- Associated Press - Friday, October 31, 2014

From his second season to his third in the NBA, Alec Burks doubled his scoring and assist averages and improved his field goal percentage as well.

It’s clear that the Utah Jazz expect the improvement from the 23-year-old to keep on coming.

Burks agreed to a new four-year, $42 million contract extension on Friday that could be worth $45 million after incentives, a person with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press. The person requested anonymity because an official announcement had not been made. The Jazz later confirmed the signing, but didn’t release the terms.

“We have great regard for Alec’s work ethic and dynamic athletic ability as well as his growth potential,” Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey said in a statement. “Alec is a young player with a unique skillset and true passion for basketball who consistently finds the gym and has displayed the characteristics and desire to continue to improve his game.”

Burks was the 12th overall pick in 2011 out of Colorado. After averaging just over 7.0 points and playing fewer than 18 minutes per game in his first two seasons, Burks made some big strides for the struggling Jazz last season. He averaged 14.0 points and 3.3 rebounds and is off to a nice start this season with 16.5 points on 50 percent shooting in the Jazz’s first two games.

Burks’ progress motivated the Jazz to get a deal done with another piece of a young core that has been assembled to help get the once perennial Western Conference playoff contenders back into the mix after finishing 25-57 last year.

“I feel very blessed and want to thank the Miller family and Jazz organization for their belief in me and my abilities, and to have made this type of commitment to me,” Burks said in a statement. “Jazz fans have been very supportive of me since day one, and I am very happy to be able to continue my playing career in Utah, which has become like a second home to my family and me.”

The two sides had until midnight to strike a deal or Burks would have become a restricted free agent next summer. The Jazz still would have had the right to match any offer he received on the open market, just like they did this summer when small forward Gordon Hayward signed an offer sheet with the Charlotte Hornets.

But having gone through the sometimes tricky restricted free agent process already with Hayward, the Jazz decided to do everything they could to avoid a return visit with Burks.

Exactly how Burks will fit in over the long term in a crowded Utah backcourt will be interesting to watch. His abilities as a scorer and potential to be an athletic defender are obvious, but the Jazz also have Trey Burke and Dante Exum - their last two first-round draft picks - there looking for big minutes.

Exum, the fifth overall pick this season out of Australia, can play both guard spots but is considered to be more of a long-term project. He’s averaging 14.5 minutes per game in the first two games of the season, while the more-seasoned Burks is getting 31.0 minutes per game and is tied with Derrick Favors for the team lead in scoring.

Burks is also shooting 57 percent from 3-point range in the first two games after shooting 35 percent in his first three seasons.

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Follow Jon Krawczynski on Twitter: https://twitter.com/APKrawczynski

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