toronto
FVV is a one-time All-Star who leads the Toronto Raptors perimeter attack. Once undrafted, VanVleet has scored nearly 20 points per game. game long enough now that we know what he brings: more 3s than 2s, surprisingly strong play, hard shooting in good and bad ways, and surprisingly good turnover rates for his usage. He even gets a decent number of steals and blocks given his small 6-1 frame.
Should the Jazz be able to get FVV on a reduced deal, he would be an asset. Paying a small guard deeper into the thirties for huge money, however, would be ill-advised.
Kelly Oubre, 27, Charlotte
Kelly Oubre is another player who averaged 20 points per game. game last year for a bad team, although he did it from the two and three positions. He’s left-handed, which might provide some versatility for the Jazz, but is a really bad playmaker outside of getting shots for himself. Three years ago, he was in Phoenix when he provided the most value to his team.
I’m not sure he’ll make big money — the mid-range seems about right — but it could be a value proposition given his talent.
Josh Hart, 28, New York
Josh Hart was once a Jazz draft pick in 2017, and he was immediately traded for center Tony Bradley. Hart has flourished in the league as a tough defensive guard and as an effective low-usage option. He’s also a surprisingly good rebounder and passer for his role. He doesn’t shoot often, but he averaged 1.38 points per game. shot for the Knicks last year.
That’s all great, but I think he played so well for New York after the trade that they’re going to offer him a lot of money.
Bruce Brown, 26, Denver
He just won a title that gave the Nuggets $6.5 million. Now that he’s opted out, he’s in line for a much bigger deal. He’s a strong and versatile defender and playmaker – the Nuggets figured out some of their bench issues when they just told him to be super aggressive in transition.
Considering the Nuggets don’t have his Bird rights, I suspect another team trades Brown for a bigger role or for more money than the Jazz are willing to pay.
Dillon Brooks, 27, Memphis
Yes, he is the best villain in the league. Yes, he takes extremely bad shots.
But doesn’t Brooks make sense for the Jazz? He is one of the league’s best defenders – a second-team All-Defense selection. He can hit threes. He passes relatively well to a wing and does not turn the ball over much. Will Hardy has proven adept at getting players to change their shooting profiles for the benefit of the team, as shown by the examples of Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Collin Sexton and even Jordan Clarkson. Could Hardy get Brooks to play more within himself offensively?
In terms of value plays, Brooks makes sense. At least it’s worth the conversation.
Max Strus, 27, Miami
Strus’ high-volume shooting was a surprisingly big part of the Heat’s run to the NBA Finals this year. Another one of their undrafted guys, Strus’ 41% 3-point percentage in 2021-22 put the fear of God into opponents, even though he shot just 35% from deep this regular season and a subpar 32% in the last two playoff campaigns. He’s also shown smart play in other areas of the floor, though athletic limitations are real.
Still, he’s shown the ability to eat up the minutes he’s given and not hurt too much; for a low enough salary he should have interested suitors.
Gabe Vincent, 27, Miami
Vincent put up just 12.7 points per game. game in the NBA playoffs when he and Strus killed the Bucks, Knicks and Celtics. Sure, it’s not like he showed that level in the regular season, but as an unrestricted free agent, it might be worth giving him a deal to see if he can keep it up over the first 82 ? So at the right price.
Limited free agent shots
With their cap space, the Jazz could go after a player fresh off their rookie deal. That would be compelling for their youth movement, but the downside is that the player’s current team would have 24 hours to match the deal, thus keeping the player under NBA rules. Some options:
Austin Reaves, 25, LA Lakers
Austin Reaves has a unique situation; The “Gilbert Arenas” rule prevents him from getting a contract worth more than $98 million over four years. That contract would go on the Lakers’ books as an intermediate player for the next two seasons and then as a max player for the next two years. That would be a standard contract for the team offering the deal.
