The Utah Jazz have been quick to make moves before the flip of the calendar year, first waiving Jeff Green and signing Rayjon Tucker to a full-fledged NBA contract, followed by their trade of Dante Exum for Jordan Clarkson. While the move gives them a scoring guard with a punch, ESPN's Kevin Pelton notes the maneuver could open up more money to keep forward Royce O'Neale.
“There's also value to the Jazz getting off Exum's $9.6 million cap hit for 2020-21. While Utah won't likely be able to create appreciable cap space either way as long as Mike Conley declines testing free agency in favor of a $34.5 million salary next season, Utah now has more wiggle room with regard to the luxury tax. That should make it easier for the Jazz to re-sign restricted free agent Royce O'Neale and use their midlevel exception.”
The Jazz had a spending spree this summer by trading for Conley and adding Bojan Bogdanovic, Ed Davis, and others to compete for a top-four spot in a loaded Western Conference.
O'Neale has been instrumental in filling in as a starter at small forward, getting the nod for 27 of his 30 games with the team.
While his averages of 6.4 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 2.5 assists don't speak much fo him, his value as a long defender and willing system player make him valuable to the Jazz, who will want to keep him at the end of this offseason.
As the salary cap starts to crunch, every cent will matter in the summer. Clarkson will be an unrestricted free agent after this season, while Exum would be owed $9.1 million next season — money that could end up in O'Neale's pockets if the Jazz decide to keep him.