After an almost top-to-bottom team reconstruction, the Utah Jazz’s roster initially felt too much like a transitory collection of players for fans to develop much emotional attachment.
Then, they started winning.
Quickly, as unexpected victories piled up, the affinity grew. Broadly speaking, fans no longer see these players as trinkets in a rebuilding team’s asset trove. Suddenly, there’s some desire to see some of these protagonists retained beyond their current deals.
Just this week, Bleacher Report’s Chris Haynes reported the Jazz have begun to discuss the possibility of an extension with guard Jordan Clarkson.
It makes it a good time to review the rules on contract extension: who’s eligible for one, when and what they can sign, and how likely it is that the Jazz aim to lock their current players down.
Extension eligible now (sort of)
Contracts can only be extended a minimum of two years after they were signed, and non-expiring deals can’t be extended at all during the season. Those two rules alone conspire to make 13 of the Jazz’s 15 regular roster players ineligible at the moment.
But two players could receive extensions because their current deals also include out clauses that, if invoked in conjunction with an extension, would turn their non-expiring contracts into expiring ones. Clarkson’s contract allows him to decide whether to stay under contract for 2023-24, and Malik Beasley’s includes a club option.
So if Clarkson wanted to agree to an extension between now and June 30 of next year, he would simply need to decline the $14.26 million first and then tack on up to four new years after this one. The salary in year one of that new deal could be up to $16.01 million (120% of this year’s salary), but it could not be for less than the declined $14.26 million option.
Of course, he could also opt out of next year’s contract and let the free agency market set his price instead. There’s a chance he could get more than a starting salary in the $14-16 million range on an open market, including from the Jazz. Utah could offer him up to the estimated $40 million max salary in free agency. Clarkson isn’t going to get that much, but the point is he’d have to really value the security to take $14-16 million instead of waiting to see what happens in July.
The other option is that he could opt in next summer and then sign a new 4-year extension based on that contract number. In that scenario, he could get up to $17.11 million for the 2024-25 season, with raises based off of that.
• Most Clarkson could extend for through June 30: 4 years (through ‘26-27), up to $71.7 million (’23-24 PO declined first)
• Most Clarkson could extend for after 7/1/23: 4 years (through ‘27-28), up to $76.7 million (’23-24 PO exercised first)
• Most Clarkson could get in 2023 free agency: 5 years (through ‘27-28), up to the max
Of course, the consideration then becomes Clarkson’s age. The Jazz believe there is a chance the electric guard could still be in a position to contribute to the next contending version of the team. But all of those deals above would take him into his mid-30s, so the Jazz would have to consider that in any of these scenarios. They could, of course, sign him to an extension (or free agent contract) with fewer years.
Roughly the same options exist for Beasley, except that in his case an extension signed by June 30 would be contingent upon the Jazz lopping off next year’s team option. And since his current salary is slightly higher, his extension could be more lucrative – starting up to $18.67 million, but not less than the $16.52 million team option the Jazz would have to decline.
• Most Beasley could extend for through 6/30/23: 4 years (through ‘26-27), up to $83.6 million (’23-24 TO declined first)
• Most Beasley could extend for after 7/1/23: 4 years (through ‘27-28), up to $88.8 million (’23-24 TO exercised first)
• Most Beasley could get in 2023 free agency: 5 years (through ‘27-28), up to the max
At 26, Beasley fits the timeline a bit better. He’s also an extremely valuable trade piece with a virtual expiring contract and a skill set that could immediately help anybody. As such, it’s hard to know exactly where the Beasley-Jazz relationship is headed.
The opportunity to tack on more years is there if the Jazz want it. But unless he starts feeling like a core piece (or unless he is moved), it might be wiser for them to keep their powder dry until they have a better sense for the extent of the rebuild.
Can extend next summer
After those two, the next guys up for potential extensions are the six veterans whose current contracts hit their second birthday next offseason.
Let’s cover Lauri Markkanen first, since he has been the surprise star of these plucky Jazz. He can sign an extension as early as Aug. 28, 2023, the 2-year anniversary of his sign-and-trade to Cleveland. But because he would still have two years left on the current contract at that point, the Jazz could only offer him three new seasons. If they waited one more year to extend him, they could offer him the same starting salary of $21.65 million, but secure him through 2028-29.
