A recent report from a retired MMA fighter turned broadcaster, claiming that Rudy Gobert will ask the Utah Jazz to trade him or Donovan Mitchell in the days to come, has yet to be substantiated, but it would not be a surprise for the franchise to come to that conclusion first, since they blew another winnable playoff series.
Gobert is a three-time Defensive Player of the Year and Mitchell a three-time All-Star. Small-market teams rarely want to part with either, especially when they have won nearly two-thirds of their regular-season games together over the past four seasons and both are under contract for at least three more seasons.
Except, they have also won a single playoff series in that span, losing last year to the Kawhi Leonard-less Los Angeles Clippers and this year to a Dallas Mavericks team missing Luka Doncic for half their six games.
No amount of moves around them has gotten them closer to a championship. It does not help that Gobert and Mitchell have passively lobbed shots at each other amid reports that they aggressively do not like each other. It is time to choose between them, and newly hired executive Danny Ainge is just the man to do it.
Both Gobert and Mitchell should hold considerable value on the open market, but that value is lower than it might have been in offseasons past. Gobert is approaching 30 years old and has yet to prove he can be a difference-making defender against more malleable playoff offenses. Mitchell’s defense turned Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson into a superstar, and he is more of a singular offensive force than a team playmaker.
Ainge does not like losing trades, but rivals will propose lesser offers if a trade demand is made official. All that said, here is a look at the teams that should be interested in Utah’s two stars and the sort of trade packages they could offer for either, give or take a marginal player upgrade or an extra draft pick or two.
The Rudy Gobert trade market
• Jazz rationale: The downgrade from Gobert to Capela is worth acquiring Huerter — a worthy Joe Ingles replacement with a higher ceiling — and another first-round pick to go hunting for additional upgrades.
• Hawks rationale: Trae Young needs as much defensive help as he can get.
• Trade offer: Ben Simmons and two first-round draft picks
• Jazz rationale: Drastically improve defensive versatility with a 26-year-old who finished runner-up to Gobert in the 2021 Defensive Player of the Year race, increase the tempo for an offense stuck in the mud, and secure picks from a combustible franchise to mitigate the risk of gambling on Simmons’ availability.
• Nets rationale: The defense needs a one-man fix, capable of erasing countless mistakes from a porous perimeter cohort, and just think of all the screen assists Gobert can set for Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
• Jazz rationale: You could do worse to address your depth than adding a 20 points-per-game scorer, a 23-year-old stretch forward and a first-round pick from a team that has won three playoff games in 20 years.
• Hornets rationale: Rim protection and a lob threat for LaMelo Ball.
• Trade offer: Nikola Vucevic, Patrick Williams and two first-round draft picks
• Jazz rationale: Fully embrace the 3-point revolution and attempt 50 per game. Vucevic will test the bounds of replacement-level defense in Gobert’s absence, but Williams provides some versatility and considerable upside, and two future picks from the Bulls could be worth a whole lot if their latest experiment goes south.
• Bulls rationale: No team in the Eastern Conference allowed a higher field-goal percentage at the rim.
Jazz rationale: Provide Mitchell with a replacement pick-and-roll partner, add a 3-and-D wing, extend their shooting depth, stockpile draft capital and save as much as $116 million over the life of Gobert’s contract.
Mavericks rationale: Gobert is everything they ever wanted from Porzingis, and that includes a decrease in demand for any offensive touches outside lobs and put-backs. Just do the dirty work for Luka Doncic.
Trade offer: Jerami Grant, Kelly Olynyk, Killian Hayes and a first-round draft pick
Jazz rationale: Try to check every box — versatile wing, stretch five, lottery project and potential high pick.
Pistons rationale: Give a young team still figuring out its offensive ceiling a chance to win with defense.
Golden State Warriors
• Trade offer: Andrew Wiggins, James Wiseman and a first-round draft pick
• Jazz rationale: A 27-year-old All-Star and a No. 2 overall pick 40 games into his career is real value for a 30-year-old one-dimensional center, especially if you believe Wiseman can still develop into a two-way star.
• Warriors rationale: They have the personnel to play small-ball with Gobert on the bench, and adding one of the best defensive players of his generation as a luxury alongside Draymond Green is a light-years flex.
