Did the Utah Jazz fumble the offseason by extending Lauri Markkanen?
The Utah Jazz had a nearly perfect offseason. They got three rookies with some impressive potential, landed John Collins for pennies on the dollar, and extended Jordan Clarkson. The only thing they didn’t do was offer up a new deal for Lauri Markkanen.
Markkanen is in the third year of a four-year deal, where the fourth year is only partially guaranteed. The Cleveland Cavaliers gave him that deal with the idea that he was an unknown commodity. Through his first two seasons on the deal, it’s fair to say he first hit the expectations of his modest contract and then exceeded them.
He was a vital cog for the Cavs in 2021-2022 and became the face of the Utah Jazz after being traded there as part of the Donovan Mitchell trade. When he arrived in Utah, no one knew what Markkanen could be as the team’s number one option. He proved he could be super efficient across an entire season and could be the primary scorer on a winning club.
Yet, despite being eligible for an extension, the Jazz opted not to give Markkanen a new deal. Something the YouTube channel Hoops Reference noted was the biggest mistake the Jazz made this offseason.
But was it?
There’s a lot to like about Markkanen and if he can have a Steve Nash or Chauncey Billups-like career arc, it’s very likely the Jazz will be in great shape for a while. But it’s also fair to say we don’t know if this version of Markkanen is him at his peak or if he had a Julius Randle-like explosion for a season.
It’s likely the Jazz could’ve gotten Markkanen extended on a fairly modest contract had they done it after the 2023 season, but it’s also possible Markkanen regresses some and then the Jazz are stuck with an average player on a suped-up contract. That would be a problem.
Now, there’s no reason to think Markkanen won’t have another great season, but it’s understandable why the Jazz held back on giving him a new deal after his first year in Utah. It’s likely if Markkanen puts up another 20+ seasons of great efficiency, that he’ll get his new deal after this offseason.
It’ll likely be for more money, but it’s better to sign him for a bit more when you have more confidence that the All-Star version is who he is.