UTAH JAZZ

Answering Your Jazz Offseason Questions

May 6, 2022, 4:40 PM | Updated: 8:59 pm
Donovan Mitchell - Rudy Gobert - Utah Jazz...
Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) and center Rudy Gobert (27) talk on the court during the game against the Philadelphia 76ers at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021. (Courtesy of Deseret News)
(Courtesy of Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz offseason came earlier than expected, and as a result, fans are hungry for information on what types of moves might be made this summer to change the roster.

Reports have swirled all season that Donovan Mitchell may want to play for a bigger market if he can’t win in Utah, while another report emerged that Rudy Gobert was uninterested in spending another season alongside Mitchell.

So, as the Jazz enter one of the most important offseasons in the franchise’s history, let me offer you a little insight into your biggest offseason questions.

Trade Donovan, Rudy, Neither, or Both?

This is obviously the biggest question of the offseason for the Jazz as teams are usually only as good as their best players, and having been eliminated in the first round three of the last four years, it’s more than fair for Jazz fans to wonder if this is as far as they can go.

So, let’s break down the questions the Jazz would face in all of these scenarios:

1. Keep Both Gobert and Mitchell

The least dramatic option this summer would be to hold onto both Gobert and Mitchell and retool the pieces around them.

That would mean two things to me, first, they don’t feel they’ve reached their potential as a team with Gobert and Mitchell as their best players, and, they think the relationship between the stars is in fact salvageable.

Here’s my question, what makes anyone think the results would change next season if the two faces of the franchise remain the same?

Perhaps a new head coach could fix that, but Gobert being a non-viable offensive option with the ball in his hands, and Mitchell defaulting to isolation play late in games, mixed with his poor defense leads me to think that regardless of who calls the plays, these results are unlikely to change in the most important stretches of the season.

2. Keep Gobert, Trade Mitchell

If the Jazz were to hold onto Gobert and trade Mitchell, I’d suspect they felt the team was built well top to bottom, and that with a different go-to scoring option, they could reach new heights with a similar roster.

It’s not impossible to sell yourself on that outcome, but actually finding a better main offensive option might be difficult.

Perhaps a Tyler Herro from Miami could come into Utah and with an increased usage rate and offense built around him could leap Mitchell as a scorer, but there truly aren’t many 25-point-per-game scorers on the market that would be an improvement over what the Jazz already have.

But, if this is the direction the Jazz head, it means they believe Gobert can be a central piece on a championship team in the next few seasons.

Also, I have heard that there are significant doubts from the Jazz decision-makers about how this roster fits together.

3. Trade Gobert, Keep Mitchell

If the Jazz choose to trade one of their two All-Star players, this is probably the more likely move as Mitchell’s future trade value will remain higher than Gobert’s, and he comes at a lower cost, with a higher upside.

I wouldn’t rule out Gobert improving in spots over the next few seasons, but he’ll turn 30 in June, and the game is rapidly evolving away from his skillset. The Jazz have seen firsthand how much easier defenses can take him out of games in the last 24 months alone, and that isn’t slowing down.

So, if the Jazz want to preserve one of their star players, aren’t totally sold on blowing up the roster, but think bringing back a talented package of players could push them to new heights, moving Gobert makes some sense.

Worst case scenario, if that trade package didn’t elevate the roster, you can still move Mitchell at any point over the next few seasons, and he’s on the right side of 30, with time to spare.

4. Trade Both Gobert and Mitchell

If the Jazz were to trade both of their stars, it would signal a total rebuild and would trigger more movement throughout the roster.

The only way I could see the Jazz selling themselves on this concept is if they believed they had to trade Gobert, and that without him, the amount of time it would take to rebuild the roster with new pieces around Mitchell would extend beyond the lifespan of Mike Conley, Jordan Clarkson, and Bojan Bogdanovic in Utah.

