As a small market team with a young core in place, the Utah Jazz aren’t a club in contention for one of the superstar free agents this summer. Players like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are looking at teams in more visible markets that have a legitimate shot at a NBA championship. However, the plans and potential landing spots for another superstar on the free agent market, Carmelo Anthony, could have huge bearing on how the Jazz populate their roster this offseason.
Two potential suitors for Anthony’s services, the Houston Rockets and the Chicago Bulls, are cash-strapped teams that would need to shed salary in order to sign Carmelo. Before last season, the Jazz helped the Golden State Warriors create room in their payroll for Andre Iguodala by absorbing the contracts of Richard Jefferson, Brandon Rush and Andris Biedrins in a trade. For doing the Warriors this service, Utah also obtained two future first-round picks. With their abundance of cap space, the Jazz is on the short list of teams that could provide this kind of relief for Houston or Chicago.
In the Bulls’ case, it has long been rumored that Carlos Boozer could be amnestied to create room for a player like Anthony. If the Jazz could absorb Boozer’s contract, they would save Chicago the trouble and potentially acquire other assets for the favor. Jazz fans would probably feel less than favorable toward any move that brought “the Booze” back to Salt Lake City, but keep in mind that he did you a favor once by agreeing to a sign-and-trade that netted the team a trade exception and, in turn, Al Jefferson. It only got you three playoff games, but there has to be some karma there, right? And despite the ill will, there’s a method to the madness here.
Though his shot doesn’t extend to the three-point line, his ability to knock down jumpers from 18 to 20-feet from the basket could create some space for Derrick Favors and/or Enes Kanter down low. He’s also a proven pick-and-roll player, which could pay dividends in Quin Snyder’s offense. His defense won’t win any awards, but his rebounding is something much-needed in Utah. The best and perhaps most pertinent aspect of a Boozer acquisition is that his contract would come off the books just when the Jazz need cap space for players like Kanter, Alec Burks and Trey Burke.
As relates to the Rockets, the team is already moving Omer Asik, but the albatross of Jeremy Lin‘s contract remains. Although “Linsanity” seems a distant memory, the Jazz do need a veteran guard to play behind No. 5 overall pick Dante Exum, Burke and Burks. Lin can play passing lanes, distribute the ball and, as evidenced by his early success, occasionally light up the scoreboard as a streaky shooter.
The contracts of both Boozer and Lin are sizeable, but with the league’s salary cap expected to soar in coming seasons, the Jazz should be able to bear them while retaining Gordon Hayward and their other young pieces. So while Carmelo may not be finding his way to Salt Lake, his decision could greatly shape the manner in which Utah conducts its business this summer.