Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Donovan Mitchell: His potential trade destinations

The NBA world felt shockwaves when the Jazz sent Rudy Gobert to Minnesota in a blockbuster trade for a historic return. When the Jazz got eliminated from the playoffs in April, speculation began on whether the Jazz would break up their All-Star duo and enter a rebuild. In our offseason preview for the Jazz, we concluded that they were in good hands for a rebuild under newly hired Danny Ainge because of his history of extracting optimal value in trades.

The former Boston Celtics executive managed to outdo his previous haul from the 2013 trade with the Brooklyn Nets by not only getting three unprotected first-round picks again (2023, 2025, 2027), but also an additional Top 5 protected first in 2029. If you include this year’s 22nd overall pick, Walker Kessler, the Jazz got five first-round picks for Gobert, all without taking on any long-term money. They also traded Royce O’Neale to the Nets for a first-round pick on the eve of free agency.

Now the big question is, what happens next? And what that really is asking is if the Jazz will also trade Donovan Mitchell now that the roster has taken a major competitive hit in the short term. As hard as it is to move an all-time generational defender, who by all accounts was fully bought-in to the organization and the city of Utah, the return they got was too good to pass.

Where the Jazz stand now

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The Jazz likely were at the end of the road with this core with little to no flexibility to reshape the roster. The recent maximum extensions for Gobert and Mitchell, which kicked in last season, immediately accelerated their timeline. They established the core around the two All-Stars in the 2019 offseason when they used cap space to sign Bojan Bogdanovic and traded for Mike Conley.

From then on, they were capped out and relied on trades and exceptions to add talent. Eventually, they had to pay all their core players and the money added up fast. While the high luxury tax payments weren’t necessarily going to be an issue going forward, it was the lack of tradeable assets that pushed their window closer to the end.

Throughout last season, they were reportedly interested in pursuing a defensive-minded forward. One such player available was Jerami Grant, who was ultimately dealt to the Portland Trail Blazers for one future first-round pick. The Jazz were still able to trade enough first-round picks to make a stronger offer at the time for such a player-type. However, such a deal would’ve emptied their already low amount of tradeable assets. They already owe a 2024 first-round pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder that is mostly lottery protected through 2026.

In the end, the Jazz felt that they were more likely to get come into contention through a retool/rebuild than maintaining the status quo. In less than 24 hours, they went from being one of the most constrained teams from a salary cap perspective to one of the most flexible going forward. They are in a position to generate $40M+ in 2023 cap space, but that could change if they expand this trade, such as one that involves sending Kevin Durant to Phoenix, for example.

The five first-round picks they added also make them one of the most asset-rich teams in the league. If the Jazz go all-in on a rebuild, there’s a good chance they make selections with some of the upcoming ones. If at any point they want to accelerate such a rebuild, they’d also have that option.

Donovan Mitchell’s future

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It’s possible more trades continue around their other role players. According to Adrian Wojnarowski, the Jazz plan on retooling the roster around Mitchell, suggesting he is off the table for now. Tony Jones of the Athletic confirmed those feelings and added that the Jazz are active on the trade market, likely in deals involving their other role players.

Talks would likely start with their glut of guards, including Mike Conley, Jordan Clarksonand Nickeil Alexander Walker. They could also discuss trades for newly acquired Malik Beasley, Patrick Beverlyand Leandro Bolmaro. It’s possible the Jazz could extract a couple more first-round picks for these players and later convert them into better veteran pieces around Mitchell.

However, the door may not be completely closed on a Mitchell trade. According to Andy Larsen of the Salt Lake Tribune, the Jazz could be keeping their options open, which could include trading Mitchell for a massive haul. After setting the market at four unprotected first-round picks for Gobert, who is older and on a bigger contract, Utah will likely command at least a similar package to consider moving Mitchell.

There are few teams that have at least four tradeable first-round picks, and even fewer in that group that are in a position to accelerate their rebuild and acquire Mitchell. This could rule out teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs, Orlando Magic, Indiana Pacers, and Houston Rockets, especially since most of those teams have franchise guards they’re committed to. The Golden State Warriors could also make a strong offer for Mitchell, but they seem unlikely to rehaul their roster in such a trade.

New York Knicks

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The Knicks have been linked to Mitchell recently given his ties to New York and the CAA connection. According to Ian Begley, the Knicks might feel that the number of assets needed to acquire Mitchell may leave them with little to improve the team afterward.

With that said, they do have the necessary draft equity to acquire Mitchell, including four of their own, and four additional ones owed to them by other teams. They also have several young players they could include such as Obi Toppin, Immanuel Quickley, Quentin Grimesand Miles McBride. The matching salary could come in the form of a combination of Evan Fournier, Derrick Roseand Cam Reddish.

New Orleans Pelicans

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The Pelicans are another team that could make an aggressive offer for Mitchell. One framework could include CJ McCollum for salary matching, and young players such as Herb Jones, Trey Murphy III, Jose Alvarado, and Dyson Daniels. They also could include up to four of their own first-round picks, and two additional ones owed to them. The idea of ​​cashing out some of their remaining chips and trading McCollum for a younger All-Star guard in Mitchell could make sense.

Other offers

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After the Knicks and Pelicans, there is a noticeable dropoff in the quality of trade packages from a draft equity perspective. The Kings could offer a package involving De’Aaron Fox and recent first-round picks Davion Mitchell and Keegan Murray. Unfortunately, they are now limited to trading one first-round pick in 2028 or 2029 after trading a 2024 first-round pick to Altlanta for Kevin Hurter since it is protected through 2026.

The Miami Heat are another team that has been linked to Mitchell but they are also limited in the quality of their best offer. A package including Kyle Lowry, Tyler Herro, Nikola Jovicand Gabe Vincent would probably be involved, but they are limited in trading a 2023 first-round pick and another one in 2028 or 2029.

The Mavericks have a multitude of mid-sized tradable salaries but lack any recent first-round picks other than Josh Green. They could trade two first-round picks in 2027 and 2029 and potentially their one in 2025 since it could be their first-available draft pick to trade if the Jazz believe the Mavericks’ obligation owed to the Knicks will convey before then.

The Nets could also make some sense since their situation is so fluid, but a trade would certainly have to include Ben Simmons due to rules prohibiting teams from fielding two designated rookies they traded for on the same team. Simmons doesn’t necessarily need to go to Utah, but perhaps another team could be willing to send draft assets to them for Simmons since the Nets lack all but two tradeable first-round picks.

If the Jazz do trade Mitchell as well, that would officially spell the end to an extremely short-lived era of incredible basketball in Utah. But if Ainge’s history in Boston means anything, additional shrewd deals for their role player and a focus on the draft should make for a promising future in Utah.


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