The Utah Jazz announced late Friday afternoon that they have exercised the third-year team option on second-year center Udoka Azubuike’s contract.
What does this mean for both parties moving forward?
In the short term, it gives Azubuike assurance that he’ll have an NBA contract next season, barring getting waived. While it seemed likely the Jazz would exercise the option, it wasn’t entirely a slam dunk, as Azubuike has yet to make any real impact in the league after being somewhat of a surprise selection with the 27th pick in the 2020 NBA draft.
Additionally, it seems unlikely he’ll make much of a mark this season barring injury to another player, as Hassan Whiteside seems to have solid hold of the backup center spot behind All-Star Rudy Gobert.
So why exercise the option if you’re the Jazz?
A recent example provides some good reasoning. At the beginning of the 2018-19 season, Utah faced a similar situation with 2017 first-round pick Tony Bradley. He hadn’t done much at all to that point, but the Jazz exercised his contract option anyway.
Bradley then didn’t do a whole lot in his second year either, but in his third, he showed some flashes of being a decent backup center when Utah needed him, and he is still in the league, now in his fifth year (playing for the Chicago Bulls).
In essence, exercising Azubuike’s option guarantees the Jazz more time at a low price to try to help develop him as a player to see if he can realize the potential his big 6-foot-10, 280-pound frame could have before Utah gives up on the investment it made in him as a first-round draft pick.
Over the summer, Azubuike did show some signs of intrigue, as he averaged nearly 14 points, more than nine rebounds and more than two blocked shots per game in both the Salt Lake City Summer League and the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas. Recently, he has been spending time with the Salt Lake City Stars, the team’s NBA G League affiliate.