Why would the Utah Jazz trade Donovan Mitchell and start a rebuild?

Not much is happening in the NBA world right now, but one of the hottest talking points is where Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell will end up.

Isn’t Mitchell under contract with the Jazz until the 2024-25 season? Yes. Isn’t he an All-Star? Yes. So why would the Jazz want to trade him?

Well, before we answer that, we have to recognize what has already happened this offseason.

The Jazz traded three-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert to the Minnesota Timberwolves and their top wing defenseman Royce O’Neale to the Brooklyn Nets. Why would the Jazz trade these players?

Simply put, it didn’t work. The Jazz tried to build a team around Gobert and Mitchell. They tried a defensive formation that ultimately couldn’t score enough, they tried to surround the core with shots and points and it didn’t work.

They became the No. 1 team in the regular season, but every time they rolled in the playoffs, the Jazz died out.

It became clear that the Jazz weren’t going to win an NBA title with the Mitchell-Gobert team, and they had no assets or money to spend trying to remake the team, so they sent O’Neale to Brooklyn. in exchange for a 2023 first-round pick and sent Gobert to Minnesota for a slew of future picks and players.

Couldn’t the Jazz just use these newly acquired assets to retool around Mitchell? Yes, they could. But here are the reasons many believe a rebuild — starting with the Mitchell trade — is the smartest option for the Jazz’s future.

Jazz still don’t have enough to build around Mitchell

When I say the asset bin was dry before Gobert’s trade, I mean dry as a handful of hot, arid desert sand.

Now that the Jazz have future picks and a few players on team-friendly deals, they’re not as straightforward as they used to be, but they still don’t have enough to put together a championship-challenging squad.

Let’s imagine for a moment that the Jazz decides to send everything they have to offer for a player – a superstar. Well, there aren’t many superstars out there. So basically we’re talking about Kevin Durant asking the Nets for a trade.

Well, even with the loot the Jazz scavenged for Gobert, they might not have enough to get Durant.

And, even if they had enough to get Durant, they would come back with no more assets or room.

Is Udoka Azubuike the starting center for this team? Who is playing defense? You probably had to drop Bojan Bogdanovic and/or Jordan Clarkson in the Durant deal, so who else scores when Mitchell or Durant aren’t on the pitch?

If you’re not going after a Durant-type player and using the Jazz’s assets to go after a few All-Stars, is that enough to win a title? Probably not.

The Jazz would still encounter the same problems. They would leverage all their future strengths for a winning team now that probably couldn’t win now.

The Western Conference is stacked

If the Jazz were to reorganize around Mitchell, we’ve already established that it would be nearly impossible to create a championship contender, but with the looks of the Western Conference, the Jazz might not even be a playoff team. .

Consider all of this:

  • The defending champion Golden State Warriors is going to be a contender with Klay Thompson playing a healthy season.
  • The Phoenix Suns still have a team capable of making the NBA Finals.
  • Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks will be there.
  • A fully healthy Kawhi Leonard will lead the Los Angeles Clippers, who have made additions.
  • You might not be able to count LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers.
  • The Memphis Grizzlies are getting better every year.
  • Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets will once again host Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr.
  • The new-look Timberwolves are expected to go all out to win.
  • The New Orleans Pelicans will try to break into the top 8 in the West.
  • Damian Lillard will be back on the court, so even if the Portland Trail Blazers aren’t that good, he’ll definitely make things interesting.

The Jazz should go against all of that. Chances are they’ll be bottom of the playoff pack, competing for a Play-In spot, or even missing out altogether.

So maybe the smart thing to do is step back, rebuild, and come back in a few years when the conference opens up a bit.

Mediocrity won’t make Donovan Mitchell happy

Mitchell has always said throughout his career that what he wants, above all else, is to win. He says it when people ask him where he wants to be, how happy he is in Utah, about his teammates and everything else.

For an All-Star caliber player who wants to be on a winning team with a shot at the title, it makes sense that if the Jazz weren’t given the opportunity to win, he’d want to be somewhere else.

So should the Jazz bet on winning a title in the next three years when they’re exhausted to build a mediocre team around Mitchell playing against an absolutely stacked Western Conference? Probably not.

Then there’s a good chance that after the 2024-25 season, Mitchell will choose not to opt for his player option for the 2025-26 season and sign elsewhere, where he would have a better chance of winning.

At that point, the Jazz would have used everything they got in exchange for Gobert to try to make it work with Mitchell and got nothing in exchange for Mitchell.

They would be left with no assets, no player to build around, and no real path forward.

The Jazz would face a rebuild but without the tools to start building.

Starting a rebuild now gives the Jazz the most potential for the future

If the Jazz decide to trade Mitchell, they will likely get a similar or even better return than they got when they traded Gobert.

Along with the future picks and young prospects they could add through those two deals alone, they would also be looking to offload the other valuable players on the roster.

The Jazz could add to the stock of assets by voluntarily letting go of Bogdanovic, Clarkson, Mike Conley and even some of their newly acquired players such as Patrick Beverley and Jarred Vanderbilt.

At this point, they’d have enough assets, be bad enough to get multiple lottery picks, and still be able to scout for top talent when they’re ready to create a contender.

The West will likely still be very competitive, but the Jazz would be betting on getting back into the fold as a competitor and building up new talent rather than betting on a team likely to lose.

Ada J. Kenney