Los Angeles Clippers
Trade offer: Ivica Zubac, Luke Kennard, Marcus Morris and a first-round draft pick
Jazz rationale: Swap Gobert for Zubac, adding shooting and toughness in the process.
Clippers rationale: A healthy Kawhi Leonard and Paul George need little more on offense than someone to create space with his screening, and just imagine a defense with those three spreading their wings.
• Trade offer: Steven Adams, De’Anthony Melton, Brandon Clarke and a first-round draft pick
• Jazz rationale: Replace much of what Gobert provides. Add frontcourt versatility and backcourt depth.
• Grizzlies rationale: Good luck scoring against Gobert and Jaren Jackson Jr.
Portland Trail Blazers
Trade offer: Eric Bledsoe, Anfernee Simons and a first-round draft pick
Jazz rationale: Fully unlock Simons’ star potential and add a pick from a franchise with an uncertain future.
Blazers rationale: Give Damian Lillard the defensive backbone his team desperately needs.
• Trade offer: Kristaps Porzingis, Deni Avdija and two first-round draft picks
• Jazz rationale: Believe in the untapped potential of Porzingis and Avdija and trust in Washington’s futility.
• Wizards rationale: Try not being a terrible defensive team for once.
The Donovan Mitchell trade market
Trade offer: Marcus Smart, Aaron Nesmith, Daniel Theis and two first-round draft picks
Jazz rationale: Pair the league’s best perimeter defender with its best rim protector and worry about building a capable offense around them with the additional draft capital you have just stockpiled.
Celtics rationale: Cement the roster with a third young star who has already forged a relationship with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown on Team USA, barring Smart winning a title with them this season.
Trade offer: Malcolm Brogdon, Chris Duarte and two first-round draft picks
Jazz rationale: Nothing sexy here, except a revamped backcourt that is unlikely to feud with Gobert and a couple picks that are guaranteed to hold value, given Indiana’s history of hovering in the NBA’s middle.
Pacers rationale: They are desperate to land a bankable star, and by pairing Mitchell with midseason trade acquisition Tyrese Haliburton, they could have two who complement each other in the same backcourt.
Trade offer: Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson and Caleb Martin
Jazz rationale: A 22-year-old Sixth Man of the Year, one of the game’s best 3-point shooters and an underrated 3-and-D wing for Mitchell seems about as fair a swap as you could find on the market.
Heat rationale: Robinson can’t get off the bench in the playoffs, and they find players like Martin on the regular, so why not gamble that Mitchell’s ceiling is higher than Herro’s when it has been a safe bet so far.
New Orleans Pelicans
Trade offer: CJ McCollum, Trey Murphy and two first-round draft picks
Jazz rationale: There is little Mitchell can give them that McCollum cannot, plus they would be adding a 21-year-old wing who logged real playoff minutes as a rookie and two first-round picks from an unstable team.
New York Knicks
Trade offer: RJ Barrett, Obi Toppin, Derrick Rose and a first-round draft pick
Jazz rationale: Bank on your ability to develop Barrett and Toppin better than Knicks and take their picks.
Knicks rationale: Anything for a proven star who can give Madison Square Garden 40 points on any night.
San Antonio Spurs
Trade offer: Keldon Johnson, Lonnie Walker IV, Doug McDermott and a first-round draft pick
Jazz rationale: There are worse ways to invest than putting stock in a pair of players who have earned the Spurs’ trust before their 24th birthdays, and the picks are a safeguard against their lack of development.
Spurs rationale: Get the dollar for four quarters. Rebrand the face of the Spurs, maximize what Mitchell does best and let Dejounte Murray do the rest in what could be a devastating backcourt combination.
Trade offer: De’Aaron Fox and a first-round draft pick
Jazz rationale: Swapping your fringe All-NBA guard for their fringe All-Star and adding a pick from the worst-run organization in the league is fair when Fox in a new environment could be worth the trade alone.
Kings rationale: You have seen the ceiling for Fox in Sacramento, and it cannot be worse than the magic you might find in pairing Donovan with Davion Mitchell on a team that just acquired Domantas Sabonis.
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