FanPost

Mitchell, Gobert, Both, or Neither? Pros and Cons of Blowing It Up

Early apologies for the wall of text. I've been thinking about this and slowly writing it for a while, and it got really long.

Last season the Jazz entered the playoffs with the best record in the league, 3 all-stars on the roster, and a good chance of making it to the conference finals for the first time since 2007. Then the injuries hit and the Jazz collapsed against the Clippers (who had lost their own star to injury during the series). The start of this season was full of hope that the Jazz would continue their regular season success, but with a focus on health management. The thought was that the Jazz might lose a few more games, but go into the playoffs healthy and ready for an extended run. To say that this season was a disappointment is an understatement. The Jazz repeatedly watched late game double digit leads fall apart and result in losses. The mental and emotional resilence of the team evaporated, and instead of challenging for the conference finals, then team bowed out of the playoffs early.

All this brings up a huge question: where does the team go from here? It's very clear that the team isn't going to compete as constituted. Something has to change. Gobert and Mitchell are the two stars of the team, so every discussion of team building has to start with them. Do the Jazz blow up their core and trade one of them? Maybe they blow up the whole roster and trade both. Let's look at the different scenarios, what's possible, what's likely, and why each option should be considered.

Keep Both and Retool Around Them

I'm going to start with the most difficult scenario, which is keeping both Mitchell and Gobert and putting everyone else on the table. There are a few reasons this would be tough for the team to do.

  • There have been rumors for years that Mitchell and Gobert don't get along particularly well. For the most part, they're professionals and don't let personal drama impact their performance, but that doesn't mean it's an ideal situation for anyone.
  • The Jazz have very few assets to improve. Most of the roster has little trade value and the Jazz don't have many picks to attach to bad contracts.
  • The team is well above the salary cap and will likely only have the taxpayer mid-level exception to sign free agents.

Basically, the Jazz would be stuck with the same roster as this year, but may be able to swap out a few vet minimums. The team would enter the 2022-23 season with the same core of Gobert, Bogdanovic, O'Neale, Mitchell, and Conley with Clarkson and Gay off the bench. Alexander-Walker, and Butler would likely still be on the team, and the Jazz would probably look to keep House and Paschall on low money contracts.

Pros to this approach:

The Jazz starters have played amazing basketball. This group is one of the best in the league, with a net rating of around +9 (depending on your source). The offense is capable of absolutely slaughtering any defense and is one of the most efficient in league history. When things are going well, this group simply cannot be stopped.

Cons to this approach:

This team has had three full seasons to make a post-season run, and they failed each time.

The Jazz don't have the depth to handle extended absences. If any of the starters are injured, then offense is prone to collapse. Even if there aren't any injuries, the bench isn't good enough to maintain the leads that the starters build. The team is also seriously lacking on perimeter defense.

The other big issue is that this group completely falls apart in clutch situations. As the pressure increases, the offense doesn't maintain its discipline and the ball stops moving. On the other side of the floor, everyone without a DPoY on their resume loses all focus and lets the other team score with ease.

Options:

Let's look at some potential deals involving anyone other than Mitchell and Gobert. These are pure speculation, and I doubt many of them will really help, but they may be worth a shot.

Jazz-Clippers

Conley for Powell and Batum

Benefits for the Jazz:

Having Mitchell play point after moving Conley could alleviate some of his defensive issues, as he wouldn't be quite so undersized. Powell is a decent defender to pair, especially when playing alongside other good defenders, and he's averaged a blistering 40% from three over the last 4 seasons. At the same time, Batum would fit perfectly in the Joe Ingles sized hole off the bench.

Benefits for the Clippers:

With Kawhi Leonard sidelined due to injury all season, the burden of running the Clippers fell on Paul George, and while he had a great year, he too spent a lot of time off the court due to injury. The Clippers have those two under contract for 3 more years, so they're locked in to competing now or blowing it up. Conley is a big upgrade over Reggie Jackson at the point, or they could slide Reggie to the 2 if they want to go small. A lineup of that has all three of Conley, Leonard, and George has to be appealing.

Outcome:

This is likely a step back for the Jazz, but just a small one. It helps address the team's need for perimeter defense, while not completely blowing up the core. There's also a chance that the Jazz could get a heavily protected pick or a couple of second rounders, as the Clippers are getting the biggest upgrade.

