The Utah Jazz are entering an offseason of transitioafter losing to the Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the NBA playoffs. Reports continue to suggest that the friction between Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert has not waned. The early postseason exit reiterated the defensive issues that plague the roster. And then on Sunday, head coach Quin Snyder announced his decision to step down, feeling the locker room needs a new voice after eight seasons at the helm.
Snyder is widely recognized as one of the best strategic coaches in the league, so it's quite a blow for the Jazz even if Snyder ultimately proves right about the need for a fresh voice. The news perturbed Mitchell; less than two hours after the news initially broke, reports surfaced that the superstar guard is not feeling good about things as they stand.
A cynical person may read those buzzwords as the initial seeds being planted for an eventual trade request so that Mitchell can go to a "contending team" or whatever. Those cynics may end up being proven right. Mitchell doesn't get along with Gobert, who is nearly impossible to trade due to his massive contract and obvious offensive limitations. Given how much work the roster needs to get back on the path to true contention, it seems reasonable to think that Utah will have to trade one of their two max contract players to reconfigure the rotation.
Mitchell could end up being that player. We took a look at where Mitchell could end up back in March when things were really falling apart for Utah. Now we look again, with the landscape of the league shifting in the subsequent months and the future of the Jazz franchise changing in front of our eyes.
This seems the most obvious destination. Mitchell is being mentored by Dwayne Wade in Utah, who is a little bit famous in South Beach. The Heat just lost out on a chance to make the Finals largely because nobody other than Jimmy Butler could score a bucket to save their life. Mitchell would be massive for Miami in terms of complementing Butler's ability to dominate the paint as a high-volume shooter, and he is absolutely capable of turning into an average defender at worst after some time spent in Erik Spoelstra's boot camp. Plus, as we all know, Pat Riley only takes home run swings.
The fit is clear. The way Mitchell gets to Miami is less so. The Heat can offer up Tyler Herro as the centerpiece of the package, which isn't great but isn't the worst. The issue comes after that. Miami would probably have to add Kyle Lowry to the deal to make the salary work, a tough sell given he's a close friend of Butler's and how he looked in the playoffs. Doubt Riley's capability of landing stars at your own risk, but the Heat will probably have to pull a third team into the equation for Utah to get the assets they desire while still landing Mitchell.
New York Knicks
Naturally. The Knicks have a bunch of contracts that they'd happily trade in exchange for a superstar, and Utah would probably accept those contracts as long as enough draft picks were attached. This New York front office isn't leaping at the opportunity to give away picks like previous iterations but Mitchell could represent their best chance to land a legit star in the next few years. Offering up a package centered around Julius Randle and Immanuel Quickley with two unprotected first-rounders, for example, is more than enough to get the conversation going.
If Utah got enough in return, it seems like everybody would be content with this trade. Mitchell gets away from Gobert and gets the No. 1 role on a big market team. The Knicks find their marquee star to build around for the next five or so years, a star exciting enough to get butts in seats regardless of how good the team actually is. The Knicks have the flexibility and desperation to pull this off if they want to-- and they probably should.
Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers, much like the Knicks, need to be included in every superstar conversation because, well, they're the Lakers. This offseason, though, it'll be real tough to get off any big swings. But Los Angeles does have a big contract that will be expiring after next season to play with, which means everything is on the table.
Thus, we loosely entertain the idea of Donovan Mitchell to the Lakers. Westbrook is making so much money that the Jazz would have to attach another salary to Mitchell's contract to make the numbers work, but the obvious question is what on earth the Lakers can give up to get the Jazz to come to the table. Jeanie Buss clearly values that 2027 first-round pick but that alone won't be enough to get a deal done. If the Lakers are very serious about reshaping the team this offseason then Anthony Davis or even LeBron James need to be on the table. Realistic? Absolutely not. But never rule anything out in Laker Land.
Here's a fun wild card option that is enticing for several reasons. The Suns don't really need another perimeter scorer, but they do have their own disgruntled player who would benefit from a change of scenery. Deandre Ayton will probably get a max offer from somebody in restricted free agency and recent scuttlebutt suggests Phoenix won't want to match it, which brings a sign-and-trade into play. Utah obviously has no interest in trading Mitchell for Ayton with Gobert still around, but if both sides are willing to get creative, it's easy to see a universe in which this deal gets done.
Let's say the Pistons want Ayton. They could offer Ayton the max deal then send out somebody like Killian Hayes and a future first-round pick to the Jazz, who then send Mitchell to Phoenix for a few first-round picks of their own. Utah ends up with two or three additional first-rounders and a young prospect and the Suns manage to turn Ayton into another star. Whoever ends up in Detroit's position in this hypothetical would probably need some incentive of their own to play ball instead of simply offering Ayton massive money, but that can be done without too much trouble. Mitchell and Devin Booker would be electric in Phoenix even if championship contention is hard to foresee given their respective defensive deficiencies.