The Utah Jazz have another piece of the puzzle firmly in place. According to Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, the team has reached a four-year, $42 million contract extension with starting shooting guard Alec Burks.
Utah Jazz guard Alec Burks has reached an agreement on a four-year, $42 million contract extension, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Reachable incentive clauses could push Burks’ deal to $45 million, sources said.
The 2011 first-round pick from Colorado enjoyed a breakout campaign in 2013-2014, establishing career-highs with 14.0 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game while shooting a personal best of 45.7 percent from the field. Capitalization on his long-held promise hasn’t only led to Burks entrenching himself as a starter this season, but also as a fixture of Utah’s future. He’s the third young member of the Jazz to be locked-up long-term in the past year, joining Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors as franchise stalwarts.
A salary of $10 million-plus seems a lot for a player of Burks’ largely unknown, mostly unproven stature on the surface, but that take belies crucial context. A rising salary cap due to the league’s new television contract makes this deal much more financially palatable for Utah than it appears at first glance, and basketball’s dearth of quality young wings allowed the possibility of a team overpaying for Burks in restricted free agency this summer.
Remember, Hayward and Chandler Parsons weren’t much more established than Burks at this time last year but were awarded max-level deals in June. And while a potentially comparable RFA deal for the athletic 23 year-old necessitates a lot of projection, it’s not unreasonable to think that he could have received $12 million annually or more come the offseason – at the least.
Burks is clearly improving, and possesses the kind of natural ballhandling ability so crucial for perimeter players to thrive in today’s NBA. He added pace and nuance to off-bounce penetrating last season, too, development that helped account for his attacking prowess. Only 16 players in the league totaled more points on drives than Burks in 2013-2014, and that number stands to improve as he becomes a more comfortable finisher at the rim. It’s simply hard for athletes of such caliber to shoot as poorly in-close as he did last season, and plays like these from the preseason suggest he won’t again:
Shooting is what holds Burks back offensively, but he began to correct that weakness a year ago. The 6-6 guard shot a league-average mark from beyond the arc while taking 3.5 long-range tries per game – almost double his previous career high. Burks has been a dreadful pull-up shooter in the NBA to this point, but his wiggle and balance suggest strides in that regard, too. Small sample size alert: Through Utah’s first two games of 2014-2015, Burks has connected on six of 11 off-dribble jumpers.
On the other end, Burks projects as above-average at worst. He’s constantly engaged and very active, and long arms and quick feet help him cut-off penetrators. But Burks can get bullied in the post, isn’t quite bulky enough to defend great small forwards, and is prone to gambles that sacrifice integrity of team defense. The Jazz will be better defensively under detail-oriented Quin Snyder, though, so Burks’ common tendency of young players to miss rotations after multiple ball-swings should be somewhat curbed.
Is $42 million a bit pricey for Burks at the moment? Sure. A salary in $8-$9 million range makes more sense to us, but the benefit of keeping him from restricted free agency might be worth that extra $1.25-$2.5 million per season. Hell, Jodie Meeks just got a three-year, $18 million deal – quality shooting guards are tough to come by. Utah is hardly cash-strapped, either; they’ll have ample space to chase quality free agents and deal with Enes Kanter’s own RFA this summer.
And if Burks continues progressing as a shooter, becomes more comfortable at the rim, and makes good on bits of his playmaking potential, this extension could be considered team-friendly in a year or two as the salary cap rises. That’s a lot of qualifiers, but Burks is a late-bloomer and the Jazz are clearly on the upswing with Snyder steering the ship.
From many perspectives, locking-in Burks now with a mild overpay is a very prudent decision by Utah.
What do you think?
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