On Friday evening, the Utah Jazz opened free agency by making a pair of solid deals, retaining sixth man Jordan Clarkson and bringing back former franchise staple Derrick Favors.
On Sunday morning, though, they made a move that will have a far bigger long-term impact on their ability to be a championship contender, signing All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell to a five-year contract extension.
A source with knowledge of the situation confirmed Mitchell’s deal, which ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported to be guaranteed for at least $163 million and could increase to as much as $195 million by meeting All-NBA Team criteria this season. ESPN also reported that Mitchell has a player option after the fourth year of the extension.
Mitchell has one year remaining on his rookie contract, which will pay him about $5.2 million in 2020-21, before the extension kicks in.
In 2019-20, the Louisville product established himself as one of the league’s transcendent young talents, averaging 24.0 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 4.3 assists, and shooting 36.6% from 3-point range en route to being named an NBA All-Star for the first time.
In the postseason, he escalated his status even further, accounting for the absence of injured teammate Bojan Bogdanovic by leading the entire NBA in points per game. In the Jazz’s eventual seven-game loss to the Denver Nuggets, Mitchell averaged 36.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 4.9 assists, and boosted his shooting to 52.9% from the field and 51.6% beyond the arc — on 9.1 attempts per game. His 57 points in Game 1 were the third-most by any player in NBA playoff history.
His back-and-forth scoring battles with Denver’s Jamal Murray became instant must-see television and the talk of the league.
While Mitchell’s season also had its tumultuous moments — he famously became the second player in the NBA to test positive for COVID-19, after teammate Rudy Gobert; he feuded with the Frenchman for a time over Gobert’s admittedly “careless” behavior in the aftermath; and he got into it with fans who criticized his Juneteenth post about Black Americans being “free-ish” — there was never any doubt that securing his signature on an extension was paramount to the Jazz’s future.
And now it’s a done deal.
ESPN salary cap expert Bobby Marks broke down the annual financial terms of Mitchell’s extension, which were confirmed to Wojnarowski by Mitchell’s agents, Ty Sullivan and Austin Brown of CAA: In the first year of the extension, 2021-22, Mitchell will earn $28.1 million, to be followed by annual salaries of $30.4 million, $32.6 million, $34.8 million and $37.1 million in ’25-26.
Of course, should Mitchell wind up making an All-NBA Team for his play this season, those numbers will escalate to $33.7 million next season, followed by salaries of $36.4 million, $39.1 million, $41.8 million and $44.5 million — a total of $195 million.
Those are significant figures, especially considering Gobert also is in line for a significant extension, and because his own status as an All-NBA honoree and two-time Defensive Player of the Year have already made him eligible for the designated player “supermax” contract, which can pay a player up to 35% of his team’s salary cap.
While the Jazz are hopeful that they can come to terms with Gobert, who is considered one of the league’s premier defenders and an underrated component of Utah’s offense besides, it remains to be seen how Mitchell’s extension will impact those negotiations.
Regardless, Mitchell has been a key figure for the Jazz from the outset.
Among the first players to work out for the Jazz in the lead-up to the 2017 NBA draft, Mitchell apparently wowed the front office with his workout to the extent that they subsequently became consumed with being able to trade up to be in a position to draft him. In what would become a history-altering moment, the Jazz were able work out a deal with Denver, packaging the No. 24 pick along with the previous year’s first-round selection, Trey Lyles, in exchange for the 13th pick, which they used to select Mitchell.
While the organization wanted to keep initial expectations modest, Mitchell would not play along.
Given that the team had just lost All-Star forward Gordon Hayward in free agency, it was assumed by many that veteran wing Rodney Hood would assume primary scoring duties and that the Jazz would likely revert to lottery status. Except, when Mitchell proceeded to dominate Summer League action, and then showed again in the preseason and early in the regular season that his early success was no fluke but rather nascent stardom, Hood was moved to the bench a few games into the season, Mitchell was elevated to the starting lineup, and the player and team have never looked back.
Now, there will be plenty of opportunity for both to look forward.