Utah Jazz Future Outlook
After discussing what the lottery teams are going to be facing going into the future, it's now time to discuss the postseason teams prematurely. However, I feel that doing this now also explains a bit about what is possibly at stake for teams. Will the Bucks' results actually affect Giannis' decision? If Philly fails, do they trade Embiid or Simmons? Does the small-ball experiment in Houston actually work? All of these are examples for the remaining NBA teams (and the Warriors, who likely will return next season to a much better standard of basketball) and why their future will be impacted by the playoffs.
I feel like the Jazz have been a good team for most of my 27 years on this Earth, and yet just don't seem like they can get it done in the postseason. Yeah, they had two years with Karl Malone and John Stockton in the late 90's that couldn't get passed Michael Jordan in the Finals, but other than that it's just been average playoff teams. Deron Williams, Gordon Hayward, Andrei Kirilenko, Carlos Boozer, Derrick Favors and others are just many names of Jazz players that can take them to the playoffs. They are quickly approaching the window where it is time to find out if Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert are capable of leading the Jazz back to the Finals and possibly to a championship.
WHO'S GONE: G Jordan Clarkson, PG Emmanuel Mudiay, SF Rayjon Tucker, F Juwan Morgan
The Jazz actually are doing pretty good with the salary cap, and won't have to worry about overlapping mega contracts when Donovan Mitchell eventually gets to free agency next season. As for this season, Clarkson is the big name, and he likely isn't going to command too much more than his $13 or so million so he would be affordable for the Jazz to keep should they choose. Mudiay had a nice season as a backup point guard, and will likely hope to find more than minimum salary so he will be moving elsewhere. Tucker and Morgan are fringe roster players at this point.
C-Rudy Gobert, Tony Bradley, Ed Davis
PF-Royce O'Neale, Joe Ingles
SF-Bojan Bogdanovic, Georges Niang
SG-Donovan Mitchell, Miye Oni
PG-Mike Conley, Nigel Williams-Goss
The big need for the Jazz will be at reserve guards, as the two listed at this point have combined for 36 minutes this season and four points. Yeah, they are still developing, but this emphasizes the need to keep Clarkson or find someone similar. They are set up front with Gobert, Davis and the emergence of Bradley. Bogdanovic has become the third best player on this team, and has really made up for the disappointment Conley's acquisition has caused.
Conley, Gobert and Mitchell, as well as Niang, Davis and Bradley are all free agents after next season. Conley won't make $30 million again, while Mitchell won't make $3 million again, so they will save some money that way. Bradley and Niang are nice rotation players who they will want to stick around too, and Gobert is one of the best defensive big men in basketball. But that's not the problem in Utah, the problem will be keeping Mitchell happy.
Mike Conley may be a lot better next season with another year in the system, but he's going to be a 15-year veteran and 33 so his decline is happening regardless. Moving on from him, and maybe Gobert too will be the best way to get Mitchell the help he needs to take this team further. Letting Gobert and Conley walk will open up plenty of cap space for the Jazz to add around Mitchell and Bogdanovic, even after a max deal, and likely after bringing back Tony Bradley on a relatively cheaper deal.
I'd say the best route for the Jazz would be to find a way to move on from Conley now and get something in return, and hope that the next free agent wave can help this team improve when Mitchell enters his prime. They have the advantage on keeping him this time, but the window won't be open forever, as they have found out before with Deron Williams and Gordon Hayward.