Jazz-Rockets

O'Neale/Clarkson, filler, and a future 1st for Eric Gordon

Benefits for the Jazz:

If the Jazz are keeping Gobert and Mitchell, they need to find some way to improve their perimeter defense without sacrificing too much offense. Moving Clarkson or O'Neale for Eric Gordon could do that. If the Jazz move Clarkson, then Gordon gives them a good replacement who's a bit better on defense. If O'Neale is the one they move, then they try and slide House into the starting role and have a Gordon/Clarkson duo off the bench as a killer offensive combo.

Benefits for the Rockets:

The Rockets have entered a full blown rebuild, so they're going to be looking for assets more than players. O'Neale and Clarkson both have moveable contracts, so Houston could look to move them to a team looking for a specialist closer to the trade deadline. Even if future trades don't work out, the Rockets could take Gay, or even both of Clarkson and O'Neale in order to get a future pick in exchange for helping the Jazz shed some salary.

Outcome:

This is almost a salary dump for the Jazz, which is why they'd need to attach a 1st. Eric Gordon is no slouch, so the Jazz are getting something of value in return, but the real hope is that the Jazz improve by dropping some pieces that have caused problems on one side of the ball or the other.

Jazz-Pistons

Bogdanovic, Gay, Butler, Azubuike, and Alexander-Walker for Grant and Olynyk

Benefits for the Jazz:

Bogdanovic has been great for the Jazz, but if the team could swap him for Jerami Grant, they should, even if it's just a rental. Grant isn't quite the same level of shooter, but he can't be left alone, and he's a much better and more active defender. This move would give the Jazz a more versatile forward in the starting lineup while keeping the rest of the group intact.

Benefits for the Pistons:

Detroit has to blow things up and start over. There were rumors that they were looking to move Grant at the trade deadline, but since that didn't happen I expect them to try again this summer. The Pistons already have a lot of cap space and a good number of rookie contracts on the roster, so the Jazz may not have to send a pick (they probably would, though). What Detroit really gets out of this is some young players in Butler, Dok, and NAW, without sacrificing their ability to take bigger salary dumps at the trade deadline.

Outcome:

This is probably the most unrealistic trade on here. It would definitely signal that the Jazz are looking to make another playoff push, but it completely sacrifices the future of the team without bringing back any long-term options. There's also little to no incentive for Detroit to go along with this deal.

Summary:

This iteration of the Jazz has peaked and something has to give. Without the assets to make a big move, Keeping Rudy and Donovan together will just yield similar results to those we've seen the last three years.

Move Gobert:

So, if the Jazz can't keep their two stars together, which do they move? Let's start by looking at Gobert. The Stifle Tower is the best defensive big in the NBA, and has an argument for being one of the best defensive players in the history of the league. The problem is that he's also a throwback defensive center in a league that prizes offensive versatility.

Pros to this approach:

Quin Snyder has built his offense around the threat of a Gobert roll. Teams can not leave Gobert or they give up a dunk, and that leads to a lot of open threes. Forcing a change in style by moving Gobert would mean focusing the offense around Mitchell instead. Mitchell has already become a fantastic off-the-bounce shooter, and his offensive game continues to improve. A more perimeter oriented offense that includes more cutting instead of rolling could keep the Jazz a top-tier team on that side of the ball.

Another reason the Jazz look to move Gobert is age. Rudy's turning 30 this summer, while Mitchell is only 25. Don't get me wrong, Gobert's likely to continue playing at a really high level for at least 3-4 more years, but he's on the back end of his prime. Mitchell, on the other hand, is just barely entering his prime. Retooling around the young offensive star makes a lot of sense.

Cons to this approach:

Rudy Gobert is the best defensive player in the league and arguably the best defensive player of the last 20+ years. He single-handedly gives the team an above-average defense. The idea that the Jazz would trade a Hall of Fame level defender in favor of keeping an all-star level offensive player seems ludicrous on paper. As good as Mitchell is on offense, he will never, ever, be as impactful on that side of the ball as Rudy is on defense.

Another con that the Jazz will have to consider is return. If the Jazz do look at trading one of their stars they'd get more for Mitchell than for Gobert, even if Gobert is the more impactful player. If the Jazz look to build around Mitchell, it would mean reducing the roles of Conley and Bogdanovic as well, as those two are also well out of Mitchell's window.

