Utah Jazz

Unexpected Opportunity for O'Neal

  • Injuries have presented Jazz small forward Royce O’Neale with an unexpected chance for playing time, notes Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune. Undrafted out of Baylor in 2015, O’Neale spent one season in Germany and another in Spain before getting a shot with Utah’s summer league team. He played a career-high 21 minutes in Friday’s loss to the Nets. “It felt good to play real minutes,” he said. “You never know when your name is going to be called, so I have to take advantage of the playing time when I get the chance. It’s just about going out and executing the work I put into practice every day.”

Pending Free Agent Derrick Favors Gets Chance To Shine

With his contract set to expire in the offseason, pending unrestricted free agent Derrick Favors has been the subject of trade speculation. That’s not distracting the Jazz forward from performing for Utah this season, Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune writes.

Favors says that he would like to remain with the Jazz long-term but is aware of the fact that he could be a trade chip as the franchise retools following Gordon Hayward‘s departure last summer.

With Hayward out of the picture and Rudy Gobert now sidelined into next month, Favors will get an opportunity to showcase himself in the pick-and-roll game with Jazz point guard Ricky Rubio.

I know I’m going to have to work hard, and I know I’m going to be counted on to produce. I’m ready for it. It’s a position I’ve been in before,” the eight-year Jazz veteran said.

Jazz Notes: Hayward, Gobert, Favors, Johnson

The Jazz recognize that there’s no easy way to make up for the loss of Gordon Hayward in free agency, writes Chris Mannix of The Vertical. After winning 51 games last season, Utah bet heavily on its chances to re-sign Hayward and didn’t have a way to replace him when he left for Boston. Hayward was the leading scorer for the Jazz last season at 21.9 points per game and averaged 15.6 over seven years in Utah.

“There is always an optimism at the beginning of the season,” said coach Quin Snyder. “And I’m not saying there isn’t that now, but it’s tempered a little bit with the personnel changes. … There isn’t a silver bullet. What there is, though, is a challenge. That’s something you can really embrace and enjoy.”

There’s more tonight from Utah:

  • The rebuilding effort has been slowed by a tibia contusion that has sidelined center Rudy Gobert. The league’s leading shot blocker, who will miss at least four more weeks before being re-evaluated, told Eric Woodyard of The Deseret News he hasn’t lost faith in his team’s ability to remain a contender. “Like I said, starting the season I’m confident that the team is going to win games even when I’m not here and I’ll be back stronger,” Gobert said. “It’s like an All-Star break before the All-Star break. So everything is good, I’m confident and nothing’s changed. No team goals. No individual goals. Everything’s good.
  • The loss of Gobert will bring changes as the Jazz try to get by with a smaller lineup, relays the Associated Press. Derrick Favors will move from power forward to center, with Thabo Sefolosha, Jonas JerebkoEkpe Udoh and Joe Ingles all seeing time at the four spot. Joe Johnson will be added to that mix once he returns from a wrist injury. “Every substitution pattern changes the makeup of the team,” Snyder said. “Some more dramatically than others. Obviously, Derrick playing with Thabo or Joe Ingles at the four, there’s a different style of attack. It’s something that Derrick’s capable of doing and doing well.”
  • Johnson will be out at least two more weeks with tendon instability in his right wrist, Woodyard writes in a separate story. He talked with a hand specialist and is showing some improvement, but there’s no timetable for his return. Johnson played just seven games before the injury.

2018 Salary Cap Outlook: Northwest Division

NBA rosters will undergo some changes over the course of the 2017/18 season, particularly around the trade deadline, and those changes may have an impact on teams’ cap sheets for future seasons. Based on the NBA’s current rosters, however, we can identify which teams are most and least likely to have cap room in the summer of 2018, which will dictate the type of moves those clubs can make in the offseason.

We’re taking a closer look at each of the NBA’s 30 teams by division this week. Today, we’re tackling the Northwest division. With the help of salary information compiled by Basketball Insiders, here’s how the summer of 2018 is shaping up for the five Northwest teams:

Portland Trail BlazersJusuf Nurkic vertical
Guaranteed 2018/19 team salary: $110,456,026
Projection: Over the cap

The Trail Blazers reduced their future commitments by trading Allen Crabbe to Brooklyn earlier this year, and Ed Davis will come off the books next summer, giving Portland a chance to avoid the luxury tax in 2018/19. However, their $110MM+ in guaranteed salaries for next season doesn’t include a contract for Jusuf Nurkic, who will be a restricted free agent. If they want to re-sign Nurkic and don’t dump another salary, the Blazers figure to return to tax territory.

