Basketball

Utah Blues

Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

Utah had something special going on this season. Top seed in the West, best record in basketball, and playing lights out. Now they have to face the cold hard truth. With the exception of Donovan Mitchell, that core group is getting really old. They are $7,186,302 over the salary cap. It doesn’t look like they have a lot of draft capital to work with.

Now what?

All of the starters and key contributors except for Michell are either in their late 20s or early 30s. Mike Conley is going to be a free agent as 33 a year old guard. Jarrell Brantley, Trent Forrest, and Juwan Morgan are also free agents but they are much younger. If the team believes in them, they are worth keeping around so they don’t have to start from scratch. Udoka Azubuike got injured in the G league. If healthy, next year the 2020 first round pick could make an impact as a center. The main players are making a lot of money, thus handicapping the Jazz financially. This is what some players under contract through next year are making:

Rudy Gobert – $35,344,828

Bojan Bodaganovic – $18,700,000

Jordan Clarkson – $12,420,000

Joe Ingles – $14,000,000

Derrick Favors – $9,720,900

Royce O’Neale – $8,678,571

Donovan Mitchell – $28,103,550

The salaries of Gobert and Mitchell will continue to go up with Gobert eventually passing 40 million. A hard contract to work with, an even harder contract to trade.

Options

Similar to Portland, there are a lot of big decisions to be made that could alter the course of the franchise. The Jazz could go into straight up rebuild mode and dump some of these contracts. Relax Jazz fans, I mean the other guys on this list. Mitchell isn’t going anywhere. It won’t be easy, but clearing cap space is priority before they can do anything else. Gobert has to be the first person to get traded and a third team will probably have to get involved due to the large salary. Utah should be able to get some good draft picks for him even if it means giving up picks in the future to do it.

The other players can probably get traded the traditional way to teams who can take on the contract and need a veteran presence to go with their young core group. Ultimately, they have to find the right deals with the right teams. As long as Utah agrees to help pay some of the salaries, the other teams won’t be hard capped moving forward.

Possible Trades

Clarkson to Memphis:

Memphis has $24,424,392 in cap space. This would have to be a 50-50 pay split.

Gobert to New York:

New York has $51,312,298. This would probably have to be a 75-25 or 50-50 pay split.

Ingles to Oklahoma City:

OKC has $41,797,585. They could get away with a 75-25 pay split here.

Bodaganovic to San Antonio:

San Antonio has $49,465,998. This will either be a 75-25 pay split or the Spurs take the whole thing.

Favors to Miami:

Miami has $28,104,879. This can be a 75-25 pay split or the Heat take on the whole thing.

O’Neale to Chicago:

Chicago has $23,748,528. This can be a 75-25 pay split or the Bulls take on the whole thing.

With this strategy, Utah can get some serious draft capital back. Since they’ll be on the hook for some salaries, a draft approach may be the way to go moving forward. There is still a path for Utah to reload and be competitive. There is a long road ahead for a team that thought they were going all the way.

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