Options:

So here I'm going to look at potential deals involving Gobert. I don't necessarily like any of these, but they are deals that would work and may make sense for both teams. Fair warning, though, the chance of the Jazz "winning" any trade involving Gobert is slim to none.

Jazz-Pacers

Gobert and Clarkson for Turner, McConnell and picks

Benefits for the Jazz:

Swapping Gobert for Turner would minimize the defensive impact on the Jazz. Turner is not the defender Gobert is, but he's about as close as the Jazz would be able to get. They'd still have rim protection, but Turner also adds a decent 3pt shot, and he's much closer to Donovan's age, so the two could work together for quite a while. McConnell is mostly salary filler, but he's also a really good perimeter defender and solid backup point guard. Health has been an issue for both of these players, but McConnell did play near the end of the season, and Turner may have been sitting out, in part, due to the Pacers vocal desire to trade him earlier this year. Since Turner will be on an expiring contract, the Jazz should be able to get 2 1st round picks out the Pacers (3 if they're really lucky).

Benefits for the Pacers:

The Pacers have really struggled the last couple of years, but they have good pieces. Adding the best defender in the game and a 6th man that stays healthy will immediately put them back into playoff contention. Their perimeter lineup of Brogdon, Hield, Haliburton, and Duarte is solid, and giving them one more offensive weapon in Clarkson as well as adding a huge roll threat by putting Gobert in the lineup should also give their offense a boost. Assuming they can keep TJ Warren on the roster, they'd be a very dangerous team to underestimate.

Outcome:

Overall, this would be the start of a soft rebuild for the Jazz, they'd probably miss the playoffs the first year, but could bounce back pretty quickly. Turner is a big question mark. If he gets healthy and gels with Donovan, then the Jazz do everything they can to sign him long-term. If he can't stay on the court due to injury or he and Mitchell don't get along, then at least the Jazz got some 1st round picks for a full rebuild.

Jazz-Bulls

Gobert and Gay for Vucevic and Ball (or Caruso/White and picks)

Benefits for the Jazz:

Vucevic is arguably a top 10 center in the league. He always puts up good numbers on offense and is a solid, but not great defender. The main thing he brings to the Jazz is versatility at the center spot. Vucevic can roll to the basket, post up, and shoot. He doesn't have the same offensive gravity as some other bigs, but he can't be ignored either. Vucevic's contract would be expiring, and he's turning 32, so he's not a long term piece, which is why the Bulls would also need to add Ball. Lonzo got a lot of undeserved hype when playing for the Lakers, but since leaving LA, he's quietly turned into a fantastic 3 & D player. He would be a huge boost to the anemic perimeter defense the Jazz currently have, and could play any of the backcourt positions. If Ball is off the table, then the Jazz could ask for Caruso or White plus a pick or two. White's a shooter who wilted near the end of the season, but has promise. Caruso is a defender who's offense is inconsistent at best.

The inclusion of Gay is mostly to ease the Jazz salary burden. He wouldn't be required to make the deal work as the Bulls are under the tax. The Bulls are getting the best player in the deal, and Vucevic is expiring, so they'd have to give up something extra, that's either going to be taking extra salary or giving up picks.

Benefits for the Bulls:

Gobert would be a huge get for the Bulls. They've been a bottom 10 defensive team all season, and their interior defense in particular is pretty bad. Despite the Bulls dealing with injuries all season and struggling on defense, they snagged the 6th seed and put up a fight against the reigning champions. Going all in on Gobert would immediately make them a top 10 defensive team to go along with their solid offense. It's a win-now move for the Bulls, and should easily put them as a top 4 team in the east, even if they lose Ball in the deal.

Outcome:

This would be a move that tries to keep the Jazz as competitive as possible. The Jazz would be looking to stay in the playoff race, but it would take a pretty big scheme adjustment. Having an offensive threat like Vucevic at center could make the Jazz even more potent on that end (and probably more consistent as well). The defense would slip significantly, but having an excellent perimeter defender like Ball or Caruso would help. I also think that not having Gobert would push the whole team (and Mitchell in particular) to shift their mentality on defense as they would no longer have the Gobert safety net.

