UTAH JAZZ

The Gobert Extension, Exhibit-10 Contracts, And Mailbag Answers

Dec 21, 2020, 1:03 PM
Rudy Gobert - Utah Jazz - Getty Images...
Rudy Gobert #27 of the Utah Jazz looks on before a game against the Toronto Raptors at Vivint Smart Home Arena on March 9, 2020 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah –  It’s been a busy week for the Utah Jazz as they prepare for the beginning of the NBA regular season. The Jazz wrapped up their preseason with a win against the Los Angeles Clippers, signed a waived a slew of players, and agreed to a contract extension with center Rudy Gobert.

The Jazz will open the year on the road against the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday before returning home to face the Minnesota Timberwolves after Christmas.

In the latest episode of the Jazz Notes Podcast, KSL Sports Ben Anderson explores the busy week for the Jazz and the long term impact of the moves.

Rudy Gobert’s Extension

The biggest and most impactful news of the last week was the contract extension for Gobert. Gobert will be the team’s highest-paid player beginning in 2021 and will remain so for the foreseeable future.

It’s unquestionably a risk to pay any one player an average of $40 million a season, and even more so for a player who will turn 30 just a year after the deal kicks in. Additionally, there are questions about Gobert’s fit in the evolving NBA, and if the Jazz would have been better served finding a low-cost replacement while allocating that money elsewhere.

The truth is, the Jazz asked themselves all of those questions, and in the end, determined that signing Gobert gave the team a better option to compete than the alternatives.

Gober is currently an All-NBA caliber center and should have 3-4 years left of ultra-high level basketball ahead of him. He affects the game like few others in today’s league, and even though teams are shooting more threes than ever before, he’s still the best rim protector in the NBA.

Furthermore, he stands as a marker for the rest of the NBA, the Jazz current roster, and future free agents that the franchise is serious about winning. Had they preferred to save the money, and hope for a better future, they could have traded Gobert or allowed him to walk next season in free agency.

They didn’t.

They want Gobert and the recently extended Donovan Mitchell to anchor the team for the next half-decade and hope that the current roster and any future adjustments can step in and push them towards a championship.

It’s a tough spot to be in, and the Gobert decision likely wasn’t an easy one, but for now, it looks like the right move.

Exhibit-10 Contracts

The Jazz have bewildered some fans with the number of players being signed only to be waived over the last few days. Most notably, NBA veterans Yogi Ferrell and Malcolm Miller, especially while the Jazz have a 15th roster spot open.

The Jazz are going to need additional depth at the point guard and wing position in the coming seasons, especially with Mike Conley become a free agent in a rapidly declining talent pool next summer.

By signing and waiving Ferrell and Miller (not to ignore Trevon Bluiett, Tre Scott, and Jake Toolson) the Jazz can designate those players to play for the G League affiliate Salt Lake City Stars assuming there will be a minor league season.

The Jazz are going to be strapped financially for the foreseeable future, so finding cheap veteran depth over the coming months is going to be critical. Getting first-hand experience with players like Ferrell and Miller with the Stars would pave the way for one of those two to become a low-cost rotation player if Conley leaves in free agency next season.

Mailbag Questions and Answers

Anderson: This is a good question with a unique answer. I don’t know if Mithell’s scoring average changes radically from last year’s 24.0 ppg, but keep an eye on his assists per game.

Mitchell lit the league on fire in his seven-game series against the Nuggets leading all postseason scorers, but instead of coming back looking to score more, the All-Star guard has been the team’s best distributor during the preseason.

Mitchell averaged 5.0 assists per game in the Jazz three preseason outings while playing just 23 minutes per game. If he can see his assists numbers climb to six or seven per game, he’d probably do more for the Jazz offense than simply shooting more to score more.

Anderson: Coaches tend to play who they trust, which complicates this answer. Miye Oni has spent significantly more time with the Jazz than Shaq Harrison who joined the Jazz late in training camp and has been hindered by a hand injury.

By that logic, Oni will likely get the minutes in case of an emergency.

On the other hand, Harrison has played in 139 NBA games, including 22 starts. Oni has appeared in just 10 NBA games in one season of play.

By that logic, Snyder will certainly choose Harrison.

My guess, since Oni had the better preseason (largely due to availability) so he’d be more likely to play if the Jazz found themselves needing an additional body early in the year. But as the season progresses, Snyder would turn to Harrison as he becomes more comfortable with the team’s system.

Anderson: The Jazz were a few inches away from a trip to the Western Conference Semifinals had Conley’s three-point shot not rimmed out. How they would have fared against the Los Angeles Clippers in anybody’s guess, but they did win the regular-season series against the disappointing Clippers team.

With that said, now adding Bogdanovic, Favors, and Harrison to the mix, the Jazz should have higher expectations going into the year.

Could they reach the Western Conference Finals? I don’t think it’s out of the questions, especially with the added year of chemistry and experience for the Jazz young stars.

The fear however is that with the Golden State Warriors re-entering the picture and the Phoenix Suns making major upgrades to the roster during the offseason, there are two more playoff teams in the mix than there were last season.

Now, Oklahoma City will fall out of the playoffs which frees up one of those spots, but who else could fall out? That might be determined by an injury or a string of COVID-19 cases that keep players out for a week or two at a time.

One other thing, the NBA approved the play-in tournament for teams ranked 7-10 in both conferences. If the Jazz find themselves in the seventh or eighth-seed, which may only be a game or two behind a team with home-court advantage in the first round, they could easily be eliminated by a scrappy 9th or 10th place team in the play-in tournament.

If I didn’t answer your question here, I likely answered it in the podcast. Thanks for reading and listening. You can subscribe to the Jazz Notes Podcast here.

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The Gobert Extension, Exhibit-10 Contracts, And Mailbag Answers