Utah Jazz: Who is on the chopping block?

Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images
Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images /

After making offseason signings, the Utah Jazz must release one player from their active roster soon. Who is the most likely candidate?

In total, the Utah Jazz added 11 players this summer: three through the draft, seven in free agency and one via trade. While all come in hoping to contribute, they do have different roles to fill in replacing the talent lost, most notably with the hole left by Gordon Hayward.

Eric Griffin, who the Jazz inked to a two-way contract following NBA Summer League, won’t count against their roster total, but with 16 players in total under contract for next year, Utah is one over the 15-man limit.

This assumes that second round pick Nigel Williams-Goss, whose contract is non-guaranteed for next season, will either be released or possibly made the Jazz’s second two-way player. He’ll be 23 by the time the season starts, and with a disappointing Summer League session under his belt, his chances of cracking the main roster look bleak.

Eliminating the obvious — long-term contracts and key pieces like Rudy Gobert or valued prospects such as Donovan Mitchell — leaves us with a handful of options for this last slot.

The most financially viable solution for the Jazz would be to void Raul Neto‘s deal, which is non-guaranteed for next season, and therefore save the $1.8 million he is owed.

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However, Neto has worked his way into being a rotation piece and knows Utah’s system better than any of the other point guards on the roster. Releasing Neto would be a tell-tale sign that the front office feels that Dante Exum is finally ready to take over the backup point guard spot full-time behind Ricky Rubio.

Another younger player whose contract is guaranteed but cheaper would be 2016 second round draft choice Joel Bolomboy. With only a partial guarantee due him for next season, his release certainly wouldn’t break the bank either.

Furthermore, the Jazz are fairly well-stocked at the power forward and center positions, rostering at least five players who will either outpace Bolomboy in terms of production or be seen as a more deserving candidate of developmental minutes.

As I mentioned in my Summer League wrap-up, the Jazz were looking for encouraging signs from Bolomboy, who played well in the D-League last year. Given how raw and unpolished he looked, Utah may be forced to give up on him earlier than they would normally like.

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Prior to the signing of Royce O’Neale, many fans and experts thought the Jazz’s period of addition to be complete, with 15 contracts settled on. Not much is known about O’Neale outside of biographical details — he went undrafted out of Baylor before playing in Germany and Spain the last two years, scoring 7.5 points per game in league play.

In Summer League, presumably where he caught the Jazz’s attention, O’Neale scored 23 points over five games with the New Orleans Pelicans. He projects as a guard-forward who may be able to slide down to the 4 thanks to his solid 215-pound frame.

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Given that we haven’t seen much of him at a high level, it’s a bit strange that O’Neale’s deal stretches three years, although only the first year is fully guaranteed.

From what we can tell now, it looks like his tenure with the Jazz will be just one year, although you’d hope that general manager Dennis Lindsey knows something the public doesn’t.

Of course, there’s other ways Utah could free up a spot. Instead of releasing someone, it could always strike a trade deal in which its outgoing players total one less than those it receives.

Kyrie Irving has recently hit the market, and although he hasn’t been linked to the Jazz, his value would be such that Utah would have to send out two or three assets in order to get him.

Derrick Favors has long been considered possible trade bait due to his positional redundancy and expiring contract, so the Jazz could pair him with a lower-value contract to go get talent at a position more in need. Joe Johnson, whose $10 million deal runs out after next year, could also be an attractive option.

The Jazz could go another route in packaging one positive asset to get another franchise to take on one of their bad contracts, perhaps Alec Burks‘. However, cap space is at a premium after two offseasons of wild spending, so this is probably the least likely of any of the above scenarios.

Next: The biggest winners and losers of 2017 NBA free agency

There are tons of options, and only one thing is for sure —  the Jazz must cut their roster by one player. The deadline for this won’t be until the regular season, so there’s plenty of time for the issue to be resolved.