clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Is it time for a full rebuild in Utah?

Time to bring #TankNote back?

2021 NBA Playoffs - Utah Jazz v LA Clippers Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

After another disappointing postseason showing, the Utah Jazz are at a crossroads. This season felt like the last chance for this team to overcome its playoff demons. When that didn’t happen, public opinion almost universally shifted to the idea that significant change is necessary.

While Utah has been known for continuity and stability, this time feels like it will be different. In a typical offseason, the messaging coming from the Utah Jazz is talking about internal improvement, chemistry, and continuity. This time, we hear significantly different quotes.

Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell were previously seen as untouchable, but those days are over. Change is needed, and it’s needed fast.

While almost everyone agrees that the Jazz need to make changes, there’s no consensus on what direction they should go. Some believe they should trade Gobert and build around Mitchell. Some say Mitchell should be traded and Gobert retained. Others wish for Quin Snyder to be replaced and the central core of the team to remain untouched. All of these options have the potential for success. The option I want to explore today is the more extreme option of blowing it all up and starting over—a complete rebuild.

Trade Value

If Utah decides to tear it down, they’ll need to know what kind of trade value their players have. Trade value is relative and hard to gauge. You can’t know what a team is willing to trade for a particular player until they offer it. The best we can do is look at comparable players traded to get an idea of what their value was at the time.

Rudy Gobert

Dallas Mavericks v Utah Jazz - Game Six Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

Pros: Rudy Gobert is a Hall of Fame player in his prime, with four more years left on his contract. He’s an incredibly reliable player that instantly raises a team’s performance. You know exactly what you’ll get from him, and that’s a lot of value.

Cons: Gobert is not versatile, and for some teams, his style just wouldn’t fit. While you know exactly what you’ll get with him, you also know exactly what you won’t get. He’s 29 years old and will be 33-34 by the end of his contract. While he hasn’t shown signs of declining yet, it should be expected within the next five years.

Comparable trades:

  • James Harden 2022: Harden and Paul Millsap for Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond, two first-round picks, and two second-round picks.
  • Domantas Sabonis 2022: Sabonis, Jeremy Lamb, Justin Holiday, and a second-round pick for Tyrese Haliburton, Buddy Hield, and Tristan Thompson.
  • Russell Westbrook 2021: Westbrook and two second-round picks for Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pop, Isaiah Todd, Montrezl Harrell, Aaron Holiday, and Spencer Dinwiddie.

I know these are three very different players, but I think these three trades show some exciting things for Gobert’s value. Harden was better than Gobert in his prime, but they’re both probably in the same range of top 10-20 players in the league at this point in his career. Both are players seen as one-dimensional and even reliant on a specific system. Even with his age, his drama in Houston, and his declined play in Brooklyn, Harden netted a considerable return. Star players are hard to come by, so they hold massive value when traded.

Sabonis is a younger star but not as good as these other names. He’s been a fringe All-Star for a few years but not approaching All-NBA caliber. Even so, Sacramento traded Tyrese Haliburton for him. Haliburton is a young and very valuable asset. His play so far in his young career has been incredibly promising. He is a perfect building block for a team looking to rebuild, and as such, he has massive value. If Sabonis can get you Haliburton, what can Gobert get you?

Russell Westbrook is the comparison I chose to show the lower end of Gobert’s value. If teams see him as past his prime, difficult to fit on-court, and overpaid, he’d be seen as a taller Russell Westbrook. The Lakers traded a massive package for Westbrook. Kuzma is a young and promising scorer. Harrell, Dinwiddie, and Caldwell-Pope are all solid contributors and starter-level players. This tells us that the low end of Gobert’s value could be something similar. A young piece, a few solid rotation pieces, and a draft pick.

Donovan Mitchell

Dallas Mavericks v Utah Jazz - Game Six Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

Pros: Mitchell is a 25-year-old All-Star. That alone makes him a scarce find on the trade market. He’s getting better each year and seems on pace for a Hall of Fame career. He’s also under contract for four more years. He’s marketable, popular, and will bring fans to watch your team. Essentially, he’s everything a team could want.

