Trade Packages and Landing Spots for Jazz Stars Rudy Gobert, Donovan Mitchell
When news broke Friday that the relationship between Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell "doesn't appear salvageable," according to Shams Charania, Sam Amick and Tony Jones of The Athletic, another Utah Jazz player took to Twitter.
"Lol," Joe Ingles tweeted shortly after the story went live. Of course, that could've been about a lot of things. But the timing was suspect, and his subsequent tweets suggest he was aware of the news cycle.
He was also quoted in The Athletic's report:
“I'm confident our team is going to be totally fine. I heard Donovan's response (on GMA), or whatever it was, to that question, and a part of that is on Donovan and Rudy to sort out if he's frustrated with him or whatever. But I have no doubt when we go back to training, or when our season starts again, our team is going to be what we have been and what we are. … I'm confident our team will be completely fine. The chemistry will be fine."
If it's not, the Jazz might at least gauge the market for either Gobert or Mitchell.
At the moment, there's no statistical argument to suggest Mitchell is a more impactful player. In fact, he's not close. But he is four years younger than the 27-year-old big man and a dynamic offensive player when he's on.
Gobert's expiring contract in 2021 is a factor as well. His accolades make him eligible for a supermax contract with the Jazz. He can't get that if the team trades him. And of course, Utah would be off the hook for that potentially massive deal.
Mitchell will also be on a new contract for the 2021-22 season, but even if he signs a max, his experience level means he will take up a much smaller percentage of the cap.
If push came to shove—and this shouldn't be read as a suggestion it will—it would probably be easier to keep Mitchell and build around him, despite the fact that he's nowhere near as valuable to winning games right now.
Gobert is far from a dinosaur, but the mold of an NBA center is changing dramatically. It is becoming important for 5s to create a bit for themselves and others. Gobert, though he may still be the league's best defender, will likely never provide those things.
Again, there is plenty of time for things to work themselves out, as Ingles suggested. If, on the off chance they don't, here are some basic frameworks for potential trades.
The Knicks Think Win-Now
The Trade: Rudy Gobert for Mitchell Robinson, Bobby Portis, Reggie Bullock and a 2020 first-round pick
The Knicks recently signaled a desire to speed up the timeline in New York.
"The Knicks, according to NBA sources, have been gathering intel on All-Star Chris Paul and could make a run at him this summer," SiriusXM's Frank Isola tweeted last month. "Paul, 34, carries a huge contract, but he's had a resurgent season in OKC & is proven leader. (He was also once represented by...Leon Rose.)"
Believe it or not, the organization has enough salaries to piece together to bring in both CP3 and one of the game's premier rim-running and rim-protecting centers.
Paul has some experience with the archetype. When they had Paul and DeAndre Jordan, the Los Angeles Clippers were plus-10.4 points per 100 possessions with both on the floor. And DJ's 2.1 box plus/minus over that span is well shy of Gobert's 4.0 over the last six years.
But even if the Knicks couldn't get Paul, this deal would put them on a path to relevancy.
Gobert is a defensive system unto himself, covering up countless mistakes from teammates. On offense, his gravity as a roller is on par with Robinson's.
Giving up Robinson would be tough. He has the potential be the next Gobert. But New York might be tempted to get the finished product now, and Gobert is still just 27 years old.
Portis and Bullock are mostly here for salary-matching purposes. They might have a difficult time becoming mainstays in Utah's rotation.
As for the 2020 first-round pick, it may not hold a ton of value—even though its slated for the top 10. This class has been downplayed as a weak one for months, if not years.
That might beg the question, "Why so little for Gobert?" But remember his contract situation.
For Utah, this is undoubtedly a step down in the short term (and possibly the long term). Robinson has plenty of potential, but it's not guaranteed.
The Jazz should only think about trading their foundational piece if the fit between him and Mitchell is truly broken.
Oklahoma City Increases Flexibility
The Trade: Donovan Mitchell, Mike Conley and a 2020 first-round pick for Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Let's get weird.
For the first few months following CP3's trade to the Oklahoma City Thunder, many assumed he wouldn't spend much time there. As Bleacher Report's Zach Buckley put it, he was in "NBA limbo."
But his leadership of the better-than-expected Thunder did wonders for both the team and Paul's trade value. Now, it seems like OKC might even be able to get back some value for the point guard.
And that brings us to Mitchell. After three seasons in the NBA, his value may be more of a question than it was after Year 1.
He's made subtle offensive improvements, but he's yet to post an above-average true shooting percentage. And his defense seems to have slipped.
When you're starting at a disadvantage, as any 6'1" shooting guard would, tenacity and focus are critical on defense. Those things come and go for Mitchell.
Meanwhile, SGA is four inches taller, two years younger and already close to Mitchell statistically. OKC might scoff at whatever savings a Conley-for-Paul swap would bring if it meant losing Gilgeous-Alexander and paying Mitchell's next contract.
And if the Thunder acquire Mitchell with the idea of making him the 1 after Conley's deal expires following his player option for 2020-21, even better. There, he'll be less susceptible to mismatches. If he can improve his playmaking, he'll likely achieve his ultimate potential as a point guard.
The Jazz would get an all-time great point guard who recently proved he may have a bit left in the tank. And, though SGA is slightly less proven than Mitchell, he opens up positionless possibilities on the wings.
