The Jazz have until Friday to match OKC’s four-year, $15-million offer sheet on C.J. Miles, and it’s looking like Utah is using these final few hours to clear up cap space to retain the 21-year-old shooting guard.
Utah traded backup point guard Jason Hart on Wednesday to the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for veteran point guard Brevin Knight. The move sheds nearly $1 million off the Jazz’s team salary and helps the team avoid the luxury tax threshold if they choose to retain Miles.
Utah currently has about $61.5 million in team salary, exceeding the $58.68 million cap set for the 2008-09 season. Because Miles is Utah’s own free agent, the Jazz can further exceed their current salary to retain him. But the luxury tax level for next season is set at $71.15 million, meaning any team whose salary exceeds that figure will pay a $1 tax for each $1 it exceeds that figure. It’s a costly position for teams to be in, but it’s not the 2008-09 season Utah would have to worry about the luxury tax if they retain Miles but the 2009-10 season.
Miles’ deal with OKC is likely to start at $3.35 million with 8% annual raises, giving him a fourth-year salary of $4.154 million. Since the Jazz still is roughly $10 million below the tax threshold for next season, they can match the first-year salary of $3.35 without paying any tax.
But with Deron Williams’ new contract kicking in for the 2009-10 season, the Jazz will be in a bind if both Carlos Boozer ($12.7 million) and Mehmet Okur ($9 million) play out the final year of their contracts rather than opting out before the 2009-10 season. Utah likely also will want to retain low-post bruiser Paul Millsap, who will be a free agent next summer and could command a salary starting at $5 million if he builds on a solid first two seasons with another strong season this year.
Having said that, the Hart-for-Knight deal has no bearing on Utah’s cap figure for the 2009-10 season since both players are entering the final year of their contracts. If Utah is indeed trying to clear up cap space to retain Miles, it would seem they would also want to trade second-year shooting guard Morris Almond. If not, Utah would have four shooting guards on the roster in Miles, Almond, Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer.
Almond also has two more team option years on his original rookie contract for 2009-10 and 2010-11 totaling about $3.2 million. Utah could simply decline his option and let him walk after next season, but the Jazz likely would want to get something in exchange for him such as a future draft pick at a minimum even if it’s a second rounder.