The Utah Jazz and starting shooting guard Rodney Hood have opened contract extension negotiations, the Salt Lake Tribune has learned.
The two sides have had preliminary conversations as the Jazz hope Hood can become their primary perimeter scorer this season after Gordon Hayward left for the Boston Celtics. Another meeting is expected to occur in the next few weeks, according to league sources.
Hood, who will enter his fourth season in the league, is eligible for a rookie scale contract extension, with Oct. 16 the deadline to reach an agreement. Hood is one of two Jazz players eligible for an extension. Former lottery pick Dante Exum is the other.
If Hood or Exum can’t reach a deal, their subsequent step would be restricted free agency next summer, where they can receive an offer sheet from another team, but the Jazz have the ability to match the offer.
The Jazz are expected to allow Exum to reach restricted free agency unless he accepts a team-friendly deal similar to Alec Burks, who extended for $10 million annually three years ago.
There is hope internally that Exum is on the verge of a breakout, and he is expected to play a key role off the bench this season. Still, Exum has yet to find his stride in the NBA, partially due to his torn ACL two years ago. And the Jazz want to use this season to monitor Exum’s progress, although he did show encouraging signs of improvement during summer league in July.
Hood’s case is a bit more difficult. He’s been a starter for much of his three years, and the Jazz need his ability to score with Hayward gone. The Jazz front office is hoping Hood can step forward and provide the top perimeter option Hayward vacated.
According to sources, Hood has been in Salt Lake City for the majority of the summer and has chosen to spend his offseason working closely with the coaching staff. The Jazz feel Hood can make a significant leap in production this season.
At the same time, there are concerns. Hood’s durability is in question after he played only 59 games last season. He’s been a streaky shooter in the past, and the Jazz need him to be more consistent from the perimeter. Most importantly, the Jazz need more than scoring from Hood. They need him to be a playmaker as well.
This creates a conundrum on both sides. If an agreement can’t be reached and Hood breaks out, he could become expensive for the Jazz to keep, even on a free-agent market next summer that could become saturated. Skill-wise, there aren’t many 6-foot-8 shooting guards in the league who can create offense like Hood when he’s healthy. He’s versatile, able to play both wing spots and initiate the offense in a pinch. And without Hayward, Hood projects as a primary pick-and-roll ball handler on the wing.
Hood likes Salt Lake and the Jazz and is very open to signing an extension, sources say. He’ll test the market if needed, but he wants to be with the Jazz. For both sides, it’s all about coming to a palatable price. The Jazz extended franchise center Rudy Gobert last year, striking a deal right before the deadline.
Hood averaged 12.7 points over 27 minutes a game last season. He dealt with multiple injuries, most notably a hyperextended knee he suffered against the Orlando Magic that he never fully healed from.
If the Jazz are going to be a playoff team, they need much more from Hood. And they need him to stay healthy. As for a contract extension, those talks will continue.