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Jaren and Ja Mahomes: Are Morant and Jackson Jr. worth a decade deal?

Do the Grizzlies have their own Patrick Mahomes in Ja Morant or Jaren Jackson Jr.?

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Los Angeles Lakers v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Earlier this week Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes set the sports world on fire after agreeing to a 10-year $450 million extension that could eventually be worth over $500 million. It became the largest contract in sports history, surpassing Mike Trout and multiple other MLB contracts that have been given out over the years.

The NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement prohibits teams from signing players to anything close to the contract Pat Mahomes got, but as we kill time before the Grizzlies season resumes later this month it got me thinking: Do the Grizzlies have anyone on their roster worthy of a 10-year contract?

In short, Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. are the only options.

Signing an NBA player to a 10-year contract isn’t as crazy as it sounds. Most first round picks that actually pan out are tied to the teams that drafted them for the first 8 or 9 seasons of their career. Typically they’ll sign a 4-year contract after being drafted, and then be eligible for a 5-year max contract in restricted free agency once their rookie deal expires. So barring a surprising trade request or career altering injury (knocks on all the wood) Jaren Jackson Jr and Ja Morant will likely be with the Grizzlies through at least 2027 and 2028, respectively.

In this scenario, it would be an easy “hell yes” if you asked any Grizz fan if they wanted Morant and JJJ signed for 9 years. However, the way it’s laid out now is quite team friendly. Teams have the option to cut bait after just 2 years with a top draft pick should they not pan out thanks to team options as soon as after Year 2. So to make things trickier, I’ll pose a better question: would either Ja Morant or Jaren Jackson Jr. be worthy of a 10-year guaranteed contract extension once their rookie deals are up?

Jaren Jackson Jr.

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

In this hypothetical, Jaren Jackson Jr. would be eligible for a 10-year contract extension in 2022 when he’s a restricted free agent. Projecting the salary cap for that offseason isn’t easy, so to make things simpler let’s pretend that the cap situation is similar to what it was last season where Jamal Murray signed a 5-year max contract worth $170 million. Doubling that would make Jaren Jackson Jr’s 10-year extension worth $340 million. Jaren would be locked in with the Grizzlies until he’s 33 years old.

The pros to locking Jaren up through 2032 is that the Grizzlies would have a 3-point marksman at the 4 or 5 in the ever growing pace and space era that is today’s NBA. With his defensive versatility and plenty of time to grow as an offensive player in the post, Jaren just makes sense as a perfect fit for the direction the NBA is headed.

The cons to locking Jaren up through 2032 starts with his injury history. JJJ played in just 58 games his rookie season due to a quad injury (though he likely could have come back at the tail end of the season should the games have meant something). JJJ also missed the teams last 9 games prior to the suspension of the season due to a knee injury. His injury history isn’t necessarily lengthy, but it’s a valid concern when a 7’0” player is having lower body injuries prior to turning 21.

If you thought watching Chandler Parsons sit on the sidelines in his million dollar suits for the majority of his 3-year tenure with the Grizzlies, just imagine how bad it could be watching JJJ on the bench for much longer. Combine that with his real rebounding issues and perceived defensive regression (he’s only 20 so huge grain of salt) and this isn’t the home run some may think it is.

Ja Morant

NBA: Orlando Magic at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

In this hypothetical, Ja would be eligible for the same 10-year $340 million extension we gave Jaren in 2023. This would lock in Ja until 2033 when he would be 34 years old.

The pros to locking in Ja through 2033 are obvious. He’s shined as a rookie this past season and has already become the face of the franchise. Ja legitimately has the chance to be one of the top 5-10 players in the NBA when he’s in his prime. Who wouldn’t want to lock that up?

The cons to locking Ja up could be disastrous. His game relies heavily on his athleticism and speed, something that figures to start fading fast once Ja hits 30. Throw in any potential knee injury (thinking Derrick Rose in Chicago) and a 10-year extension could look ugly pretty quickly for a smaller point guard.

Conclusion

NBA: Utah Jazz at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Overall, despite some valid concerns, the Grizzlies would definitely be wise to sign both Ja and Jaren to 10-year extensions should that even be an option in the CBA. Both players are exciting fan favorites, and considering the Grizzlies are not likely to recruit anybody better than Ja or Jaren (at least without their help) it’s best to lock in to the talent you have. Jaren’s shooting ability and Ja’s immense room for growth make it worthwhile, even if their athleticism were to fade.

There are a handful of variables that would certainly make the contracts even trickier. What if you throw in a no-trade clause (like Mahomes) or throw in a trade-kicker (like John Wall)? NBA contracts are always mostly guaranteed, but do you still do a 10-year extension with opt out options for either player or team? There are certainly a ton of different ways to look at it, but ultimately it would be a great thing for the Grizzlies should both Ja and Jaren still be here in the early 2030’s, regardless of how it happens.

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