Blame the Utah Jazz front office all you want, but the franchise hasn't had the best of luck in obtaining top-tier free agents in recent years. Most of their talent in fact has come via trades or drafting the right pieces. In what's deemed one of the weaker markets in the league, the Jazz will pay whatever cost to keep themselves in playoff conversations for as long as they need to.
That same ideology was present when the Jazz agreed to a five-year, $205 million deal with Rudy Gobert on Sunday, making him the highest-paid center in league history. The exact breakdown of Gobert's max extension isn't known as of yet, but it's safe to say that the 7-foot-1 center will earn an AAV around the $40 million mark.
On another team in a better market, it's safe to say that Gobert and his agent wouldn't of possessed the same leverage that was present in negotiations with the Jazz. The thought of a serious contender paying Gobert well above the $35 million mark would be an afterthought.
Still, the Jazz were put in a position where letting Gobert's talents walk away was too much of a risk, forcing them to overpay for him.
The best path for the Jazz is one that's possibly already been set into motion: Obtain high talent via drafting and “losing” trades and then convince that said talent to staying around long term on extensions.
If an example is needed, look no further than the Jazz's current roster. Gobert? Tucked away for another four years. Donovan Mitchell? Recently signed his rookie scale max extension. Throw in Mike Conley for argument's sake, who was snagged in 2019 trade that's now deemed a steal. Point being, no one is exactly lining up at the thought of playing in an entertain-less state such as Utah.
To paint the scene even better, opposing teams don't welcome the thought of playing games in Vivint Arena given the lack of to-dos in any brochure about Salt Lake City.
Even the Gordon Hayward-saga was one where the front office did their due diligence to keep the All-Star forward around for the remainder of his playing days. They were successful in the first go-round in 2014 after the Charlotte Hornets extended an offer sheet. By the time Hayward had began to reach his prime though, contenders such as the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics came calling with better promises.
Gobert is only 28-years old, which could suggest that he has a few more exceptional years left in him before he starts to decline in productivity. The age of traditional centers is coming to an end with most teams opting for slightly shorter and more agile bigs instead of Gobert. Still, the French center is as good as they come as a two-time Defensive Player of the Year.
The Jazz haven't been favored in recent playoff outings, but that isn't to suggest that their luck can't change in the years to come with Mitchell and Gobert now locked in for some additional years.
Paying Gobert the amount of money the front office resolved to wasn't out of simply playing “chicken” and losing; they didn't have much of an option in order to remain relevant. With locking up one of their most important players for the distant future, the Jazz will hope they can make numerous deep playoff runs in the coming years.