• Most Markkanen could extend for starting 8/28/23: 3 years (through ‘27-28), up to $70.16 million
Most Markkanen could extend for starting 7/1/24: 4 years (through ‘28-29), up to $97 million
(If Markkanen –— or any player — is selected to an All-NBA team or wins MVP/DPOY then the math changes dramatically. But for now, let’s assume he doesn’t.)
The Jazz consider Markkanen a long term piece. They believe he can be part of the next Jazz core and didn’t acquire him simply to be a pass-through asset during a multi-year roster remake. That said, we’re heading toward a salary cap reality where $20 million is mid-tier starter money. Especially if he continues ascending as a star, that price range might not be enough to convince him to seek a bigger payday in free agency.
Unless Kelly Olynyk and Mike Conley Jr. are waived or traded before their 2023-24 salaries fully guarantee, they too will be extension-eligible next August.
• Most Conley could extend for starting 8/6/23: 4 years (through ‘27-28), up to $130.96 million
• Most Olynyk could extend for starting 8/6/23: 4 years (through ‘27-28), up to $65.56 million
As important as both veterans are to the way the current Jazz play, they will be 35 and 32, respectively, as of Aug. 6. Extending them would be a huge risk. Alternatively, they could be positive-value trade chips given that they’re still-useful basketball pieces with significant expiring salaries.
Jarred Vanderbilt’s current salary is small enough that the Jazz could actually bump his starting salary in an extension up to something like $14 million, or 120% of next year’s estimated average salary. (We won’t know the exact figure until next summer.) But the energetic forward won’t be eligible until mid September because he signed his 2021 deal later in the offseason.
• Most Vanderbilt could extend for starting 9/15/23: 4 years (through ‘27-28), up to $63.17 million
At present, Vanderbilt is probably something like Utah’s seventh-best player. It’s pretty risky for a rebuilding team to limit its flexibility by committing eight figures to someone in that kind of a role, but maybe if Vanderbilt is reasonable about the dollar figure, they could find something workable. It’s unlikely that Vando is in a starring role on the next great Jazz squad, but every contender needs players like him in supporting roles – at the right price.
The question will be: what can Vanderbilt get on the open market?
Technically the Jazz could also extend Talen Horton-Tucker and/or Rudy Gay next summer, assuming they pick up their 2023-24 player options first.
• Most Horton-Tucker could extend for starting 8/6/23: 4 years (through ‘27-28), up to $63.17 million
• Most Gay could extend for starting 8/6/23: 4 years (through ‘27-28), up to $63.17 million
But unless their place in the Jazz’s pecking order were to change drastically between now and then, it’s fairly unlikely.
Can extend in 2024/2025
The freshly signed Collin Sexton will have to wait until September 3, 2024, if he wants to add years to the 4-year deal he got in a September sign-and-trade transaction. He can add three years to his contract at that point, or he could wait until the following July and add four.
But frankly, it’s way too early to speculate on this one. The Jazz have a long time to continue their Sexton experiment before making decisions about how he figures into their future. They’re currently trying to refine him into a playmaking guard, and if he completes that transformation he could be important to what they’re building for the next era. Or he could instead top out as a bench scorer who can bust defenses off the bounce for 20ish minutes a night. There’s value in that too, thought clearly not as much.
It’s also too early to speculate about Ochai Agbaji and Walker Kessler. First-round rookie contracts have different extension rules, and these guys can only be extended between 7/1/25 and the day before the 2025-26 season.
So we’ll talk about Sexton’s, Agbaji’s and Kessler’s potential extensions as a much, much later date.
Not extension eligible
Nickeil Alexander-Walker did not extend his rookie deal by the October deadline, but the Jazz have the option to make him a restricted free agent next summer.
Since the Jazz declined rookie contract options for Udoka Azubuike and Leandro Bolmaro, neither youngster is extension-eligible. Simone Fontecchio is not eligible either since he only signed a 2-year deal with the Jazz.