The Utah Jazz barely missed out on a Western Conference playoff berth this past season despite losing several key players to injuries for long stretches. The Jazz have several talented young players who will be entering the final year of their contracts after the upcoming season, making the 2016-17 season crucial to the franchise’s future, according to Fansided.
Utah lost four of their last five contests to finish one game behind the Houston Rockets for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference with a 40-42 record. The good news for Utah is that all of their key players – Gordon Hayward, Dante Exum, Derrick Favors, Rodney Hood, Rudy Gobert, Alec Burks, Trey Burke, Raul Neto, and Trey Lyles – are under contract for next season. Plus, the Jazz will have a lottery pick again this year and three second-round selections.
Who had the top dunk this season? Find out now in the Top 10 Dunks of the Year! ????????https://t.co/2JNQZX91Ok— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) April 28, 2016
That doesn’t mean that the Jazz don’t have plenty of decisions to make this offseason. Utah has to decide whether to bring back PF/C Trevor Booker, C Jeff Withey, G Shelvin Mack, and SF Chris Johnson back. Booker is an unrestricted free agent while Withey, Mack, and Johnson all have non-guaranteed contracts for the upcoming season.
Mike Sorensen of the Desert News is reporting that Booker, Withey, and Johnson likely won’t be with the team.
“All three played important roles at times for the Jazz, but none was a regular, and they aren’t considered building blocks for the future.”
Sorensen added that the team is expected to keep Mack.
Booker, who made $4.77 million last season, said he would love to return to the team.
“I would definitely love to stay. I know it’s a business. I would love to stay, but you never know.”
Booker is a high-energy player who is an excellent finisher at the rim. He also has the ability to stretch the defense but does not possess a highly efficient mid-range game. The 28-year-old is a very good passer, but he is only an average rebounder. He does crash the offensive boards with vigorous intensity.
Booker should have plenty of suitors this offseason, as he is a quality role player who can step in and start occasionally. The six-foot-eight, 228-pounder picked up four double-doubles and averaged 5.9 points and 5.7 rebounds (2.1 offensive caroms) in just under 21 minutes a game last season. He shot 49.0 percent from the floor, but he struggled from long-range, connecting on 12-of-41 attempts (29.3 percent). For his career, Booker averages 6.5 points and 5.2 rebounds.
Withey is a gifted shot-blocker who is not much of factor on the offensive end. The 26-year-old is not overly athletic and is only an average rebounder.
Withey appeared in 51 games last season for the Jazz, including 10 starts. The seven-footer produced career-highs across the board, averaging 4.3 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 1.0 block shots a game. He registered two double-doubles and was highly efficient on the offensive end, shooting 53.7 percent from the field.
Withey picked up his production in the 10 games he started. He averaged 9.2 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks on 51.5 percent shooting from the field and 70.6 from the foul line while filling in the starting lineup for Favors and Gobert. Withey’s non-guaranteed contract is worth $1.015 million.
Johnson, along with Booker (though there is a chance that he will return), is the least likely to return. The six-foot-six wing is a high-energy player and solid defensively. However, he struggles when shooting the ball.
Johnson averaged 2.9 points and 1.9 rebounds while shooting only 37.1 percent from the field and 27.6 percent from beyond the arc in 70 games last year. He shoots 39.2 percent from the field and 30.8 percent from beyond the arc for his career. Johnson’s non-guaranteed contract is worth $1.050 million.
Mack was extremely impressive after coming over from Atlanta in a trade prior to the trade deadline. The six-foot-three combo guard started 27 of the 28 games he appeared in and recorded a career-high three double-doubles. The 26-year old averaged 12.7 points, 5.3 assists, and 3.8 rebounds in 31.7 minutes of action. Mack also shot 44.4 percent from the floor and 35.7 percent from beyond the arc.
It is interesting that the Jazz are believed to interested in bringing back Mack with Neto, Exum, Burke, and Burks already on the roster. Mack’s non-guaranteed contract is valued at $2.433 million.
It is entirely possible that Utah general manager Dennis Lindsey makes a deal or two this offseason. The Jazz reportedly had two trades in place prior to this past trade deadline, but both ultimately fell through.
[Photo by Rick Bowmer/AP Images]