NBA Free Agency: Day 1 for the Utah Jazz

The association opened up NBA Free Agency with a bang in day one of negotiations. The voracious clamoring of NBA Twitter for information from insiders signifies the yearly cycle volcanic eruption and proliferation. While there are still many more deals and moves to be made, the league is quickly reshaping.

After one day, I try not to be to bullish or pessimistic on the direction of a team in free agency. However, I have some significant questions that will hopefully have more clarity provided moving forward, especially in regards to the Utah Jazz.

Derrick Favors is back in Utah

The prodigal son returns! As a friend of mine noted to me yesterday; Derrick Favors played for the New Jersey Nets and has yet to turn 30. I like this signing. Favors is still a plus player and good veteran presence.

However, I get caught up with some of the surrounding transactions in Utah. Re-signing Jordan Clarkson made sense, especially given how well he played for the Jazz. 4/52m may seem steep, but he’s a wing player in a fairly poor free agency class.

Tony Bradley is by no means a perfect player, but he showed flashes of being a capable backup last year. The trade with Detroit moved them down to the 27th pick, dropped a second, but brought back Elijah Hughes who has interesting potential as an NBA prospect as well as a future pick. Then, Utah traded Ed Davis and two seconds to the Knicks to get off of Davis’ money and ended up taking Kansas standout, Udoka Azubuike, with 27.

So, the Jazz traded down, dropped picks to shed an expiring contract, and drafted a player much higher than he was expected to go. Azubuike can only play Center, just like franchise cornerstone, Rudy Gobert. Favors played negligible minutes at power forward last season.

On top of that, we’ve seen what a Gobert and Favors pairing in the frontcourt looks like. They’re a very solid duo defensively, however their fit offensively is shoddy.

YearOffensive RatingDefensive RatingNet Rating
2018-19104.4 (12th %ile)101 (98th %ile)+3.4
2017-18106.3 (37th %ile)98 (98th %ile)+8.3
2016-17107.3 (45th %ile)97 (99th %ile)+10.3
All Stats from Cleaning the Glass

Derrick Favors has notably slowed down over the past few seasons, largely due to injury and aging. While I don’t expect Favors to look like he did in the bubble, I don’t anticipate him regaining the same mobility he had earlier in his career with the Jazz.

So this puts Utah in a really funky spot for me. I’d be pretty shocked if Favors started; Bojan Bogdanovic was fantastic as a stretch-four last year. Royce O’Neale proved his chops as a legit do a little bit of everything and defend starter, resulting in a crisp four year deal from Dennis Lindsey and co. So, getting Favors to backup Gobert at the 5 makes sense, and they’ll probably share time on the court as well. However, how much time can they actually spend together while still maintaining a net positive on court?

Again, the signing on it’s own and the money make sense. But, add Azubuike on top of that, and I’m left scratching my head. There’s no real avenue for Udoka to play meaningful minutes each night or really crack the rotation. Perhaps Quin Snyder will play a Dok/Gobert twin towers look for two minutes? I will be watching Utah nightly for the hope of witnessing this moment live.

The Jazz are just under the luxury tax threshold with minimal wiggle room barring trade. Utah has done some nice things in free agency thus far, but I now have more questions about this roster than I did when they were bounced from the playoffs.

Utah’s bench was frankly one of the worst in the NBA last year. Clarkson and Favors certainly quell some of the bench deficiencies; The Jazz were -6.2 pp/100 worse when Rudy Gobert sat, were worse offensively when Donovan Mitchell was off court, and were wayward without Bojan Bogdanovic on both ends (-3.7 pp/100 worse).

Unless Utah inks a veteran bench player on a minimum deal that is a sizable contributor, they’re banking on significant internal development. For a team aspiring to take the next step towards contention, this is a bit of a gamble. Combined, the young group of Juwan Morgan, Rayjon Tucker, Miye Oni, and Jarrell Brantley played 60 games and 500 minutes. There’s a lot to like about these 4 as well as the incoming and aforementioned Hughes, but are they going to be able to play leverage minutes?

The Jazz are trying to reach the second round and push further after back to back first round outs. How they continue to build towards that in free agency and during the season is worth taking note of.

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