Welcome to the Next Step. Your favorite team was eliminated in the first round and now you’re sitting on your palms. What’s next for them though? Can they improve in the offseason? This series is taking a look at all eight of the teams eliminated in the first round and looking forward past the playoffs to the offseason. Specifically, the following paragraphs will be looking at free agency, draft, and other possibilities for the team to improve.
In this article, we’ll be discussing the Utah Jazz. They were eliminated in a gentlemen’s sweep by the Houston Rockets. This was their second elimination via the Rockets since Gordon Hayward left for Boston. Their eliminations have had two common themes. Donovan Mitchell disappearing for large stretches and Rudy Gobert being schemed out completely. It is very concerning that the reigning Defensive Player of the Year cannot stay on the court during the playoffs. At the same time, they need to find someone that can take some of the scoring load off of Mitchell. There are holes in Utah’s roster and we’re going to see what they can do this offseason.
Utah has two picks in the 2019 draft, one in each round. They have the 23rd pick and the 53rd pick. The Jazz have a solid (I’d give it like a B-) recent draft history. In last year’s draft, they took Grayson Allen with the 21st pick. He played in less than half their games although he lost many games due to injury. Despite not putting up huge numbers in his first year he showed flashes of being a scorer and could work out very well for this Utah team. The year before that they took Josh Hart at the last pick of the first round. They ended up trading him to Los Angeles where he thrived as a shooter and started 23 games for them. The Jazz have proven they can take solid players at the spots they have should they choose to keep the picks.
The Jazz are over the cap for the next season, but that doesn’t mean they are hopeless. The team has over $113 million dollars committed to their players for the next year. Their big contracts include Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors. They will have about $16 million in practical cap space to play around, and $40 million in luxury cap space (should they choose to use it). They will likely look to sign a 3 and D wing but will be unable to afford one. Their free agency moves will probably end with resigning Ricky Rubio. Look for them to pursue Tobias Harris very hard.
The Utah Jazz should look to get into the trade market. They had talks with Memphis to bring over Mike Conley during the trade deadline and should reopen those talks once the playoffs have finished. They could also look at trading Gobert. He makes the most money on the team and has been a net negative for two straight playoffs for the Jazz. It would hurt to move on from the reigning DPOY, but Derrick Favors can slide into the starting center spot just fine. They should look to move him for either some cap space or another scorer to help out Donovan Mitchell (Jrue Holiday anyone??). They could also look to package Dante Exum with the 23rd overall pick to clear up more cap space. The Jazz don’t figure to be a luxury destination in the buyout market.
The Jazz are a rock-solid team. They always have a staunch defense and they are led by a very savvy coach. Their problems are slow starts to the season and players failing to perform in the playoffs. If they can upgrade at point guard or acquire a wing scorer, look for them to make it past the first round of the playoffs and then some.