The 2017 NBA Draft was absolutely stacked, and we’re seeing the actual extent of that as these players become eligible for extensions on their rookie scale contracts.
Three teams already reportedly have given their first-round picks a max extension, as Jayson Tatum, Donovan Mitchell and De’Aaron Fox have secured the bag.
With with deals for players like Bam Adebayo of the Miami Heat and Brandon Ingram of the New Orleans Pelicans potentially still left to be worked out, don’t expect those three to be the last.
Tatum, Mitchell and Fox all signed five-year deals that will guarantee them $163 million, but clauses could see them make up to the $195.6 million supermax. So in terms of the money the Boston Celtics, Utah Jazz and Sacramento Kings just dished out to their 2017 draftees, which team made the best investment?
Jayson Tatum, Celtics (No. 3 overall pick)
Tatum also has separated himself from the rest of his class by receiving All-NBA honors (Third Team) last year, along with making the All-Star team for the first time. For that reason, he already is eligible for a supermax by virtue of the Rose Rule, and he’s the most realistic candidate to make just under 200 million.
The 22-year old wing made a huge jump in his game during the 2019-20 season and forced himself into the superstar conversation. He averaged 23.4 points, seven rebounds, three assists and 1.4 steals during the 2019-20 campaign, leading the Celtics to an Eastern Conference playoffs run. His return-on-investment for the final year of his extension is contingent on a player option Tatum managed to include in his deal, but he’s far-and-wide the best player drafted in 2017.
Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz (No. 13 overall pick)
Like Tatum, Mitchell also made his first All-Star team and managed to work in a player option on the fifth year. The rarity of this is telling in how the two players already are regarded.
In the NBA bubble, the shooting guard demanded national attention as he became one of the only players to drop 50 or more points twice during the same playoff series along with Allen Iverson and Michael Jordan. In the 2019-20 season, he averaged 24 points, 4.3 assists, 4.4 rebounds and one steal helping the Jazz earn a five-seed in the NBA playoffs, though they lost in the first round.
De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento Kings (No. 5 overall pick)
Fox was the only player of these three to not make his first All-Star team this past year, though he certainly played at that level all last season. But if he makes that jump next year, it’s definitely plausible he qualifies for a supermax. And being that he’s under team control for all five years of this deal, this absolutely was a great move for a small market team like the Kings who now have a better chance at sustainable success building around him.
In the 2019-20 season, he averaged 21.2 points, 6.8 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 1.5 steals. The franchise guard led the way for the Kings as they received an invitation to the NBA bubble in Orlando but were sent home.
We’re a little bit biased here, of course, but when a player like Tatum is involved, there is no amount of money that would make him a bad investment if a team is looking to win an NBA title. Especially when fellow star wing Jaylen Brown is locked up along side him for the foreseeable future.
Fox is one of the most athletic point guards in the league, making him a solid two-way contributor, but he isn’t quite there yet from beyond the 3-point arc. Mitchell already is older than Tatum and Mitchell, despite being drafted in the same year, but also has a player option in the final year of the deal. But ultimately, neither can touch the playoff experience Tatum has, and his ceiling seems so much higher as we now see him making big progress as a passer.
Boston’s window is upon us, so the Celtics have the best shot at not just winning now, but trying to run it back a few times, comparatively speaking. We don’t see a scenario where this ever will be considered a bad investment as long as Tatum remains healthy and continues on his projections.