Utah’s Move

Now that restricted free agent Paul Millsap has signed an offer sheet with the Portland Trailblazers, the next seven days will be critical for Jazz GM Kevin O’Conner. While O’Conner says that re-signing Millsap is his top priority, he’ll have to find a way to move Carlos Boozer in order to do it.

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With Portland electing to sign Millsap to a four-year contract worth $32 million, it is essentially aborting a possible three-way trade with the Jazz and Chicago Bulls that would’ve landed them Kirk HInrich and sent Boozer to Chicago. The deal would have given the Bulls the low-post scorer they’ve lacked in recent years, the Blazers an ace defender and steady point guard, and the Jazz a sufficient amount of cap space to re-sign Millsap.

By signing Millsap, the Blazers will use the cap flexibility they would have had to absorb Hinrich’s contract. The Jazz would then have to find another third party trade partner with cap flexibility to proceed with the trade that would send Boozer to Chicago for cap purposes.

According to ESPN.com, one source with knowledge of Portland’s thinking said Friday that signing Millsap is a move to “spark Utah into action.” The Blazers’ apparent belief is that Utah’s urgency to trade Boozer will increase because of the offer sheet.

That put’s O’Conner in an interesting predicament. If he’s unable to move Boozer within the next seven days, the Jazz could lose Millsap for nothing. Next season Boozer becomes an unrestricted free agent and the Jazz have already said that he isn’t in its long-term plans. It would obviously set the Jazz back if it let both players walk for absolutely nothing.

There’s still reason for Jazz fans to remain optimistic, though. There’s a strong possibility that O’Conner would match Millsap’s offer if he were 301511703confident he could move Boozer sometime this summer. In fact, my matching Millsap’s offer, he may be able to force the Blazers into falling back on its plan to acquire Hinrich. That would allow them to keep Millsap and move Boozer at the same time. Portland appears desperate to use its remaining cap space after losing out on Hedo Turkoglu last week and could be running out of options once Millsap’s off the table.

If Portland doesn’t want to play ball with the three-way trade, the tricky part could be finding a deal that will bring back less than the $12.7 million salary Boozer will be making next season. The only way to do that would be through a three-way deal or a straight up deal involving non-guaranteed contracts. Both options become much trickier once the season starts, so is moving Boozer is truly what the Jazz intend to do, now is the time.

Technically, the Jazz can keep both Millsap and Boozer on its payroll until February’s trade deadline without incurring the league’s luxury tax. But heading into the season with Boozer still on its roster would be a dangerous move for the Jazz. Aside from the financial ramifications that would take place if the Jazz were unable to move him, Boozer knows he doesn’t have a long-term future in Utah and would prefer to move on.

Chicago, New York, Miami and Detroit are believed to be interested in acquiring Boozer. But now that Portland has signed Millsap, Oklahoma City is the only other team in the league with efficient salary cap space to act as a third-party trade partner.

Oklahoma City could do a straight up deal with the Jazz, absorbing Boozer’s contract and still having loads of cap flexibility next summer when Boozer becomes an unrestricted free agent. They the Thunder would be unlikely to give up an asset in exchange. But Oklahoma City would also makes sense as a viable third-party trade partner with Chicago and Utah, and still continue to collect assets.

Either way, there are a number of scenarios still out there to be explored and Kevin O’Conner and his staff will have their hands full exploring every one of them.

*Email Andrew at ajohn135@gmail.com

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16 Responses to “Utah’s Move”

  1. Jeremiah J. Says:

    If OKC agrees to take part in helping Utah, they’ll probably drive an even harder bargain than Portland did, because there’s no urgency in Oklahoma to make some kind of upgrade. That means the Thunder will do Utah the favor of taking some decent player off the hands of the team Utah deals with, while giving up nothing themselves. Utah will get back a nominal something to avoid looking like they’re unloading Boozer for nothing.

    According the SL Tribune, the offer sheet requires the team to pay Millsap over ten million dollars a week from now! Part of that is signing bonus, part of that is his first year salary up-front. I bet the Jazz are just as worried about whether they have that kind of cash as they are worried about salary cap. On the bright side, after that huge hit they only owe Millsap 20 million or so for the rest of the deal.

    http://www.sltrib.com/jazz/ci_12819020

    “What I can’t imagine,” O’Connor said, “is if they’re going to pay what’s reported out there to the backup, what are they going to pay their starter? That’s probably a maximum contract.”