Cons: Mitchell is a poor defender. He’s a primary ball-handler and scorer, which could make fitting in with other stars more difficult.

Comparable trades:

  • Ben Simmons 2022: Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond, two first-round picks, and two second-round picks for James Harden and Paul Millsap.
  • Paul George 2019: George for Shai Gilgeous- Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, five first-round picks, two first-round pick swaps.
  • Anthony Davis 2019: Davis for Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, the draft rights to De’Andre Hunter, two first-round draft picks, the rights to a first-round pick swap, and cash.

It’s complicated to find good comparable trades for Donovan Mitchell. Perennial All-Stars just don’t get traded very often when they are young. Ben Simmons is the best comparison in player talent, age, and contract situation. However, Simmons’ value was hurt significantly by his situation of unknown injuries and mental health, drama with his team, and refusal to play. Even with all of that, he was traded, along with other pieces, for James Harden, an elite player.

Paul George was 28 at the time of this trade. While he was older than Donovan is now, he was also better. George was coming off a season where he came third in MVP voting. The Thunder had begun their rebuild, so all they wanted was youth and draft compensation. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was a high-value prospect, and he has already turned into a star. Those picks have proven valuable as well. If the Jazz are going for a complete rebuild, they might be looking for this type of trade.

Anthony Davis was only 25 when he was traded to the Lakers, the same age that Mitchell is now, but he was a far better player than Mitchell. Davis was considered a top ten player in the league, and as such, he came at a premium price. Mitchell might not have quite this price tag, but this is the precedent for young star players.

Mike Conley

Utah Jazz v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

Pros: Conley was still a top 30 player in the NBA last year, according to advanced metrics. He’s an elite shooter, a high-level ball-handler, a floor general, and a solid team defender.

Cons: Conley is 34 years old and has two more years on his contract. He struggled at the end of this season and the playoffs. Was it a slump, or was his age catching up to him?

Comparable trades:

Chris Paul 2020: Paul and Abdul Nader for Kelly Oubre Jr., Ricky Rubio, Ty Jerome, Jalen Lecque, and a first-round pick.

Jrue Holiday 2020: Holiday, Sam Merrill, and a second-round pick for Eric Bledsoe, two first-round picks, and two first-round pick swaps.

I know what you’re thinking. Chris Paul is better than Conley. That’s not a good comparison. Well, you’re right; Paul is better than Conley. Let’s not forget that in 2020, Paul was seen as an asset you wouldn’t want to trade for. He was already 35 years old and was soon due for a contract extension. Most teams were afraid to commit to Paul at the tail end of his career. This may be a pretty good comparison for Conley at 33. Conley could likely net a couple of solid rotation players and a first-round pick.

The Jrue Holiday trade was a surprising one. Everyone knew it would happen, but it was surprising just how much draft capital Milwaukee gave up to get him. He was younger than Conley, and the Bucks were desperate to improve their team, so this may have been more of an exception than the norm. I don’t expect a value of two firsts and two pick swaps for Conley, but I used this example to show that competitive teams will happily overpay for really good veteran players.

Other Players

Outside of Gobert, Mitchell, and Conley, Utah still has a lot of players that could be flipped for picks or young prospects. Bojan Bogdanovic and Jordan Clarkson should have real value on the market. If the Jazz decide to go all-in on a rebuild, they could gather a host of assets, similar to what was done in Oklahoma City.

Maybe the core of Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell can turn it around and find real playoff success, but if not, a full-scale rebuild should at least be an option that’s considered. I don’t know if I would personally choose this route, but it’s essential to realize that Utah has golden assets to trade if they’re willing to consider it. Trading Gobert and Mitchell could set Utah up with a wealth of picks and young talent. Adding Conley, Bogdanovic, Clarkson, and anybody else is just the icing on top.

If Justin Zanick and Danny Ainge believe they can build a true contender with their current pieces, then maybe that’s the route they should go. But if not, it may be time to start over.