Message to Jazz: Trade Donovan Mitchell to the Knicks... and other fire-sale moves

Message to Jazz: Trade Donovan Mitchell to the Knicks... and other fire-sale moves

Potential deals to help Utah recover from first-round exit

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Before the Utah Jazz even began their first-round playoff series against the Dallas Mavericks, there were significant questions about their chemistry, viability as a winner, and ceiling. It was no secret that their two superstars, Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, don’t care for one another. The tension between the two goes all the way to pre-pandemic times. Danny Ainge and the Utah front office have surrounded Gobert with a bunch of aging perimeter players who can’t defend.

The 2019 trade that brought Mike Conley to Utah has been an unmitigated disaster. The 34-year-old guard is a shell of the player he was in Memphis and never regained the defensive form that made him such a lethal two-way player with the Grizzlies. Elsewhere, the Jazz roster is filled out with broken players who, judging by their on-court rapport and play, seem genuinely unhappy to be playing in Utah i.e. Rudy Gay, Royce O’Neal, Hassan Whiteside, Danuel House. Only last year’s Sixth Man of the Year, Jordan Clarkson, and sharpshooting big man Bojan Bogdanović played with any joie de vivre.

To put it plainly, this team needs to be broken up. Not just because of an inflated payroll or maximized ceiling, but because the chemistry of this long-contained core has reached well past its expiration. They quit on their city and, worse, each other in the recent series against the Mavs. This was especially evident in games one through three when the Jazz starters were outmatched in effort and joy by a Luka-less Mavericks squad. So, now that the truth has been laid bare, where should the Jazz go next? A total rebuild seems to be the best option through continued investment in draft capital. The draft is how Utah found their two superstars in the first place. It’s time to return to that well. As we can all agree, no one is choosing Utah in free agency.

 

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Mike Conley

Mike Conley

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As aforementioned, the Conley trade never worked out. The Jazz got him too late in his career after hamstring and knee injuries derailed his athleticism and speed. After averaging an embarrassing nine ppg in the first-round loss to Dallas, Conley might be the most challenging contract for the Jazz to move (he’s owed nearly $47M over the next two seasons). This includes a 0-point outing in Game 2.

Best fit: Perhaps, if the Jazz are willing to tear the whole thing apart, they could trade Conley and filler to the Lakers and absorb Russell Westbrook’s contract. Conley would give the Lakers a steadier hand at the point and add shooting alongside Anthony Davis and Lebron James. Plus, it’s not like the Lakers roster can get any older. Finally, Westbrook would give Jazz fans a reason to show up and watch a game. At least the massive Jazz losses would be entertaining behind Westbrook. 

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Donovan Mitchell

Donovan Mitchell

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Mitchell is the crown jewel of Utah’s asset chest and the best player to wear purple and white since John Stockton and Karl Malone. Questions around Mitchell’s drive surfaced after a pathetic defensive outing when the Mavs’ Jalen Brunson routinely blitzed him on defense.

Best fit: Rumors of a Mitchell to Knicks trade went from a simmer to a full-blown blaze when Knicks executive William “World Wide” Wesley showed up with a front office contingency in Dallas for Game 1. If Utah is interested in disgruntled Knicks forward Julius Randle, it would be easier for the Knicks to add smaller salaries on top of Randle’s to make it work while also adding extensive draft capital and young players like Immanuel Quickly and Quentin Grimes to make it work. Mitchell grew up a Knicks fan leaving up just outside NYC in Elmsford, NY, and his parents still live and work in the area. Perhaps a return home would be welcomed.

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Rudy Gobert

Rudy Gobert

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Gobert’s $43 million average annual salary is one of the worst in the league for a center who is offensively limited. On defense, Gobert was routinely exploited by Mavs coach Jason Kidd by shuffling Maxi Kleber into the corner, where Gibert was too slow to recover. This play was used repeatedly and diminished Gobert’s defensive ability, drawing him away from the paint where Brunson and Dončić were able to dominate.

Best fit: It would be ironic to see Gobert join the team which exposed so many of his weaknesses on national television, but Dallas has been in desperate need of a center since Tyson Chandler’s run with the 2011 Mavs title team. Gobert would cost the Mavs a ton of draft picks while extinguishing their hopes of resigning Brunson this summer, but it could be worth it for the Elite pick-and-roll opportunities Dončić and Gobert would present as a duo. Although Dončić just got rid of one malcontent in Kristaps Porziņģis, would he want to bring on another seven-foot diva in Gobert?

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Jordan Clarkson

Jordan Clarkson

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Clarkson could start for most teams in the NBA. This makes him the easiest to move of all the Jazz contracts. There’s a high premium on point guards, and Clarkson can get a bucket on anyone. He also showed a lot of heart by being one of the few players not to quit on Jazz head coach Quin Snyder. Clarkson would be best suited continuing to come off the bench, where he provides an offensive spark many teams would kill to have come postseason. 

Best fit: It would probably take more than just Cameron Payne and filler to get it done, but damn would Clarkson solve many issues for the Suns. First, he comes relatively cheap at an average of $12 million per year. Second, he would provide instant offense when Chris Paul sits, allowing CP3 to sit out more than he has since joining the Suns. Finally, Clarkson would excel in the run-and-gun Suns offense and would even find himself finishing games, as he did in Utah, by pairing with Paul for a dangerous backcourt in crunch time. It’s unknown what it would take for the Suns to acquire Clarkson, but you have to imagine Payne and a first-round pick would be included. 

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Bojan Bogdanović

Bojan Bogdanović

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If any of the core Jazz guys stay, my money’s on it being the beloved Bogdanović. At times, he was the best player on the court for Utah. He should be an easy player to trade, given his ability to shoot while standing at 6-foot-7. He’s gritty for a European player and is an above-average rebounder. Any team in the league works as a fit for the Bosnian. He might have missed that last shot that would have won Game 6, but he certainly can’t be blamed for the Jazz losing the series.

Best fit: The Bulls are only missing power forward. Bogdanović is a power forward. It’s a match made in heaven. At some point, the Bulls front office will have to stop pretending Patrick Williams is the answer at the four and go out and get a starting caliber guy. William had some nice games in the playoffs, but he also had a one-point outing. Bogdanović would give Chicago the floor spacing needed for Demar DeRozan and Zach Lavine (assuming he re-signs) to operate in the intermediate space. By adding Bogdanović next to starting center Nikola Vucevic, the Bulls would have elite shooting in the frontcourt. A deal involving second-round picks and Colby White should get it done.

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