Minnesota Timberwolves
Guaranteed 2018/19 team salary: $110,233,979
Projection: Over the cap

The Timberwolves’ salary commitments look a lot different now than they did a year ago. Gorgui Dieng‘s lucrative new extension went into effect this summer, and Andrew Wiggins‘ max deal will begin in 2018. Throw in substantial salaries for offseason acquisitions Jimmy Butler, Jeff Teague, and Taj Gibson, and Minnesota projects to be well over the cap for 2018/19. With a potential extension for Karl-Anthony Towns looming for 2019/20, the Wolves won’t have cap space for the foreseeable future if they intend to keep their current core group together.

Denver Nuggets
Guaranteed 2018/19 team salary: $89,903,848
Projection: Over the cap

The Nuggets’ guaranteed salaries for 2018/19 currently sit around $90MM, but even based on a $101MM cap projection, we shouldn’t expect the team to have any room. There are too many factors working against it.

For one, Denver will face a tough decision on Nikola Jokic — exercising his ultra-affordable $1.6MM team option would put him on track to become an unrestricted free agency in 2019, so the club may opt to decline that option and make him a restricted free agent. In that scenario, a new contract for Jokic would push the Nuggets over the cap.

Even if they simply pick up Jokic’s cheap option, the Nuggets will also have to consider player options for Kenneth Faried ($12.8MM) and Darrell Arthur ($7.5MM). Arthur is a good bet to exercise his option, and even though Faried hasn’t always loved his role in Denver, it’s possible he’ll pick up his too, since it features a pretty player-friendly salary.

Oklahoma City Thunder
Guaranteed 2018/19 team salary: $88,907,222
Projection: Over the cap

Carmelo Anthony‘s early termination option for 2018/19, worth nearly $28MM, is a major X factor for the Thunder, whose guaranteed team salary would increase from approximately $89MM to nearly $117MM if Anthony opts in. Taking into account Carmelo’s age, his production trends, and the current state of the free agent market, it makes sense for him to play out the final year of his current deal, so we’re penciling in Oklahoma City as a probable over-the-cap team.

Even if Anthony opts out and Paul George doesn’t re-sign, OKC could only get up to about $8.8MM in cap room. That’s barely more than the projected value of the mid-level exception, so even in that scenario, the Thunder may simply remain over the cap to avoid renouncing all their exceptions.

Utah Jazz
Guaranteed 2018/19 team salary: $67,839,543
Projection: Up to approximately $28MM in cap room

Only six Jazz players have fully guaranteed salaries for 2018/19, while seven others have non-guaranteed or partially guaranteed salaries, or are restricted free agents. That gives Utah some flexibility if the team wants to maximize its cap room.

However, retaining Thabo Sefolosha for his reasonable non-guaranteed salary of $5.25MM would cut into the Jazz’s space, as would re-signing Rodney Hood and/or Dante Exum. Realistically, unless Utah decides to only hang onto those six fully guaranteed players and make major changes around them, we shouldn’t expect the club to enter July 2018 armed with a ton of cap room.

Previously:

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Gobert: Jazz Will Be Fine And I Will Return Strong

Rudy Gobert‘s bone bruise in his right knee will sideline him until December at the earliest, a major blow to the Jazz‘s frontcourt. However, the Utah center also feels the team will be fine in his absence and that he will return to form once he recovers from injury.

“I’m confident that the team is going to win games even when I’m not here and I’ll be back stronger,” Gobert said (via Eric Woodyard of The Deseret News). “It’s like an All-Star break before the All-Star break. So everything is good, I’m confident and nothing’s changed. No team goals. No individual goals. Everything’s good.”

Gobert, 25, was in the midst of another productive season. Through 12 contests, Gobert posted 13.9 PPG, 10.5 RPG and a league-best 2.5 blocks. That Jazz, currently in 10th place in the Western Conference with a 6-8 record, will miss Gobert’s defense but will have to tread water until he returns to not fall out of the playoff race.