Jazz-Spurs

Gobert and O'Neale for Poeltl, McDermott, Vassell, and Bates-Diop

Benefits for the Jazz:

If the Jazz go this route, they'd ask first for Keldon Johnson instead of Vassell, but I don't think the Spurs give him up. Poeltl was one of the better rim protectors in the league this season, so the Jazz wouldn't lose too much of their interior defense, and Vassell had a really strong sophomore season where he improved pretty much across the board. McDermott and Bates-Diop are mostly filler, but they aren't scrubs.

The Jazz get significantly younger, don't take a giant step back, but have a lot of room to grow. If the team's really lucky, they may be able to wrangle a future first or two from the Spurs as well.

Benefits for the Spurs:

This move would put the Spurs right back in the playoff picture. Gobert is an upgrade over Poeltl, and would immediately improve their average defense. Having Gobert's roll gravity would also open up the perimeter for Murray, Johnson, and Walker. The Spurs also really need a boost to their 3-pt percentage, and adding O'Neale would give them that. The other benefit is clearing up a bit of a logjam on the wings. Johnson, Vassell, Richardson, Walker, and rookie Josh Primo were all averaging about 20 or more minutes per game last season.

Outcome:

This is probably as close to a full rebuild as the Jazz are likely to get while keeping Mitchell. This would be a tough trade to pull off. Gobert is brilliant, and he's the best at what he does, but Poeltl has been playing like Gobert-lite, so while swapping those two is definitely an upgrade for the Spurs, it's not a huge need, and Gobert may be too old for the rest of their core. That said, San Antonio is used to winning, so bouncing right back into the playoffs with a young core and the veteran Gobert could be extremely appealing.

Summary:

Moving Gobert almost certainly indicates that the Jazz want to rebuild, and while keeping Mitchell gives them a good head start, the Jazz would still need to take a step back. This could also be just the first of several moves, as the most of the current starters wouldn't line up with Mitchell's timeline.

Move Mitchell:

Now we turn to Mitchell. Donovan is an offensive stud who has become one of the better scorers in the league and has developed a reputation for having a great work ethic, strong community ties, and a very cerebral approach to developing his game. The problem is that he's also been a defensive liability, and the flashes he had in previous seasons of being a two-way guard are quickly evaporating.

Pros to this approach:

Keeping Gobert likely means the Jazz want to win now, so the Jazz keep their most potent defensive weapon. The Jazz have built their entire offense around the threat of Gobert rolling to the basket, and as good as Mitchell is, it's a lot easier to replace scoring than it is to replace defense. If the Jazz want to avoid a full rebuild, that's more likely by moving Mitchell than by moving Gobert. Not only that, but Gobert, Conley, and Bogdanovic are all starters, older, and under contract for another year or two. It's a lot easier to retool around that older core than trying to build a new one around Mitchell (also, an older core makes a Joe Ingles return more likely).

Mitchell will also have a lot more value on the trade market. The number of teams that aren't looking to add a young, charismatic, all-star guard is probably 2 (Phoenix and Golden State). In this case, the Jazz could look to bring back an older but still in his prime all-star from a team starting to rebuild. Conversely, if the Jazz do want to look more towards the future, trading a player of Mitchell's caliber generally brings back at least one starter, one solid role-player, and two or more picks and/or good prospects.

Cons to this approach:

The Jazz lose their primary scorer and don't have anyone capable of shouldering that load already on the roster. While Snyder's offense has been a regular season juggernaut, having a player capable of scoring in isolation has always been a necessity in the playoffs, and (Dallas series aside), Mitchell has regularly been one of the best post-season scorers in the league.

The effect that moving Mitchell would have on the fan base also needs to be addressed. Mitchell has been extremely involved in the community and is the young, charismatic star the state has been wanting for years. Moving the younger Mitchell in favor of the older players could make a lot of fans extremely angry, especially those who pay attention to the national narratives regarding Gobert.

Options:

Jazz-Wizards

Mitchell and Gay for Beal and a future pick

Benefits for the Jazz:

Bradley Beal is a 3x all-star and was 3rd team all-NBA in 2021. He's a dynamic scorer and has recently increased his efforts on the defensive end. Not only that, but he's only 28, so he's still right in his prime. He did have a wrist injury this season which likely impacted his shooting, but assuming he bounces back to form, he pretty much replaces everything that Mitchell gives the team, while adding experience.

