SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz are keeping their sixth man — and bringing back an old friend.
In the opening hours of free agency, the Jazz have agreed to deals with Jordan Clarkson and one-time Jazz big man Derrick Favors
Favors and the Jazz have agreed to a three-year deal worth nearly $30 million, KSL.com confirmed. Tony Jones of The Athletic was the first to report the deal. Clarkson agreed to a new four-year deal worth $52 million, according to a report from ESPN. The final season of both deals are player options.
Favors returns to the team he spent part of nine seasons with looking to shore up a defense that slipped after he was traded to New Orleans in 2019. Favors' departure made it possible for the Jazz to acquire sharpshooting forward Bojan Bogdanovic. While that move proved successful on the offensive end, the Jazz saw what had been a top three defense fall take a nose dive — especially when Ed Davis and Tony Bradley were on the court.
If anything, Favors' departure showed that not any old big could be placed into the Jazz scheme and be effective. The right type of center is needed.
"The goal is to be able to play 48 minutes, both on the defensive and offensive side the way we want to play. That is the goal," assistant general manager David Morway said earlier this week.
The Jazz drafted a player, Udoka Azubuike, they believe will have the type of impact Favors does on the defensive end. But why not just get the original thing? The Jazz traded Davis and Bradley away in salary-dumping moves to make room to bring in Favors and re-sign Clarkson without hitting the hard cap of $138.9 million.
Favors, who came to Utah in 2011 as part of the Deron Williams trade, was widely popular both among the fan base and in the locker room. After news broke that Favors was returning, Joe Ingles posted a clip on Twitter of him celebrating a Favors' dunk that he had set up.
And if there's someone that should be really excited about Favors' return, it's Ingles. Those two combined to form one of the best pick-and-roll partnerships in the league during Favors' first stint with the Jazz — and there's no reason to believe that chemistry won't still be there.
That should give the second unit an offensive boost — and they'll have some help with Clarkson coming back as well.
Clarkson was considered a major priority in free agency after they traded Dante Exum and two second-round picks for him last December to help a floundering bench unit that was among the worst in the league. Clarkson almost single-handedly changed that. After arriving in Utah, Clarkson averaged 15.6 points and shot 54% from the field, providing a spark off the bench the Jazz sorely needed.
With the Jazz over the cap, if they were unable to come to an agreement with Clarkson they wouldn't have had many resources to replace his production. The Jazz owned his Bird Rights and therefore could exceed the salary cap to retain him,
Clarkson, 28, has a longtime fan in Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder. In the summer of 2019, Snyder mentioned Clarkson to Jazz management as a potential Utah target — something that seemed prophetic after how well he played for the Jazz. That play earned the shooting guard, who came to the Jazz with a reputation as a selfish gunner, near-constant praise from Snyder.
"You see a passion when he plays, and you see that even more when it's up close and you get a chance to look in his eyes, and you see how he comes in the game, how he comes out of the game, and just how he competes," Snyder said in March. "I didn't have any preconceptions about that, but it's been fun to see him play that way."
That support helped Clarkson get comfortable quickly in Utah — and clearly made him want to stick around for the long haul.
"Him having my back has meant the world to me," Clarkson said in August. "Makes me want to go out and just run through a wall for him."
He'll have a few more years to do just that.
The acquisitions could put an end to the Jazz's free-agent additions. The two new deals are projected to push the Jazz salary commitments past the luxury tax line of $132.627 million, so using the biannual exception may prove to be difficult.
The rest of the roster will likely be filled out by guaranteeing the contracts to players from last year's roster (Georges Niang, Juwan Morgan, Miye Oni, Rayjon Tucker, Nigel Williams-Goss, and two-way player Jarrell Brantley) and the two draft picks from Wednesday. Udoka Azubuike and Elijah Hughes. The Jazz could also sign players to minimum contracts.
With the roster mostly complete, the Jazz will now turn their attention to completing extensions for All-Stars Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert. Mitchell's is widely expected to be completed soon — and look something similar to the five-year max extension worth at least $163 million that Sacramento guard De'Aaron Fox signed fined.
Gobert's meanwhile could be more complicated. Due to Gobert being a two-time Defensive Player of the Year and an All-NBA Third Team honoree, he's eligible for a supermax extension, which would allow him to earn up to 35% of the salary cap. The Jazz highly value Gobert, but may be reluctant to give him that type of contract.