The Utah Jazz have a starting roster of 5 guys 23 and under in age. They were the 3rd, 3rd, 9th, 9th and 12th picks in their respective drafts. The Thunder had a similar problem recently when they had three max type players in Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. The Thunder couldn’t afford all 3 players so they ended up trading James Harden to the Rockets.
So what does this have to do with the Jazz and how can the Jazz avoid this situation? A lot of factors can happen so let’s hit those first.
1. Do the Jazz have max players?
The obvious thing the Jazz need to figure out is if any of their 5 young guys are max players and if so are they worth a max contract. Hayward will most likely be the best player on the team this year and possibly even an all-star but does that warrant him a max player? Absolutely not. Andrei Kirilenko was in a similar situation 10 years ago and the Jazz did something they regretted almost every day so don’t expect them to make the same mistake. Don’t get me wrong Gordon Hayward is a very solid player and will definitely get paid but just not a max contract.
Burks is definitely not a max player and Burke is just starting out so there is no need to address him as of yet.
This leaves Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter as the only two possible players that could be max. As we know as of this morning was that Pekovic on the Wolves got a $60 Million 5 year deal to stay with the Wolves. Big guys get paid more because they are a bigger and rarer commodity. Favors and Kanter both will warrant contracts that around what Pekovic received which although big is 12 million a year and the Jazz can sustain both players getting those. The problem is will other teams come after them with max contracts and if so will the Jazz be willing to match.
2. Don’t jump to early but waiting can be dangerous.
Hayward and Favors are up for contract extensions if the Jazz and the agents agree to do something by October 31st. Let’s take a look at last year and see what teams did. James Harden and Blake Griffin both got max deals worth around $78 million over 5 years. That’s $15.5 million a year for those two players. Was that worth it? Absolutely on James Harden and most likely on Blake Griffin.
The next two examples are my point for Hayward and Favors:
Steph Curry got a 4 year extension at $44 million… let that sink in. The guy that became a sensation last year, the year after which he signed his extension got $34 million less than Harden or Griffin. Why did that happen? Simply put the Warriors knew he was good and took a chance before the NBA saw how good he really was. On the flip side DeMar DeRozan signed a 4 year $40 million dollar extension and let’s be honest Burks is a better two guard than DeRozan so in this case the deal probably blew up in the Raptors face.
Should the Jazz offer Hayward a 4 year $40 million dollar extension? Yes absolutely, do it now before it’s too late. Same for Favors if Jazz can get him for less than max. The problem is the uncertainty and the games being played from both sides. Agents are torn because in one respect they would love for the guy to take the guaranteed money now especially if the player gets hurt but at the same time if the player turns into Steph Curry when given a chance then they leave $30+ million on the table. The same goes for management if they offer the money then they turn out to be a dud or get injured.
3. It’s all about the math.
If the Jazz do this right and these 5 players are who the Jazz think can take them places then doing the math is the final step. Nobody has seen these 5 play together and no one knows how good (or bad) they can be. That being said the salary cap this year is $58.679 Million with a tax threshold at $71.74 Million. Basically let’s look at it this way in best case scenario and worse case scenario for resigning all 5.
Worst Case: Jazz wait to extend Hayward and Favors and next year Kanter and Burks and all turn out to be really good players. At this point Favors and Kanter will be getting 4-5 years at $15 million and Hayward at $12-13 and Burks at $10. This would put the Jazz at $57 million for the core 5 and if Burke turns out to be really good also then when his time is up the Jazz won’t have enough to pay him without going into the luxury tax. The bench will only be getting around $14 million without going into the tax which means the Jazz will be finding a lot of D-league players and second round draft picks.
Best Case: The Jazz extend Hayward and Favors this off-season through 2018-19 season for $10 million a year and $12 million a year respectively. Then next year extend Kanter for the same as Favors and Burks around $6-8 a year. At this point the Jazz would have roughly $44 million in their core 5 allowing for $27 million to be spent on the bench and to extend Burke when the time comes. This would be the ideal situation if the Jazz want to keep everyone in tact for 5-6 years down the road and still be able to get solid bench players. Just to give an example of how much a solid bench costs the San Antonio Spurs who had Manu Ginobli, Danny Green, Gary Neal, Tiago Splitter, DeJuan Blair, Patty Mills, De Colo and Matt Bonner cost roughly $27~ million.
So short answer can the Jazz keep the Core 5 intact? Yes, if they do it smart and the agents play along. If the Jazz start offering max contracts then expect the Jazz not to retain the Core 5 past Burke’s rookie contract. Should be a fun season and an interesting time leading up to October 31st to see what the Jazz do.
Throw in Andrew Wiggins and we will have to redo this whole analysis…