    I hope that message gets to LaMarcus Aldridge, so the the Blazers pay a price for messing with the Jazz like this.

  2. Very good point. I’m sure O’Conner intended that message to get to Aldridge and it’s a valid point. The Blazers are attempting to lock up Roy and Aldridge for the long-term, and giving Millsap this kind of deal only helps drive up the price when they go to deal with those guys.

    For the first time, I’m starting to believe that the Jazz will just let Millsap walk. I’m sure O’Conner is exploring every offer for Boozer, but even if they’re able to move him, Millsap’s deal is a tough one to match because of the amount of money he’ll receive up front. We’ll see what happens.

  3. I like Milsap a lot – but (to O’Connor’s point) if they let him walk, Jazz fans will at least have the consolation that his contract will really mess with the Blazers(a division rival).

    If O’Connor calls their bluff – I can see the Blazers’ front office crapping their pants.

  4. Jeremiah J. Says:

    You’re right, CJ, the deal doesn’t make great sense for Portland. But Paul Allen is a billionaire! The cost means nothing. As for the luxury tax, they’ll still have money to give max deals to Aldridge and Roy. And Millsap could end up getting traded, and Portland could get a player they need. The particulars of Millsap’s contract makes it *very* tradeable–you’re paying him a lot upfront, and then who ever has his contract is getting a bargain in the last three years of the deal. There is no way that this Millsap deal becomes a big dead weight, whether the Jazz have it or not.

    Of course, if the Jazz don’t keep Millsap, Jazz fans are going to feel like the team is back in rebuilding mode. You have a countdown to Boozer’s exit, and after that a huge hole at PF. They’d really have to hope that Koof-Fes-Sut-Tomic pans out.

  5. Make’s sense to me. I wouldn’t worry so much about Milsap’s deal by itself though- but the Roy and Aldridge deals could sky rocket. Of course, they’re worthy of it as much as anyone. Its not the same as Isiah overpaying Eddie Curry.

    And you’re also right about the fans being sour if the Jazz let Milsap go. There’s nothing like a lame duck PF to get the fans excited for the new season!

  6. Actually, if the Jazz are going to let Millsap walk, I’d still prefer them to move Boozer for a few picks/young assets and expiring contracts. That way they can have a good cap situation and maybe even have two lottery picks next summer. Hey, that’s not all that bad if you really think about it.

    That being said, I’d like for them to move Boozer and match Millsap’s deal, if they can find a way to do both.

  7. Good thing for the Jazz that they have until February to move Boozer without incurring the luxury-tax if they decide to match Millsap’s deal. Jazz fans seem to think it’s a forgone conclusion that they’ll match, but they only have two days left on the clock.

  8. I think the Jazz front office is still exploring their options before making a commitment to Millsap. The Jazz would be much better off bringing Millsap back, obviously, but desperately need to find a way to move Boozer. Like I’ve said before, if they match Millsap, they could force the Blazers into negotiations with the Bulls that would move Boozer to Chicago and Hinrich to Portland. Unfortunately, the Blazers would have the upper hand there, too, where they’d be in a position to walk away if the deal isn’t to their liking. Utah would almost be forced to take what they can get for Boozer, even if it’s just cap relief.

  9. Looks like the Jazz have matched Millsap’s off and will now explore trade opportunities to move Boozer until training camp starts in October.

    http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=4337420

    This really is exactly what Jazz fans wanted to see. Millsap is staying and Boozer is on his way out. Yes!

  10. Good story Christian sent to me about how the Jazz need to use Boozer’s contract as a bargaining chip and not a give away this summer.

    http://www.sltrib.com/jazz/ci_12861146

    Though I think its rather naive to think that the Jazz can get much more than cap relief with Boozer’s expiring contract — especially considering the financial state of the teams around the league — I do agree that they should take their time this summer instead of taking the first offer on the table.

