If Forced to Choose, the Jazz Have to Keep Donovan Mitchell Over Rudy Gobert

Liam McKeone
Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert
Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert / Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images
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It has officially been one month since the NBA season was postponed after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for coronavirus. Gobert was not the only member of the team who tested positive, even if he was the tipping point for the league and sports across the world; young star and teammate Donovan Mitchell also tested positive.

Fortunately, it seems both have emerged unscathed from the ordeal. The same cannot be said for the relationship between the two. As reported by The Athletic, Mitchell is "reluctant" to patch things over with his center. Regardless of how you feel about Mitchell's view, the Jazz may find themselves in a situation where they have to choose between Gobert, a two-time Defensive Player of the Year, and Mitchell, the former Rookie of the Year award winner who seems poised to lead the team for years to come.

If that scenario does come to fruition, Mitchell is the obvious answer, even if it isn't the easy one. Finding a 20 point-per-game scorer like Mitchell is difficult. But so is finding a center at Gobert's defensive level. Gobert is one of only nine players in NBA history to win DPOY twice, and one of only six players to win in consecutive years. With him as their starting center, the Jazz haven't finished a season outside of the top three in defensive rating since 2014. He's currently the best defensive center in the league, and the only other to even hold a candle to his effectiveness is Joel Embiid.

But Gobert doesn't really fit in the modern NBA. It speaks to just how good he is at defending the paint for him to have the impact he does in a league focused on creating as much spacing as possible. The Jazz would be a worse defensive team without Gobert holding down the middle, but they very well could be a better overall team with a center who can more effectively switch onto wings during crunch time or (in an ideal world) shoot threes on the other end of the court.

The Jazz may have explored trading Gobert anyway. He's up for a contract extension after this season and, thanks to his hardware cabinet, would be eligible for a supermax contract worth over $200 million. Mitchell is up for a contract extension the following summer and will receive a similarly lucrative deal, although just how lucrative would depend on if he can earn an All-NBA selection before that. Utah will have an extremely difficult time navigating the cap ceiling with both under contract for big money.

There's still plenty of time left for the pair to reconcile. But if it comes down to it, Mitchell is harder to replace. Shipping out Gobert would hurt, but Mitchell is the future of the franchise. If he doesn't want to play with Gobert, Utah knows what to do. It's their only choice.

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