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LeBron, Shaq and Durant highlight NBA free agency’s greatest moments
SportsPulse: NBA free agency is upon us and what better way to celebrate than to call in USA TODAY Sports’ Jeff Zillgitt to highlight some of the most memorable player movement in league history.
Boston and Utah made easy decisions.
They offered their young star players rookie max extensions. Jayson Tatum and Donovan Mitchell recognized the value of those offers.
Tatum and Mitchell reached five-year, $163 million extensions with their teams, and that amount could balloon to $195 million with incentives (making All-NBA or earning league MVP), two people with direct knowledge of the deals told USA TODAY Sports.
They requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly until the contracts are signed.
The extensions do not begin until the 2021-22 season.
For both the players and the teams, these deals are about security and the future. When you have All-Stars like Tatum, 22, and Mitchell, 24, who are only going to better over the next five seasons, you do what you must to keep them.
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That’s what Boston and Utah did. The deals ensure both teams — with their rosters constructed by strong front-office personnel — will remain competitive for the next several seasons.
Boston has reached the conference finals in three of the past four seasons (without an NBA Finals appearance in that span), and with Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker, it should continue to be in position to go deep in the playoffs.
Tatum averaged 23.4 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.4 steals and shot 45% from the field and 40.3% on 3-pointers in his third season in 2019-20. In 17 playoff games, he averaged a team-high 25.7 points and 10.0 rebounds. He is complete player capable of handling difficult defensive assignments.
He made his first All-Star team and made All-NBA (third team) for the first time in his career. His trajectory is trending toward MVP candidate.
Mitchell, a premier scorer whose overall game continues to improve, is also one of the league’s bright young stars and put on a spectacular performance inside the bubble. He averaged 24.0 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.3 assists last season while shooting 44.9% from the field and 36.6% on 3-pointers.
In the bubble during the playoffs, Mitchell had two 50-point games and scored at least 30 points in five of Utah’s seven first-round games. Mitchell faces an even more daunting task advancing deep into the playoffs in the incredibly competitive Western Conference.
Several teams were expected to take a run at Mitchell if he became a restricted free agent following the 2020-21 season. But this agreement puts that to rest and removes him from the potential free-agent market.
It’s also a great sign for the Jazz and their fans that incoming owner Ryan Smith wants to invest in the product on the court.
One day, Tatum and Mitchell will be the subjects of intense speculation about their next team when they can become unrestricted free agents in the summer of 2025.
But for now, they got paid and know the playoffs and beyond are real season after season.
Follow Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt.