Veteran contract extensions are rare, but when a team has cap room available to renegotiate a contract and give a player an immediate raise, they become much more viable. The Jazz are one team with the flexibility necessary to give an extension-eligible veteran a significant raise for 2016/17, and Utah has two candidates: Derrick Favors and George Hill. While Favors has been viewed as the more likely candidate to be extended this season, ESPN’s Marc Stein reports that Hill is believed to have emerged as the Jazz’s priority.
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Hill, acquired by the Jazz in a three-way trade with the Pacers and Hawks during the offseason, has only appeared in seven regular-season games for Utah so far, having been slowed by a right thumb injury. However, he has looked excellent in those seven games, averaging career highs in PPG (20.4), FG% (.541), 3PT% (.432), and several other categories.
According to Stein, the Jazz like Hill’s leadership qualities — the former Pacers point guard has more playoff experience than most of the other players on the team’s roster. The ESPN scribe also observes that, after locking up Rudy Gobert to a four-year extension last month, the Jazz may be focused on securing a key backcourt piece, rather than extending another big man like Favors. Additionally, Hill is in the final year of his deal, while Favors is under contract through 2017/18.
As our salary cap breakdown for the Jazz shows, Utah has in excess of $13MM in cap space available for 2016/17. The team could use that cap room to bump Hill’s $8MM salary up over $20MM, while tacking on additional years to his contract. While that may seem like an exorbitant price for the 30-year-old, he’s poised to be one of the best available point guards on the market next summer, particularly if Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, and Kyle Lowry all stay with their current teams, as is currently expected. A big year for Hill in 2016/17 would put him in line for a huge payday if the Jazz don’t extend him before then.
Teams can renegotiate veteran contracts up until February 28, so the Jazz have plenty of time to mull their decision. With Hill and Favors both dealing with injuries early in the season, it would be a surprise if the team rushed into a new agreement with either player. Of course, Utah could ultimately retain both players, but probably doesn’t have the cap flexibility to do more than one in-season extension.