There’s been a lot of talk about Paul Millsap and his contract situation. The young under-All-Star has decided to reject extension offers and instead opt for unrestricted free agency next summer according to reports, and so the Jazz will have to determine just how much they want to keep him. But kind of snuck under that headline (and beneath the lack of coverage the Jazz get) is that their other big-name big man Al Jefferson is also up for a new contract.
So the Jazz could go from this glut of big men to a downright dearth.
They can obviously elect to re-sign both players. But what if it were to come down to a choice between the two? They’d want to make it before the trade deadline so they don’t risk losing both for nothing. But which one? Derrick Favors complicates the situation, with the young athletic freak playing very well last year in a reserve role and openly interested in getting a starting position. Jazz blog SLC Dunk examined the position, and began to rethink the idea of focusing on keeping Millsap and letting Jefferson walk:
1) Keeping Jefferson allows him to start with Derrick Favors at power forward, and playing predominantly at that position seems to be a priority for our young potential-franchise player. While I think a Favors/Millsap duo would work as well—or better—it would not allow Favors to continue to mature at the position where he is most comfortable. (I’m assuming the team chooses not to play Millsap at SF a great deal, which I believe would be foolish and harmful to the team in both the short and long term.)
2) Enes Kanter is probably a few years away from starting, and having Jefferson as our starting center in that time would be about as well as we could do at the position. Even with his weaknesses, Jefferson is a probably a top five center in the league.
3) Millsap’s current trade value strikes me as far greater than Jefferson’s, partially due to his contract, partially because he isn’t the same defensive liability Jefferson is. Given how their respective careers have progressed, I think the sentiment across the league would hold that Millsap is also the more amenable of the two to the possibility of coming off the bench—if he feels his role and money are sufficient. As the more tradable, more flexible, and generally more desired of the two in a trade, moving Millsap gives the Jazz the greatest possibility of getting a worthwhile asset in return.
via An Open Question: Re-Sign Al Jefferson or Not?|SLC Dunk
Millsap on the market could draw huge offers. That’s the kind of difference-maker move that near-contenders shop for at the deadline. The Jazz could wind up with a great package of young players and picks if they trade either one, but Millsap in particular will draw the kind of combination that could allow for major changes. But the Jazz are still in the middle of a rebuild after Deron Williams, despite returning to the playoffs last season. Do they want to surrender on that plan so soon?
But Millsap-Jefferson-Favors just presents too much of a cluster of big men long-term. Ty Corbin has done a terrific job of making it work and turning it into a plus. But they need balance, and have the luxury of depth to use it to improve other positions. They have talent the can move to make the team better. That might be the best approach. Jefferson has a lot of draw backs defensively and in terms of ball movement. But he’s also one of maybe five post players you can give the ball to inside a minute and watch him deliver. It’s one of his biggest strengths and something few notice. He’s a killer crunch-time scorer in the post. That’s a huge weapon to be able to draw out because of his free throw shooting. (78% last season, nothing groundbreaking but good enough to keep you from hack-a-Jeff’ing him).
The Jazz have so many directions they can go this season, so many things in motion. This is a big one for the franchise, not just on the floor but up in the offices. It’s complicated, but it could also bring huge rewards if management can pull it off.