Beal is in the last year of his contract (and he has a player option, so he'd have to agree to come to Utah), which could allow the Jazz to dump Gay on the Wizards, though the deal still works without him. The Jazz could potentially get a pick a few years down the road as well, especially given that Mitchell's on a long-term contract.

Benefits for the Wizards:

The Wizards have been retooling around Beal for years, but have never gotten it right. They recently acquired Porzingas and Kuzma and they have a few young prospects that could be intriguing. Getting a few years younger by swapping Beal for Mitchell could give the team a much needed boost. Getting an up-and-coming star to replace the established Beal would be a huge win for the Wizards.

Outcome:

This may be the best possible option for the Jazz if they want to keep pushing for a title now. Beal gives them an established star who is experienced in both the regular season and the playoffs. Gobert, Conly, and Bogdanovic would easily be the best teammates Beal has ever had. Perimeter defense could still be an issue, but Beal has been working hard on that side of the court, and the change in scenery could motivate him to step it up a little more.

Jazz-Celtics

Mitchell and a pick for Smart and White

or

Mitchell for Brown

Benefits for the Jazz:

Perimeter defense is what killed the Jazz this season, so what better way to address that than getting the reigning DPoY? Having Smart and Gobert on the same team would just be unfair to other teams. Adding another well-rounded guard in Derrick White not only helps the salaries line up, but gives the Jazz some backcourt insurance in case of injuries.

Another option may be a straight-up swap of Mitchell for Brown. The current Jazz backcourt is really small, so getting the 6'6 Brown in place of the 6'1 Mitchell would give the Jazz some much needed length without sacrificing much offense. Brown doesn't have quite the offensive punch that Mitchell does, but he's close, and he makes up for it on the other side of the court.

Benefits for the Celtics:

The Celtics are one of the most well-rounded teams in the league right now, so they won't make any big moves lightly. Getting an all-star guard that's the same age as their core and on a long-term contract will definitely get their attention. If the Celtics have any big weakness at the moment, it's scoring from the point guard position. Marcus Smart is capable as a scorer, but his focus is definitely on the other end of the court. Swapping Smart for Mitchell would quickly give Boston the most potent backcourt in the NBA. Having Mitchell, Brown, and Tatum on the floor at the same time is possibly even more terrifying than Golden State's Curry, Thompson, and Poole/Wiggins.

The Mitchell for Brown swap would likely be more of a lateral move for the Celtics, so they may also look for a pick in this case. Stylistically, Mitchell's offensive gravity would allow Tatum and Smart a bit more freedom than Brown currently gives them (not by much, but a bit).

Outcome:

Given the Celtics record last year and their playoff success, I don't expect them to make this big of a move. The Jazz may have to seriously sweeten the pot in order to get the Celtics to talk, as these moves definitely favor Utah over Boston. Danny Ainge would be key to making this deal given his ties to both teams.

Jazz-Knicks

Mitchell and filler for Fournier, Quickley, Reddish, filler, and picks

Benefits for the Jazz:

The Knicks have been pining for Mitchell for a long time, which means the Jazz could potentially take them for all they're worth. This isn't a great return for Mitchell, but it's good enough that the Jazz would still be a playoff team. The real benefit here is that the Jazz could start a soft rebuild while staying competitive. Fournier keeps the Jazz a good team, but Quickley and Reddish give them some solid young players that could grow alongside Butler and Alexander-Walker. The Jazz could also use this trade to either re-stock on picks or dump salary, maybe both.

Benefits for the Knicks:

Mitchell grew up in New York, so getting him back in the state would be a great marketing win for the Knicks. It also gives them a young star to pair with RJ Barrett and Obi Toppin. While I don't trust the Knicks front office to build a successful roster around those three, that's a good solid core to work from.

Outcome:

This is the type of trade that would be considered a huge loss for the Jazz at first, but could turn around to be a big win for the team in the future. The Jazz would stay just competitive enough to stay out of the lottery, but just bad enough to not be a real threat in the playoffs. That wouldn't be fun for the players or fans. However, it would also give the Jazz some huge opportunities in future drafts and trades.

