Three Decisions That Will Define The Jazz Offseason
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz entered the offseason with the same uncertainty about when they will return to the basketball court next season. The popular theory is currently Martin Luther King Jr. Day on January 18, but the situation remains fluid. But while the Jazz await official notice of when they will once again suit up, these three sets of decisions will define the Jazz offseason.
Decision One: Extension Talks
Barring catastrophic failure, the Jazz will reach an early contract extension with Donovan Mitchell. After earning his first All-Star nod for the Jazz this past season, Mitchell certified himself as one of the league’s premier young players by leading all players in postseason scoring average while chipping in performances of 57 and 51 points over a seven-game series.
The Jazz should want to give Mitchell the longest possible contract, locking down their cornerstone guard for the next half-decade. Mitchell may prefer a shorter contract so he can hit unrestricted free agency sooner in his career if he isn’t positive he wants to spend the first half of his career in Utah. The length of Mitchell’s contract will either be a cause for celebration, or some future handwringing for Jazz fans come late November.
Fellow All-Star Rudy Gobert is also eligible for an early contract extension that would keep him out of unrestricted free agency next season. There is motivation for the Jazz to resign the big man before he hits the open market, and motivation for Gobert to further guarantee his financial future before risking an injury with the team next season. If Gobert is willing to take less than the supermax, the Jazz should be able to work out a deal.
Though each player is under contract with the Jazz next season, the decisions on those two extensions will color the future of the team for the foreseeable future.
Forward Georges Niang and center Tony Bradley are also eligible to sign early extensions this offseason.
Decision Two: Free Agency
While the Jazz will look to extend their in-house stars first, free-agent guard Jordan Clarkson won’t be far behind. The Jazz acquired Clarkson in December and he was an immediate fit for the team coming off the bench.
Clarkson will likely have several suitors willing to throw the mid-level exception at him worth nearly $10 million, a number the Jazz should be willing to more than match, but the high scoring guard is free to sign wherever he’d like.
The Jazz could lose Clarkson to a higher profile roster, say the Los Angeles Lakers who drafted him and are coming off a championship run, or the Miami Heat who won the East (and could offer Clarkson more money), but the 28-year-old sixth man seems to have found true stability playing for coach Quin Snyder.
Owning his bird rights, which allows the Jazz to exceed the salary cap to resign Clarkson should push the odds in their favor, but Clarkson will likely be a popular name across the league when free agency opens.
Regardless of whether Clarkson stays or goes, the Jazz should have both the mid-level exception and the bi-annual exception at their disposal in free agency. How they use those will go a long way towards their championship hopes next season. Here’s a list of 32 free agents that could be of interest to the Jazz that will be available before next season.
Emmanuel Mudiay and Juwan Morgan are also notable free-agents this offseason from the Jazz roster.
Decision Three: Draft Night
Before dealing with free agency the Jazz have decisions to make on a gameplan for draft night. Since taking over as vice president of basketball operations in 2013, Dennis Lindsey has been ultra-active on draft night, buying, selling, and trading picks. This year should be no different.
The Jazz could look to move up in the draft to get a higher profile player, try to acquire more proven talent by trading their pick or try to unload salary (Ed Davis) in exchange for a second-round pick in the draft.
Despite playing relatively few rookies last season, the Jazz still had six first-year players on the roster. They may not want to add a ton more young talent, but making a first-round selection is a near lock, especially considering their 2021 first-rounder is headed to Memphis.
Miye Oni and Jarrell Brantley are threats to crack the rotation, but the Jazz could use a homerun pick late in the first round to solidify themselves as contenders in the future.