If the Jazz can, I think it’s worth offering. For two reasons: First, Reaves is a really talented guard who would be a good fit for this team: He can shoot, plays solid and pesky defense, and even creates for himself and others. Second, giving the Lakers a max deal to contend with in 2026-27 would make it harder for them to add other talent that season, making the Lakers’ 2027 first-round pick — which the Jazz acquired at the deadline — more valuable .
Cam Johnson, 27, Brooklyn
How far into the luxury tax are the non-contending Nets willing to go? If Johnson were given a contract that starts at $10 million or more per year, Brooklyn would enter the first tax bracket.
I think they’ll figure it out without shortening Johnson’s deal. I wonder if Atlanta will use their newly traded player exception from the John Collins deal to take over Royce O’Neale’s contract from the Nets, sending a couple of second round picks as ballast.
Tre Jones, 23, San Antonio
The Jazz have a ton of young guards to give chances to – Sexton, Horton-Tucker and new draftees Brice Sensabaugh and Keyonte George – but I don’t think that necessarily takes away from their interest in looking more at good young players. Jones is a responsible young point guard who has struggled to shoot so far. On the right deal, why not? He is the same age as Ochai Agbaji.
Coby White, 23, Chicago
Coby White is also 23 and is a much worse passer but a much better shooter than Jones. White really struggled in his first three seasons, but stopped taking so many poor mid-range shots this year and really increased his 2-point percentage. As a result, for the first time, the Bulls were better with him on the floor than off it. He could be interesting.
These players have all shown either an ability to contribute in small roles or, due to their young age, have the potential to grow into those roles:
Donte DiVincenzo, 26, plays option
He shot 40% from three last year for the Warriors and played 26 minutes a night. He’s a good shooter, a secondary creator and tries to defend. If a bargain is available, DiVincenzo could fit the Jazz — just like he could almost any team.
Josh Okogie, 24, UFA
Okogie is a great individual defender and a solid minutes eater for the Suns … at least during the regular season. In the playoffs, his shooting proved too poor to keep him on the floor. And yet, he’s only 24, knows what he needs to do to improve, and will give the Jazz a defensive two-guard option. I would definitely consider it.
Jaylen Nowell, 23, UFA
He’s a fun 6-4 shooting guard who averaged 10 points per game last year for the Timberwolves, and he’s still only 23 years old. The question is, can he shoot it: Is he the 39% 3-point shooter he was in 2021-22 or the 29% shooter he was last season? If the former, you could actually reasonably play him quite a few minutes; if it’s the latter, he’s just a bench scoring type. At a good deal buying a contract, why not find out?
Jalen McDaniels, 25, UFA
The Jazz wanted his brother, Jaden, from Minnesota in the Rudy Gobert trade. Instead, they just got more first round picks. Jalen isn’t quite as good on D as Jaden — fitting given the difference in names — but offers good rebounding and steal rates in a low-usage profile.
Troy Brown Jr., 23, UFA
He’s a 3-and-D guy — while I think it’s fair to say the Wizards were hoping for more when they drafted him No. 15 in 2018, that’s what he is. He shot 38% from three last year for the Lakers, and is a solid but not great defender. But again, at just 23 years old, he could continue to develop on either his strengths or his weaknesses to become a more well-rounded contributor.
Goga Bitadze, 23, team selection
The Georgian had some great draft film and showed flashes in his stint with Indiana … but not real NBA production. A midseason trade to Orlando didn’t bring much improvement. He’s not going to get much money at all, but I’d definitely consider the possibility of using him as a third center project.
Paul Reed, 24, RFA
He’s a Philly fan favorite who wasn’t much loved by Doc Rivers. But BBall Paul — awesome nickname — deserves a chance elsewhere thanks to his ball skills and ultra-high rebound, block and steal rates, all of which rank in the 90th percentile of NBA big men. according to Cleaning The Glass. Why not give him backup center minutes in Utah and see if that can be a cheap, young, promising option?
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