George Hill’s return to the Utah Jazz next season is no longer a formality.
It was assumed all along the two sides might reach an extension that prevents the underrated-turned-Jazz lifeline point gurad from hitting the open market this summer, but extension talks died ahead of Tuesday’s deadline, according to the Salt Lake Tribune‘s Tony Jones:
George Hill and the Utah Jazz will not reach a deal on a contract extension, clearing the way for Utah’s talented starting point guard to reach unrestricted free agency, The Salt Lake Tribune has learned.
According to league sources, Hill and the Jazz engaged in discussions concerning a contract renegotiation and extension in recent weeks, but both sides agreed to resume discussions in July, when the free agency period begins.
It’s good that both the Jazz and Hill remain interested in sticking together, and it’s not unusual for players to forego extensions in favor of free agency. Still, as ESPN.com’s Tim MacMahon noted, the Jazz have to fear whatever other offers Hill might receive over the summer:
Source: George Hill has been advised he can get much better deal this summer than what Jazz can offer now. @tribjazz reports talks dead.
— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) February 28, 2017
A max contract is not out of the question for Hill. He doesn’t hold the cachet of a superstar point guard, but he is a strong defender, knows how to drive, can drain threes off the catch and is an understated playmaker. If big-name floor generals like Jrue Holiday, Stephen Curry (duh), Chris Paul and Kyle Lowry all return to their respective teams, some aggressive suitor may be willing to throw max money Hill’s way.
And it’s then the Jazz will have a problem on their hands. Gordon Hayward (player option) is set to explore the open market and will command a max deal himself, while restricted free agent Joe Ingles will be due a sizable raise. Rodney Hood and Dante Exum are also extension-eligible.
Push comes to shove, the Jazz may decide to re-sign Shelvin Mack at a much lower rate, then roll with a combination of him, Exum and Raul Neto. Then again, Hill has been indispensable to the best version of Utah, so keeping him may be a top priority no matter the cost—and regardless of whether Hayward leaves.