Utah Jazz: Who’s staying and who’s going in 2017 free agency?

Utah Jazz

Oct 5, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Utah Jazz guard George Hill (3) and forward Gordon Hayward (20) talk mid court during the first half of the game against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Utah Jazz defeated the Phoenix Suns 104-99. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

With the Utah Jazz season now over and reflections beginning, the first thing to look at is who is staying and who might be leaving in 2017 NBA free agency.

The Utah Jazz had the lowest salary cap number in the NBA for the 2016-17 season at $80.1 million, but that didn’t stop them from winning 51 regular season games and a first round playoff series.

The Jazz lived up to expectations despite being decimated by injuries and have the opportunity to build a bigger and better roster to create new expectations beyond the first round next season.

The coming months are important for the Jazz as they look to build the sort of roster that compares to the Western Conference’s better teams like the San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets, while also threatening the stronghold the Golden State Warriors have at the top of the league.

So far Utah has nine players under contract for the 2017-18 season; Derrick Favors, Joe Johnson, Alec Burks, Dante Exum, Trey Lyles, Rudy Gobert, Rodney Hood, Raul Neto and Joel Bolomboy.

With the future of some key players up in the air, it’s important for the Jazz to build on the success of this season by putting together a team that can continue to build next season. The question is, which ones will stay and which ones will go in free agency this summer?

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Joe Ingles

2016-17 salary: $2.1 million

Joe Ingles had himself a career year and is in position to accept a career payday, which might be an issue for the Jazz.

With money seemingly in abundance when it comes to recent free agent periods, the Jazz will be wary of an offer over what they consider market value for their restricted free agent.

In a league struggling for wing players at the moment, Ingles’ skill set will be highly sought after.

A deceptively good passer, Ingles offered up 2.7 assists per game in his 24 minutes of court time a night. With his ability find the open man – in particular, Gordon Hayward, who connected on 60 percent of his shots when assisted by Ingles — opposing defenders couldn’t rush him like they would most other perimeter threats.

Ingles shot 44 percent from beyond the arc on his 3.4 attempts per game. With the three-ball such a large factor in the NBA today, Ingles will be a target for many, currently wing-less, teams.

If the Jazz can have Ingles return at a good price, then they will undoubtedly pull the trigger, but he’s not a guy they will break the bank on. His future depends on outside offers and the hope he’s not offered the sort of salary too good to pass up.

Ingles told the Salt Lake Tribune he wants to stay:

“Everyone knows that I want to come back. I couldn’t think of a better place to come back. Hopefully it all works out and it’s a nice, quick process.”

But money talks, especially to a guy signing that will be signing the biggest contract of his NBA career.

Shelvin Mack

2016-17 salary: $2.4 million

Mack was in and out of the rotation this season and is a likely casualty of Dante Exum’s steady improvement and untapped potential.

Featuring in 51 games this season, Mack might have played himself into a decent contract and increased minutes for 2017-18, but it’s unlikely to be in Utah.

Starting in place of the injured George Hill three times in the postseason, Mack averaged 14.3 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game – those are numbers teams light on point guards will take notice of.

Whether the Jazz are able to re-sign George Hill or bring in another starting-caliber point guard or not, Exum will be the primary backup at the worst, leaving little space for Mack.

With Raul Neto also on the books at a bargain price, the Jazz front office won’t be pleading with Mack to return if his salary and minutes expectations are too high.

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Boris Diaw

2016-17 salary: $7 million

Team option for 2017-18: $7 million

With the team option for 2017-18 season, Boris Diaw’s future is in general manager Dennis Lindsey’s hands.

The former shooting guard turned stretch-4 thrived in his role as the passing and screening big off the bench.

Good for 2.3 assists per game, only four bench forwards had a better assist percentage than Diaw, who was able take control of the Jazz’s second unit with his ability to move the ball.

Without the ball in his hands, Diaw was still assisting in the team’s scoring with his 1.1 screen assists per game.

At 35 years old and with $7.5 million on the books, the Jazz front office will weigh up their options while Diaw patiently waits as he told the Salt Lake Tribune:

“I’m just in wait-and-see mode. I’m not sweating over it. I’m not anxious, but … I liked the season I had here. I enjoyed being here, so I would like to be back.”

Diaw would make the perfect backup and locker room guy for the Jazz as they look to improve on their 51-win season, but at $7.5 million, it might not be the perfect contract.

NBA offseason

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George Hill

2016-17 salary: $8 million

The argument can be made that Hill was the difference between this season and last. When available, the Jazz performed better on both sides of the floor but with just 49 regular season games to his name and demands for a near max contract, Hill may have played his last game in Utah.

Back in February, ESPN’s Tim MacMahon reported talks between Hill and the Jazz fell through when negotiating an extension because the point-guard was advised that he could get a better deal in the summer.

His 16.9 points, 4.1 assists and 3.4 rebounds per game will be difficult to replace, but at the back end of his career and in search of a payday, it’s unlikely Hill returns to Utah unless the Jazz are the highest bidder.

Dante Exum has shown glimpses of what so many expected, but he’s not ready to entirely fill the void left by a departing Hill.

The Jazz will be on the hunt of a capable starting point guard with a willingness to play defense and ability to score from long range.

2017 NBA Playoffs

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Gordon Hayward

2016-17 salary: $16.1 million

2017-18 player option: $16.7 million

Hayward is the big fish only a few teams have a chance at catching when the 2017 free agency period comes around.

With a 2017-18 player option, his decision may depend on the naming of the All-NBA teams. Being named to any of the three teams would mean Hayward is eligible for the Designated Player Exception at the end of next season and would see him opt-in for next year.

If he isn’t named, Hayward has other options.

Asked about doing his due diligence and surveying the league, Hayward said in his exit interview he would be leaving it up to his agent:

“That’s why you hire an agent, to deal with this type of stuff. I’m sure he’s going to go through all the options for me, let me know what can happen – I know there’s a lot of stuff that can definitely go down – once I sit down and talk with him we’ll move forward from there.”

All signs point to Hayward staying with the Jazz but his relationship with Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens and their need for an elite wing player have some people in Salt Lake City nervous.

Without Hayward, the Jazz will struggle to be anything more than a sixth seed and all of this season – building the team into a legitimate challenger to the West’s elite – could all be for nothing.

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