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Why Donovan Mitchell is among those with the most to lose when the NBA returns

As a member of the 2017 NBA draft class, Mitchell is in line to potentially receive a max extension this offseason, a payday that could be threatened by injury

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Utah Jazz’s Donovan Mitchell (45) and Boston Celtics’ Kyrie Irving (11) fall on the court during the first half on an NBA basketball game in Boston, Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018.

Michael Dwyer, AP

SALT LAKE CITY — When the NBA returns to action on July 30, with the Utah Jazz taking on the New Orleans Pelicans, there will be a select group of players with more to lose than the rest.

Notable names include LeBron James, Jayson Tatum and Brandon Ingram, as well as entire teams, including the Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers and LA Clippers. Also in that group is Utah Jazz star guard Donovan Mitchell, or so believes CBS Sports’ Brad Botkin.

In his latest piece, Botkin contends that Mitchell is among those with the most on the line when the NBA season resumes at Disney’s Wide World of Sports.

The reasons vary by player and team, but for Mitchell, it all comes down to future earnings. Mitchell and his fellow 2017 NBA draft members — Tatum, De’Aaron Fox and Bam Adebayo included — will be eligible this offseason for full five-year designated rookie extensions, which are worth 25% of the salary cap.

A setback in Orlando, anything injury-related being the most concerning, could threaten Mitchell’s chances at securing what is considered a near-guaranteed max extension offer, argues Botkin.

“The first-round class (of 2017) is eligible this offseason for full five-year designated rookie extensions, which are worth 25 percent of the cap,” he writes. “Players potentially in line for such a max extension prior to the conclusion of their rookie deal are Donovan Mitchell, Jayson Tatum, De’Aaron Fox and Bam Adebayo. 

“Tatum, in fact, has a chance to be eligible for 30 percent of the cap via the Rose rule, if he were to be named to an All-NBA team this season, which is not out of the question. Mitchell will almost certainly get a max extension offer, as will Fox in Sacramento. As for Adebayo, the Heat are likely pinching their pennies for a run at Giannis and the free-agent class of 2021, so he might not get his max extension until the 2021 offseason. 

“Still, it’s coming. For all these guys. And an injury in Orlando before the first big payday of their careers would be devastating. This same logic also applies to guys who are not likely to get max extension offers, but are still in line to sign their first post-rookie deal in 2021 — guys like Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball and Zach Collins, for example.”

The loss of potential future earnings is very much on Mitchell’s mind, as reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski earlier this month. According to Wojnarowski, Mitchell is part of a group that is looking into the possibility of an insurance policy that would protect a player who suffers serious injury in Orlando.

Since he arrived in Utah in 2017, Mitchell has been a ready-made star for the Jazz and while the future indeed looks bright, a return to play in Orlando may present a risk for him.