Both LA teams were taken to the brink, but found a way to win their respective Game 7s and move on to the second round to face much tougher opponents.
On the other side of the coin, overachieving Utah and injury-affected Memphis lost their magic in the end and now the offseason planning starts. Each team must answer some organizational questions, and their moves may impact the Suns and therefore the Suns fans.
Utah has talented youngsters Enes Kanter (C) and Derrick Favors (PF) waiting in the wings behind long-time starters Al Jefferson (C) and Paul Millsap (PF). Utah's problem is long-term upside of the current roster, and contract extensions. With Jefferson and Millsap playing at the top of their game, the Jazz barely squeaked into the playoffs and were summarily swept out of them as quickly as possible.
Utah attempted to play Jefferson, Favors and Millsap together by moving Millsap to SF and shifting Gordon Hayward to SG down the stretch and in the playoffs, but that only worked to limited success. They rebounded great, but the defense and scoring were underwhelming. Millsap is too slow to defend SFs and Hayward too slow to defend SGs.
Jefferson and Millsap combine to make $23.6 million next season, but both become unrestricted free agents when the 2012-13 season ends. Both Millsap and Jefferson will want extensions, and both will certainly ask the Jazz to comply this summer.
Millsap's career numbers, per basketball-reference.com
But those extensions will just prolong the waiting game for Favors and Kanter - who were both picked highly in the draft and deserve a chance to play for a fringe playoff team. Favors seems to have the highest immediate upside, and given that Millsap is less effective at SF, it looks like it's time to trade Millsap for some talent on the wing (or for cap space that they can then spend on shooting-guard talent).
Utah's other problem is that starting PG Devin Harris also has only one year left on his contract. In fact, only Favors, Kanter, Hayward and Burks are under contract beyond the 2012-13 season. Utah very nearly had 2 more lottery picks this spring, but now have none. Their own was lost when they made the playoffs, and Golden State was just bad enough to keep theirs from going to the Jazz.
Despite losing those picks though, the Jazz are clearly in a youth movement. They are very talented with young players at 4 positions. Do they prolong the inevitable and fight for the playoffs again with Jefferson, Millsap and Harris? Or do they cut bait and go young? The Suns themselves pushed for the playoffs and came up just short. Would the Jazz try the same thing for the second year in a row?
The Suns don't have the young point guard to trade Utah in exchange for Millsap, though. But the Jazz somehow don't have a first-round pick this year either. They could trade Millsap to the Suns for cap relief in a one-sided trade, and then sign a point guard or a wing on the open market. Would you trade this spring's #13 pick for Millsap and the Jazz's lower lottery pick in 2013?
Of course, Millsap would need to be extended. Is he worth $8-9 million a year for 3-4 years? Because that's what he would expect.
As for the Grizzlies, their issue is money. They already extended Randolph, Gay, Conley and Gasol to big money. They can't possibly even match a reasonable midlevel offer to OJ Mayo this summer. Mayo is still only 24 and is just scratching the surface of his talent.
Mayo's career numbers, per basketball-reference.com
But is he worth a long-term contract to the Suns? And to beat out other bidders, the Suns would have to offer more than midlevel.
Is he worth, say, 4 years for $32-36 million ($8-9 million per season)? He's young and certainly a better scorer and passer than any wing player the Suns currently have, and could easily score 20 per game next to Nash and/or as a primary offensive option.
The Suns could sign him with their cap space. Or, is he worth a sign-and-trade involving fellow restricted free agent Robin Lopez? Here, we would be trading a good backup center for a good scoring guard. I know you can't have enough size, but the Jazz just proved this season that size is not good enough without scoring.
So, Suns fans, what say you on Millsap and/or O.J. Mayo?