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Rudy Gobert
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Could The Utah Jazz Trade Rudy Gobert?

Rudy Gobert #27 of the Utah Jazz looks on from the bench in the first half against the Denver Nuggets at Vivint Smart Home Arena on October 18, 2017 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Could the Utah Jazz trade Rudy Gobert? According to ESPN’s Tim Bontemps, the team could find itself in that situation as soon as this offseason. The center is eligible for a supermax extension with the Jazz beginning in the summer of 2021. However, the team can agree to terms with Gobert on the deal after this season.

Bontemps surveyed 12 coaches, scouts, and NBA front office members on issues facing the league as it returns to action in July. Among those questions, how would the fractured relationship between Gobert and All-Star teammate Donovan Mitchel impact the Jazz.

“I think it’s fine,” An Eastern Conference Executive told Bontemps. “The Jazz have no interest in trading either guy, and I don’t think it’s leading to the breakup of their team.”

However, Gobert’s contract status could alter the Jazz plans.

Mitchell is eligible for a max contract this coming offseason. Like Gobert, his deal won’t kick in until the summer of 2021. The Jazz are likely to offer Mitchell as much money as possible the moment he can sign an extension. Coming off of his rookie deal, Mitchell can early 25 percent of the team’s salary cap.

Meanwhile, Gobert can earn up to 35 percent of the NBA’s salary cap. As the style of play evolves in the NBA, Gobert’s traditional big man skillset may lose relevance. Being tied to Gobert for a long period of time at the highest cost allowed may be difficult for the Jazz.

Despite the concern, Gobert is one of the league’s most impactful players and will want to be paid accordingly.

“If Gobert and the Jazz are unable to agree to an extension,” Bontemps wrote. “Several people said they could see Gobert becoming available in trade talks.”

Why Would Jazz Trade Gobert?

The NBA has lost enormous amounts of money during the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, the exact dollar figure of Gobert’s potential extension is difficult to project. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, Gobert would have earned a projected five year $250 million deal.

That number could drop significantly depending on the league’s projected losses. While paying less money may seem like a victory, its the 35 percent of the cap that will be hard for the Jazz to swallow. Each percentage point awarded to Gobert is one less the Jazz can offer other players to fortify the team.

As a result, the Jazz may offer Gobert a smaller number this offseason, hoping to mitigate the risk of signing a player to such an enormous contract.

Gobert, however, may be unwilling to sign for a lower percentage in light of the league’s losses. If Gobert was set on the idea of $250 million, accepting less money at the full 35 percent of the cap may feel like enough of a discount.

In that situation, the Jazz would likely allow Gobert to play through next season while analyzing the league market. If Gobert continues to improve and remains healthy, the Jazz can offer him a full supermax extension. If Gobert sees a decline in play or suffers an injury, the Jazz won’t be tied to an unreasonable financial marriage.

With the uncertainty surrounding the future of the NBA’s finances, Gobert may prefer to wait on signing a contract until the summer of 2021. With no guarantee that he would resign in Utah, the Jazz could explore his trade value.

In 2017, Jazz forward Gordon Hayward opted to sign a max contract with the Boston Celtics rather than in Utah. Now, the Jazz may look to avoid suffering the same consequence twice.

History of the Supermax

Originally designed to help teams resign their own star players, the supermax contract has had adverse effects.

Take into consideration the existing NBA players who have either signed supermax extensions or simply qualified for the deal.

To date, 11 players have qualified for the supermax deal. The results of those contracts have varied widely. The players who have qualified are Steph Curry, James Harden, John Wall, Russell Westbrook, Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard, Kemba Walker, Kyrie Irving, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Gobert.

Of those 11, five players have signed supermax extensions. Curry, Harden, Wall, Westbrook, and Lillard all signed supermax extensions. Of those five, four deals were signed in 2017, the first year the deal was eligible to NBA players. Only Lillard has signed such a contract in the years since.

Conversely, Leonard, Davis, Walker, and Irving all changed teams in the summers they were eligible to sign extensions.  Those players either signed with different franchises or were traded before those deals could be signed.

Westbrook was signed by the Oklahoma City Thunder but traded two years later to Houston.

Not counting Gobert, five of the 10 players who have qualified or signed supermax extensions have changed teams. Meanwhile, the Washington Wizards were largely rumored to be trying to move Wall’s contract before a series of injuries sidelined the guard for much of the last two seasons.

If history is any indicator, it’s just as likely Gobert is suiting up in a uniform other than with the Jazz as he is to remain in Utah over the next half-decade.