  11. Jeremiah J. Says:

    Kragthorpe’s argument makes some good points but I agree that it borders on the wishful thinking that you see on fan sites sometimes. The Jazz should “view” Boozer an “asset”–therefore he is or will be? Everyone in the league knows that Utah needs to dump salary–therefore isn’t it those teams who have the luxury of waiting for a better deal, not the Jazz? As always, good trades happen in response to opportunities with willing partners–not just because you have some valuable asset. Waiting is not a bad idea–nothing has to be done right now. But certain deals have a window of opportunity. Maybe the Heat find another way to compliment Wade, and then they can’t make a deal anymore. Maybe the Thunder and Portland use their cap space. Maybe the Knicks and Pistons like their roster as it is for this year. There are constraints having to do with specific teams, and opportunities can dry up. Since teams are adding salary, not subtracting it, from now until February, and cash-strapped teams aren’t exactly looking to add a huge contract unless it’s for some specific reason–in any trade, some team is going to have to add salary if the Jazz are going to subtract it. I hope Kragthorpe isn’t thinking that KOC can get an awesome deal for Boozer simply by pounding his fist on the table and saying “That’s not good enough!”

  12. What it is, in my opinion, is a hometown journalist acting as the voice of the fan — which is almost always a voice of disillusion. It is wishful thinking to believe that simply waiting will produce the right deal. In most cases, a GM has to be actively pursuing deals rather than “waiting it out” to have the right deal fall into his lap. O’Conner shouldn’t settle for simply slashing payroll, but he may have to if he can’t find a better deal. That wouldn’t mean, as Kragthorpe suggests, that he’s essentially settling for less in an effort to move Boozer now. What it means is that there aren’t any other deals on the table that satisfy Utah’s main objective — to get under the luxury tax threshold. It’s naive for him, or anybody else, to think that the Jazz can get anything more, considering the cap situation of the rest of the teams in the league. And while it may be a tough pill to swallow, I can live with them letting Boozer walk for cap reasons because not having to take on additional salary is sometimes essential to building a quality young teams — as evidenced by Portland and Oklahoma City.

  13. It’s silly to believe the Blazers didn’t have sincere desire for Millsap.One doesn’t pony up 30 plus million contracts to a player they don’t actually want.The contract is reasonable and he would have fit in superbly with the Blazers.On the other hand I’m sure they are aware of the inherent probabilities that will insue that favor them.So this deal was a no brainer and similar deals will be made by any team as long as they possess the upsight to produce such.,…Go Blazers

  14. It’s not that I don’t think they wanted him … anybody would want a double-double machine who hustles on both ends of the floor and can even score a little, right? So that wasn’t what I was saying. What I was saying was that the Blazers main objective was to force the Jazz to make a move that they were uncomfortable with. They probably had a good idea that the Jazz would match (because Kevin O’Conner said he would if Millsap signed an offer sheet elsewhere) and wanted to force their hand, so to speak — and it worked! The Blazers have a billionaire owner and some cap flexibility, so why not mess around with a division rival in the process? Now the Jazz have had to pay Millsap over $10 million up front and will have to unload Boozer basically for nothing … and they’ll likely need to “give away” a decent player to Portland in order to acquire their services as a third-party trade partner in order to move Boozer and take back less salary.

    That is essentially what Marc Stein is reporting:
    http://espn.go.com/nba/

    Tell me, though, how would Millsap be a superb fit in Portland? They need a point guard much more than they need a backup power forward, that’s for sure. Millsap would have upgraded their frontcourt, but would have likely been used in an eventual trade to acquire a point guard down the line, which is why his contract is so trade-friendly.

  15. Another great thing about Utah matching Millsap’s offer is that Portland could now turn its attention towards David Lee. That would obviously help the Jazz, who own the Knicks unprotected first round draft pick in 2010. It’s a long shot, but it certainly could happen now that Portland is looking to find another free agent to use its cap space on.

  16. Jeremiah J. Says:

    Has Portland shown any interest in Lee? I know they want to pick up a free agent this summer, but Lee is a PF, and he wants more than Millsap got.

    On the bright side for the Jazz, Lee recently said that the Knicks aren’t even offering a multi-year deal. They want him to stay on a for a year to preserve their flexibility in 2010. So he’s saying that sign-and-trade scenarios are pretty likely.

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