  • Jonas Jerebko made a surprise start for the Jazz and posted 13 points. The former Celtics forward has only played sparingly this season but he addressed his mentality while occupying an uncertain role for the Jazz, Mike Sorensen of The Deseret News writes. “During my career, I’ve started, been on the bench, played two minutes, played 20 minutes so you’ve just got to be ready when your number’s called,” Jerebko said. “Whether I started or not, it just felt good to get 20-plus minutes tonight.”

Jazz Notes: Favors, Gobert, Mitchell, Hood

Derrick Favors feels comfortable moving into the starting center spot for the Jazz with Rudy Gobert sidelined, Mike Sorensen of the Deseret News reports. Favors did the same thing for 18 games two seasons ago when Gobert was injured and once again during last season’s playoffs, Sorensen notes. Favors piled up 24 points and 12 rebounds against the Nets Saturday. Gobert is expected to miss at least a month of action due to a tibia contusion. “It’s the same as last year, same as the year before that when Rudy went down and I had to move to the five spot,” Favors told Sorensen. “Even before that, I was starting at the five, so I’m ready for it.” Favors, who is in his walk year, can boost his stock in free agency if he plays well in Gobert’s absence.

In other developments involving the Jazz:

  • The Jazz contacted the league office regarding the play in which Gobert was injured but no action was taken, Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune tweets. Heat guard Dion Waiters dove to the floor while chasing a loose ball and rolled toward Gobert body, causing the injury. The league told the Jazz that a foul against Waiters should’ve been called but it was deemed not intentional, Jones adds.
  • Donovan Mitchell‘s competitive drive has made him one of this year’s draft-day steals, Brian Lewis of the New York Post opines. The combo guard, taken with the No. 13 overall pick, scored a game-high 26 points against the Nets. “His competitive spirit is something you can’t teach,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder told Lewis and other media members. “There’s certain things you can’t teach. You can try to train them and improve them, but that’s been there from the first day.”
  • Shooting guard Rodney Hood has lost his starting job to Mitchell but he’s handling it well, as Eric Woodyard of the Deseret News relays. Hood still leads the team in scoring and accepts his new role as the top option on the second unit. “Just being a professional and not taking a step back and don’t think nothing less of myself,” Hood told Woodyard. “I know I can play with the best of them, regardless of when I’m getting in I’ve got to put in work so that’s how I approach it.”

Rudy Gobert Expected To Miss 4-6 Weeks

3:16pm: The Jazz have issued an official update of their own, confirming that an MRI on Gobert’s right knee revealed a “tibia contusion.” The veteran center will be reevaluated in four weeks, according to the team.

3:11pm: Jazz center Rudy Gobert is expected to be sidelined for about four to six weeks with a bone bruise in his right knee, according to Shams Charania of The Vertical. TNT’s David Aldridge (Twitter link) reported the same timeline, citing a source.

Gobert suffered the injury on Friday against Miami and missed Saturday’s game against Brooklyn. The injury occurred on a play in which the big man collided with Heat guard Dion Waiters, and Gobert suggested after the game that he felt like it was a “dirty play” on Waiters’ part, as Eric Woodyard of The Deseret News details.

“He just dove right into my knee,” Gobert said.

Gobert, 25, had been his usual effective self early in the 2017/18 season, averaging 13.9 PPG, 10.5 RPG, and a league-high 2.5 BPG for the Jazz. In his absence, Derrick Favors, who recorded 24 points and 12 rebounds on Saturday, may have an opportunity for a larger role. Ekpe Udoh and Jonas Jerebko could also see more minutes, and rookie center Tony Bradley might even have a chance to see some playing time.

Rubio, Gobert Still Adjusting To One Another

  • New Jazz point guard Ricky Rubio is still working to develop chemistry with incumbent star Rudy Gobert, as Eric Woodyard of The Deseret News details. “I’ve got to learn his game, he’s got to learn mine,” Rubio said. “It’s just a process. We’re trying but we don’t want to overdo it. It’s going to come with time.” Added Gobert: “I think it might be overthinking. We’ve just got to play basketball.”

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 11/9/17

Here are the G League transactions for Thursday:

Jazz Assign Bradley, O'Neale To G League

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