The Utah Jazz will have some interesting decisions to make this summer. And they involve whether or not to keep the team’s two best players.
Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap are both legitimate starting frontcourt players, each with a unique skill set that would have tremendous value for a multitude of NBA teams. There are questions about fit within a given system, as well as a fit within a team’s current salary cap situation. But both of these guys can play, and would by highly valued on the free agent market.
This, in a nutshell, is the issue facing the Jazz.
Both Jefferson and Millsap will be unrestricted free agents after this season. With the Jazz having young big men on the roster it believes can develop into legitimate assets of their own, it’s unlikely that they would be willing to spend to keep both players in Utah beyond this season.
From Marc Stein of ESPN.com:
It’s a working assumption in front offices all over the league that the Jazz will trade Jefferson or Millsap for a front-line point guard at some point in the next 10 weeks. For two reasons.
1. Jefferson and Millsap will be free agents in July, meaning Utah risks losing both without compensation if they’re still on the roster beyond Feb. 21.
2. Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter are the undeniable power players of the future in Utah, even though Jefferson is one of only five players this season averaging 17 and 10 — along with Dwight Howard, David Lee, Kevin Love and Zach Randolph — and despite Millsap’s status as the most productive forward from the 2006 draft not named LaMarcus Aldridge.
There will be plenty of teams lined up to talk trade for both of these players.
Whether or not Utah finds a deal it likes, however, will depend on its internal definition of “front-line point guard,” of which there simply aren’t very many in the league at all, let alone ones teams are willing to part with.
Jefferson is at the end of a deal paying him $15 million this season, while Millsap will earn roughly half that in the final year of his contract. Dollars won’t be the only factor in deciding which player to keep, though, as the offers that will come in will likely be tied to a specific player, rather than being an either/or proposition.
If the Jazz are dead set on moving one of these two before they both hit free agency, they’ll likely be open to dealing either one equally — the player that’s valued the most by other teams will be the one sent out of town, if in fact that’s what the long-term plan in Utah dictates.