Free Agency Grades: Utah Jazz
Updated: Dec 8, 2020
Donovan Mitchell: 5 year extension, $163 million, player option
Mitchell’s long-term extension is a big sigh of relief for Jazz fans, with ‘Spida’ continuing his progression towards superstardom after a breakout playoff run. Whatever guard spot Mitchell slots in at, his explosiveness and ability to get to the rim is balanced by an improving jump shot and an exciting growth in playmaking ability. Mitchell’s long-term extension was a no-brainer, and so is this grade.
Signing a young player of Mitchell’s currency ability and sky-high potential was always going to lead to a max rookie extension. The former-Louisville Cardinal has the opportunity to take the Jazz to a championship, and is only getting better. This was an essential move for Dennis Lindsey and the Jazz front office, setting them up for success now and in the future.
In Donovan Mitchell, the Jazz have their most transcendent star in recent memory. Marketable and assured off the court, and one of the most talented guards in the league on the floor, Mitchell is the present and future for Utah. Fresh off playoff series averages of 36.3 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game on 52.9/51.6/94.8 shooting splits (including two-50 point games), Mitchell is ready to explode. Locking him up long-term allows the Jazz to focus on building a roster around their young star to accelerate into championship contention.
Jordan Clarkson - 4 years, $52 million
Bringing back Clarkson was Utah’s #1 priority this offseason, with the explosive guard fitting back in seamlessly as the Jazz’s sixth man. For a second unit that struggled mightily in last season’s early goings, Clarkson’s instant offense and 15.6 points per game were the spark Utah needed off the pine. Able to hit from deep and get his own bucket at will, Clarkson’s fit is ideal.
While potentially an overpay due to Clarkson’s more limited but highly effective role as a sixth-man gunner, Utah’s position as a smaller-market team means that overpays can and sometimes do need to happen. For a proven fit in Quin Snyder’s system, and one who can anchor the bench for the next four years, this was the price that the Jazz needed to pay.
While it may be seen as a heavy price to pay, there’s no doubt that Clarkson’s arrival in Utah was just what the Jazz needed, and arguably what the former-Cavalier needed too. While Utah’s starting five is ripe to go, Clarkson's ability to generate his own offense is exactly what a contender like Utah requires off the bench. Jazz fans will hope last year’s career-best season for Clarkson will continue.
Derrick Favors - 3 years, $27 million with a player option
As if this signing could get another grade. One of the most beloved Jazz players in recent memory, Favors comes back to provide toughness, rebounding, defense and paint scoring. These are assets that Snyder can utilise to anchor a bench-unit that outside of young big Tony Bradley, was bereft of frontcourt presence, or to play in two-big lineups with Rudy Gobert against the juggernauts of the Western Conference. Favors is back home and it feels so good.
Is spending what ends up being the majority of the MLE on a backup center the wisest move? Potentially no, but again, this is a move the Jazz needed to make. It brings back a player who knows the system, is loved by the fans and fills a glaring hole in the roster. Favors had some back issues in New Orleans, but he’s still only 29, with plenty to give the Jazz either off the bench or alongside Gobert.
The Jazz got monstered while Gobert was off the floor, with opponents scoring a whopping 8.2 points per 100 possessions on 65.7% at the rim while the Stifle Tower took a rest. For that reason alone, Favors’ signing is a home-run. Add in the homecoming factor, veteran presence off the bench, and that Favors can protect the rim while cleaning the glass, this was one of the best offseason moves for any team in the NBA.