Extension season is upon the Utah Jazz as they have a host of players available for new contracts. They recently locked up Rudy Gobert, giving him four more years to the tune of $102 million. Next up on the extension checklist are Derrick Favors and George Hill. The deadline to get these new contracts signed is March 1. Then this summer the Jazz can potentially extend Rodney Hood and Dante Exum.
Much like Gobert, Hood and Exum’s new contracts would start after their rookie deal ends. This stops them from hitting free agency as restricted players, where a team could offer more money than the Jazz may want to pay. Favors’ and Hill’s extensions are a little different. Their current contract would be torn up and completely redone. The Jazz are still $13 million under the cap and could use that to give Favors and Hill raises this season, while also stopping them from becoming unrestricted free agents where they could leave for nothing.
ESPN’s Marc Stein reported that Hill has emerged as the Jazz’s No. 1 concern. “According to the latest rumbles in circulation on the matter, Hill has emerged as Utah’s priority here. Utah is also known to be fond of Hill’s leadership qualities as a playoff-tested veteran on a squad not exactly teeming with postseason experience, which is among the reasons that the Jazz were drawn to Hill as a trade target in the offseason in the first place.”
This could be for a few reasons: one being that Hill’s contract is up this summer and Favors still has a year left after this season; two, Hill’s play and leadership has been better than expected; three, Favors’ recent injury history is a bit concerning; and fourth is the Jazz brass may be a little concerned on whether Exum will live up to his draft hype.
Hill is on the last season of a contract paying him $8 million for this season. Dennis Lindsey could add up to $13 million to Hill’s $8 million and then add two-to-three years onto the new contract. A couple reasons for doing this is to keep him away from other teams this summer, like the Spurs (Popovich has said Hill is one of his favorite players). Secondly, it gives Hill more money now which will hopefully lead to him doing something for the Jazz like taking a little less on the back end of the contract. They then would have more money to re-sign other players on this team.
The other part to consider is if the player is willing to extend now instead of becoming a free agent. Hill has never been a free agent since his last contract was also an extension and may enjoy getting to choose. Also Hill (and Favors for that matter) may believe they can get more money and years during the summer rather than extending now. Tim MacMahon of ESPN reports that Hill is interested in staying long-term in Utah. “If that's the case, then I would be very interested in that," Hill told ESPN. "But I'm going to let them take care of that and just do what I can control.”
So far this season, the Jazz have been a completely different team when Hill has been on the court. The Jazz are 7-3 when Hill plays and 3-5 without him. He is off to the best start of his career, averaging 20.9 points, 4.2 assists and 3.3 rebounds a game. He is also shooting well from three, averaging 47 percent. He is leading the entire league in effective field goal percentage at 64.8 percent and is trailing only Kevin Durant in true shooting percentage at 68 percent (per Basketball Reference). Keeping Hill around makes too much sense, and as an added bonus he is the perfect mentor for Exum.
Favors is next on the list, and he has made it known that he wants to be here, saying, “Of course I want to be here, but it’s a business too,” as reported by Jody Genessy of the Deseret News. “Of course I want to be here. I love being here.”
With another year on Favors’ contract, the Jazz may want to wait to see if he can stay healthy. This year already, Favors missed most of the preseason due to knee soreness and is out for an extended period this season already due to a bone contusion. Plus he missed 20 games last season for back spasms, which should give the Jazz front office a bit of pause.
Favors is 6-foot-10 and came into the league weighing 245 pounds. After seven seasons, he's now listed at 265 pounds. A theory is that Favors’ frame is having trouble supporting his weight, leading to the recent rash of injuries. When he’s 100 percent healthy, Favors is an absolute beast. Before last season’s back spasms (the last time we saw Favors at 100 percent), he was averaging 18 points, 8.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.2 blocks and 1.6 steals per game. When Favors and Gobert play together, they lead a defense that is one of the best in the league.
Favors is also the main backup to Gobert, sliding down from his power forward position to center. If the Jazz were to lose Favors, a quality backup center would be needed. Also on the roster is Trey Lyles, who plays the same position as Favors. Lyles is on his rookie deal, and his extension isn’t for a few more years, and he needs more time to develop, though his future looks bright. He plays the power forward position a lot more different than Favors does. Favors is the more traditional down low presence, where Lyles is the new playmaking four who can stretch the floor and handle the ball. The decision may come down to keeping one of these two.
Next summer, Hood and Exum can be extended. Exum is coming off an ACL tear and needs more time to develop. Unless he just explodes as the season goes on, the Jazz may be wise not to extend Exum (save he signs a super team-friendly contract) and collect another season of data before they make a decision.
Hood’s extension is mostly a no-brainer, depending on what he wants and if he can become more consistent. The only thing that will get in the way is the salary cap. The Jazz have a lot of young guys who want to get paid, and there may not be enough money to go around. It could come down to letting Favors walk and signing Hood and Lyles to extensions or vice versa.
Lindsey and company have plenty of tough decisions to make in the next year, but that is what they get for drafting well and developing their talent into skilled NBA players.
Follow Kincade Upstill on Twitter @kincade12 or email him at email@example.com