Before Friday, the Utah Jazz were on track to have up to $45 million in cap space available for 2014 free agency. With a young core and little in the way of long-term obligations, the Jazz were set up for a major talent infusion. There was one catch, of course: a few pieces of the young core would be due to get paid. Specifically, Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward would become restricted free agents in July 2014 if the Jazz didn't reach contract extensions with them this October.
The first domino fell: Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the Jazz and Favors agreed to a four-year extension worth $49 million. The extension goes into effect for the 2014-15 season, and barring any structural oddness, the starting salary will be about $11 million. So, that gorgeous cap space for 2014 free agency is $34 million, still a massive chunk of change.
Hayward is the next domino. There were reports back in September that he was working on a deal with the Jazz, but nothing has yet come of it. The deadline is October 31. Any deal he makes would cut further into the Jazz's 2014 cap space, but keep in mind that if he goes unextended and becomes a restricted free agent in July, he'll still affect Utah's plans. If unsigned, he would carry a cap hold of $8.6 million as a restricted free agent in 2014. That space would be unavailable for the Jazz until Hayward's future is resolved.
At least two more decisions await Utah in 2014: extensions for Enes Kanter and Alec Burks, 2011 draft products. Kanter could get something around Favors' deal, while Burks remains a relative mystery. But because those two players are likely to cut into Utah's 2015 cap space a great deal, 2014 might be GM Dennis Lindsey's best chance to add to the core in free agency. There's plenty of space and assets for trades as well, but things become more difficult once the team is back up to the cap level.
All told, this is a good first step toward building the next great Jazz team. Favors is reputed as a solid defender, and he has some offensive skills. He hasn't been quite as good as we all hoped when he came out of Georgia Tech, but he has also lacked for opportunities to be featured in Utah. That changes now that Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap are gone. Hayward might be a trickier decision to make for Lindsey and crew. We'll see whether Hayward gets his deal before the deadline hits, or if this season will be spent wondering about that.
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