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What led to Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz agreeing to maximum contract extension for All-Star guard

Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) smiles during a timeout as the Utah Jazz and the Miami Heat play in an NBA basketball game at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020. Utah won 116-101.
Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) smiles during a timeout as the Utah Jazz and the Miami Heat play in an NBA basketball game at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020. Utah won 116-101.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

When the Utah Jazz left the NBA bubble in defeat in September, Donovan Mitchell vowed, “This is just the beginning.”

On Sunday morning, the Jazz made sure that the All-Star guard’s story would continue in Utah, guaranteeing Mitchell will be with the team for the foreseeable future.

Mitchell and the Jazz agreed to a five-year contract extension worth a guaranteed $163 million, according to sources with knowledge of the situation. ESPN was first to report the deal. A few hours after reports of the deal were confirmed, ESPN’s Bobby Marks reported that there will be a player option on the fifth year.

The designated rookie max deal has escalators that could bring Mitchell’s five-year total to $195.6 million. That extra money would come if Mitchell earns All-NBA honors in the 2020-21 season, the last year of his rookie-scale contract, in which he’ll be paid $5.2 million.

When Mitchell burst onto the NBA scene as a rookie in 2017 after being selected 13th overall in that year’s draft, it was clear as day that the Jazz had found the face of the franchise they had been looking for.

Runner-up for Rookie of the Year honors, Mitchell has been Utah’s leading scorer since he entered the league, and finished off last season averaging a career-best 24 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game while shooting 36.6% from 3.

As Mitchell’s growth on the court continued, he was cemented in the minds of the Jazz brass as the cornerstone of the team moving forward, and it became a foregone conclusion that the young star would end up with a max contract.

Though the Jazz didn’t need any more evidence that they had a superstar in Mitchell, the guard was selected to his first All-Star team in 2020, stepped deeper into his role as the vocal leader of the Jazz and dazzled during the playoffs.

Through the Jazz’s first-round series against the Denver Nuggets, which lasted seven games and featured historic battles with Denver guard Jamal Murray, Mitchell averaged 36.3 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.9 assists while shooting 51.6% from deep. In Game 1 of that series Mitchell scored 57 points, the third-most by any player in NBA playoff history.

Mitchell’s deal, which begins in the 2021-22 season and does not affect Utah’s salary cap situation this season, will be made official in the coming weeks. The Jazz and Mitchell had until Dec. 21 to reach an agreement on the extension, but it was largely assumed that both sides would come together quickly.

With the Jazz making moves in recent days to shore up their bench for the 2020-21 season, and now having come to an agreement on Mitchell’s contract, the team can focus its attention on negotiations with Rudy Gobert, who is eligible for a supermax extension and could hit unrestricted free agency next year.

As news of Mitchell’s extension began to circulate on Sunday, teammates and friends around the league, including Mike Conley, Georges Niang, Royce O’Neale, and childhood friend and Golden State Warriors forward Eric Paschall, took to social media to offer their congratulations.

While 2020 will certainly be a year that Mitchell remembers as one in which his game was elevated to new heights and validated by his All-Star and max deal, the road was not without its obstacles.

The Utah Jazz were famously at the center of the NBA’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic when Gobert and Mitchell became the first players to test positive for the virus. Tension between the two stars, which had already been bubbling under the surface, crescendoed during the 2019-20 season hiatus.

When the team returned to play in the bubble in Orlando, Mitchell and Gobert seemed to have worked out their differences, realizing that there were bigger issues and more important things to focus their energy on. In particular, Mitchell found importance in raising his voice in the fight for racial justice.

Mitchell became one of the more outspoken players in the NBA during a summer of civil unrest in response to systemic racism and police brutality and is one of five players on the board of the newly created National Basketball Social Justice Coalition.

With the support of the front office and Jazz ownership Mitchell continued to speak out about the fight for equality, voter suppression and education reform throughout the playoffs.

“If you don’t want to hear it, then don’t watch,” he said in August. “I’m going to keep speaking from the heart and if you don’t like it, that’s too bad.”

Though Mitchell embraced the Utah as a rookie, he has continued to charitably invest in the community over the past three years, most recently donating to Granite School District during COVID-19 shutdowns in order to provide students with meals.

That leadership, on and off the court, his willingness to contribute to the betterment of the community, his commitment to improving and expanding his game while lifting up his teammates, and of course his will to win, are all reasons why the Jazz saw signing Mitchell to a lengthy extension as a necessary step this offseason and why they see the extension as a reason for celebration.