Summary:

Moving Mitchell shows that the Jazz trust Gobert to keep them competitive while they find ways to fix their weaknesses. It also shows that they don't believe they can do that without rebuilding their asset base. I don't see the Jazz moving Mitchell without also moving some other pieces, but I doubt that Conley or Bogdanovic would be going anywhere.

Blow It Up (Move Both Mitchell and Gobert):

Lastly we look at the most extreme option. Everybody's on the table, including both stars. This would mean doing a complete multi-year rebuild with the intent of fully bottoming out this upcoming season, and increasing assets for a few years after that.

Pros to this approach:

Acceptance that the team can't compete with the current roster and trying again a few years down the road can be very liberating. The league is so good right now that it takes the right combination of special players to compete for a title. If Gobert and Mitchell aren't that, then the team needs to look forward, and there are some intriguing prospects that will be entering the league over the next few years.

Cons to this approach:

Tanking can be fun for the first year or two, but any longer than that and fans and players get restless. There's also the risk of starting a rebuild that turns into just being a terrible team. It's been a really long time since the Jazz have gone through an extensive rebuild. The last time the Jazz had consecutive top 10 draft picks was 40 years ago. (Hayward and Kanter were top 10 picks in consecutive years, but those picks were both obtained through trades, not due to poor record)

Option:

5-team Blockbuster:Jazz-Hornets-Mavericks-Lakers-Grizzlies

Jazz get: Westbrook, Chriss, Bertans, Horton-Tucker, future 1sts

Hornets get: Mitchell, Aldama, Marjanovic

Lakers get: Conley, Hayward, Powell, future 2nd

Mavericks get: Gobert

Grizzlies get: Bogdanovic, future 2nd

Benefits for the Jazz:

In total the Jazz could get 4 or 5 future picks out of this, while also getting out from under the luxury tax. Each of the teams would have to send the Jazz at least one 1st, and Dallas would likely need to send two. The Jazz completely re-stock their draft assets, and take on some of the worst contracts from every team. They would project to be a lottery team for at least two or three years, but every bad contract would be off the books by the time they're ready to be competitive again

Benefits for the Hornets:

Replacing Hayward's anchor of a contract with young all-star Donovan Mitchell is an immediate win for Charlotte. They have to give up a pick or two, but they have a great young core of Ball, Mitchell, and Bridges that can grow together for at least 3 seasons.

Benefits for the Lakers:

Fans of the Lakers will think they won this trade, and they will get better, but I don't see this move putting them back into title contention. Replacing Westbrook with Conley is a big upgrade and will improve their spacing. Powell is a decent center that will allow Davis to continue to play PF, and Hayward is another All-Star they can claim who will be a solid secondary playmaker.

Benefits for the Mavericks:

If Dallas has a glaring weakness, it's the lack of an interior presence who can grab boards and deter shots. Enter one Rudy Gobert. If Dallas can get him while only giving up role players, deep bench guys, and picks, they do it without hesitation. Dallas is the clear winner of this trade, and would be a title contending team in the west for at least 3 years.

Benefits for the Grizzlies:

Memphis is a fantastic young team that doesn't have a lot of needs right now, but they could use some better shooting from their bigs. Enter Bojan Bogdanovic. He's a great shooter, great teammate, and could either start or come off the bench without disrupting the chemistry. He'll also be in the last year of his contract, so he won't interfere with any extensions the Grizzlies have coming up. That said, if Memphis isn't interested, this trade is still possible without their involvement.

Outcome:

I don't really take this trade seriously, it was mostly just to see how many Jazz players I could dump in a single trade. Getting all these teams to sign off on the trade would be a tough ask, and negotiating all the picks would be a nightmare, but I think something like this could be possible. Getting Westbrook on the Jazz would be the hardest thing. He really doesn't have a good history with Utah, so he could be a buyout candidate (I doubt he straight-up declines his player option). I could see the Jazz also looking for deals to move O'Neale and Clarkson, but those may be deadline trades to bolster contenders and help the Jazz tank.

Summary:

A true fire sale for the Jazz isn't out of the question, but doing it all at once in a single trade is pretty laughable. I'd expect the Jazz to do some combination of the previous trades before looking to make a move like this sprawling mess.

All comments are the opinion of the commenter and not necessarily that of SLC Dunk or SB Nation.