Mavericks Add More International Talent
The Trade: Rudy Gobert for Dwight Powell, Tim Hardaway Jr., a 2020 second-round pick (the more favorable of Golden State or Houston) and a 2025 first-round pick
This is a desperation move for Utah. It'd only make sense if the Jazz feel pressured to move Gobert and teams are lowballing them because of his upcoming contract. Powell and Hardaway, both 28, are older than Gobert. And the Dallas Mavericks can't deal a first-round pick till 2025, thanks to the Stepien Rule.
Powell can do a lot of what Gobert does as a roller. He probably even has better touch when the dunk isn't available. And Hardaway proved himself as a capable floor-spacer and heat-check guy once again this season. The Utah defense would likely take a massive hit after a deal like this, but the Jazz could emerge as a more mobile, switchable team.
The value of the 2025 pick is hard to gauge. It's so far off. And the Warriors selection, though it'll likely lead the second round, comes from a relatively weak class. Utah's front office would probably have to nail those picks for this deal to look decent in the long run.
For Dallas, it would be a no-brainer to empty what's left in the cupboard for Gobert.
This season showed us that Kristaps Porzingis may be at his best when playing at the 5, but Dallas could stagger the minutes enough to still give KP time there. And when the two bigs were on the floor together, teams would be hard-pressed to score inside.
On top of that, rim-runners have been a staple of head coach Rick Carlisle's offenses for years. Tyson Chandler, Brandan Wright and Powell are just a few who come to mind.
With Luka Doncic at the controls, this all-Euro Big Three would make the Mavs legitimate title contenders.
A Swing for the Fences
The Trade: Donovan Mitchell for Michael Porter Jr., a 2020 first-round pick and a 2022 first-round pick
Jazz fans may want to riot after seeing this one.
Mitchell is a bona fide No. 1 option on a perennial playoff team. MPJ has started one game, played a total of 670 minutes and has a history of back problems.
But the flashes Porter has shown are those of a modern 4 who can fill up the stat sheet if given the opportunity (he just didn't get the chance on a playoff team and under an old-school coach like Mike Malone).
On the season, Porter averaged 19.8 points, 11.0 rebounds and 2.4 threes per 75 possessions. Of the 12 rookies in NBA history who averaged at least as many points and rebounds per 75 possessions, MPJ's average of 2.4 threes is the high (by far) in that category.
He has a smooth offensive game. Once upon a time, he was regarded as a potential No. 1 pick. And the injury report was relatively clean for him this season.
A floor-spacing 4—with the potential to be a playmaking 4—could be the ideal fit next to the non-shooting Gobert. With Ingles, Bojan Bogdanovic and Royce O'Neale, Utah could have positionless minutes at the 2 and 3.
This, perhaps more than any other deal here, would be a gamble for the Jazz.
Denver, meanwhile, would suddenly inherit one of Utah's problems: a small backcourt. If Jamal Murray (6'4") started alongside Mitchell, opposing guards would likely feast on the perimeter. And while Nikola Jokic is an underrated defender, he doesn't clean up mistakes the way Gobert does.
Still, imagine trying to defend the Nuggets on the other end. With Jokic surveying the floor from the post, high post or top of the key and Mitchell and Murray cutting all over the floor, Denver would almost constantly have opposing defenses in scramble mode.
Giving up two firsts and an intriguing young player may seem like a lot, but bear in mind that those picks will both be late first-rounders. And despite Porter's potential, there's still plenty of unknown.
Arturas Karnisovas' 1st Big Move
The Trade: Rudy Gobert and Ed Davis for Otto Porter Jr., Lauri Markkanen, Chandler Hutchison and a 2020 first-round pick
Prior to the Chicago Bulls' hiring of Arturas Karnisovas as executive vice president of basketball operations, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, rumors of Markkanen's discontent with the Chicago Bulls started to surface.
"Make no mistake about it, third-year big man Lauri Markkanen was one unhappy camper before the coronavirus put the NBA on hiatus," Joe Cowley wrote for the Chicago Sun-Times. "Unhappy enough that if the direction of the organization was going to stay unchanged, he'd rather be elsewhere."
Now, with Karnisovas on board, who knows if a change might even involve Markkanen. This season, he posted career lows in usage rate (21.1), points per game (14.7) and three-point percentage (34.4). And with Zach LaVine under contract, the Bulls might be looking for a more defensive-minded 5.
Gobert, of course, is about as defensive-minded as it gets. Chicago would have a number of questions elsewhere on the roster, but it'd have an established defensive identity.
Getting that in exchange for two wings who combined for fewer than 1,000 minutes this season, a big who has seemingly plateaued in Year 3 and a pick in a weak draft class is decent value.
For the Jazz, this deal would represent a cultural shift. Gobert has been the centerpiece of their success for over half a decade. Largely because of his defense, Utah has been plus-5.6 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor compared to minus-1.1 with him off.
Switching to a stretch 5 like Markkanen would mean wholesale changes on both ends of the floor. The defensive scheme that funnels players into Gobert would be gone. Pick-and-rolls may be a bit less likely on offense without Gobert's elite rim running.
But if the Jazz decide to remake the team in Mitchell's image, Markkanen is an intriguing fit. Having him, Bogdanovic, Ingles and Porter spacing the floor would theoretically open up driving lanes for Mitchell.
The perimeter defenders would have to be better, but even with the inevitable decline on that end, Utah might be able to score enough to make something like this work.