In that case, the Jazz may feel the need to capitalize on the trade value of all of their pieces by moving everyone in the top seven of last year’s rotation, and give Danny Ainge and Justin Zanik a clean slate of draft picks and young players to work with.

This strategy isn’t without logic as it would give the team their biggest return on assets over the next few years, but it’s also the most dramatic.

Is Mitchell Too Small

This is similar to what’s playing out in Phoenix right now, and it’s the reason they are championship contenders.

Throughout the first two-thirds of his career, Chris Paul had to play both the point guard and the lead perimeter scoring option on his teams. Ultimately, it put too much responsibility on Paul, and he got labeled as a postseason underachiever.

So, is there a chance Mitchell is being miscast as a leading man in the backcourt and would be better with a more dominant scorer playing next to him, even if it meant he had to move to point guard full time?

Don’t get me wrong, Mitchell will never have the point guard acumen of Paul, but maybe he’s being asked to do too much late in games as a scorer and a playmaker.

Could you ask him to accept the role Paul has taken next to Devin Booker in Phoenix if presented with a similar opportunity? That might be a tough sell for a 25-year-old who has yet to reach his prime.

Regardless, the Jazz do need to get bigger in the backcourt, whether that’s with a tall point guard, or by bringing in a new shooting guard and moving Mitchell to the one.

Can Azubuike Replace Gobert?

No.

Who Fits Around Mitchell And Gobert?

Great question, and a difficult one. Mitchell needs a more dynamic second fiddle on offense than he has currently, and Gobert needs more help on defense.

In that sense, the Jazz need a more dynamic, bigger perimeter scorer who can create their own shot, but doesn’t need to be “the guy.”

I think there are a few players around the league who fit that mold, see Jerami Grant, Christian Wood, and Harrison Barnes, all of whom would make the Jazz more dangerous on offense.

They also need length and versatility on defense everywhere, which is where the aforementioned Grant would be ideal, but both Wood and Barnes could likely help.

From there, add two rangy defenders like the Dallas Mavericks have in Reggie Bullock and Dorian Finney-Smith, and you probably have a pretty dynamic lineup.

But that’s far easier said than done.

Is Gobert Friends With Other Jazz Players?

I love this question, because I have talked about it before privately quite a bit.

We know Gobert has been friends with teammates in the past, most notably Raul Neto who was his travel companion in past offseasons.

This season Hassan Whiteside said he also grew close to Gobert.

But here’s the real reason I chose to answer this question, who in the NBA is actually friends?

I haven’t seen photos of Luka Doncic out with his fellow Mavericks players, or Giannis Antetokounmpo in Milwaukee, or Nikola Jokic in Denver.

I bring them up because as international stars, they didn’t grow up in the AAU circuit which is where most players seem to have met their friends in the NBA.

Both Antetokounmpo and Jokic seem to hang out with their brothers a lot, I don’t know who Doncic is friends with, other than guys around the league who sees from the Slovenian National Team.

Similarly, I know Gobert will have dinner with fellow Frenchmen around the league after games, but I don’t get the impression Gobert is much different socially than other international players around the game.

Regarding his relationship with Quin Snyder, they’ve always seemed to see eye-to-eye, and Gobert’s Hall of Fame resume is in large part due to how much Snyder believes in him.

Does Mike Conley Have Trade Value?

Every year we hear about players who are untradable due to the money owed on their contract, or their current level of play.

And yet, every year, it seems we see those players get traded (looking at you John Wall and Russell Westbrook.)

So, can the Jazz still trade Mike Conley? My belief is a resounding yes, and I bet they could get more for him than most fans think.

Don’t get me wrong, Conley’s postseason performance left a ton to be desired, but last year he averaged 20 points and 10 assists in the playoffs before his season-ending hamstring injury and made his first all-star team.

I don’t think anyone is betting on Conley returning to All-Star form, but a savvy veteran, who is a good locker room presence, with only $30 million guaranteed on his contract over the next two years, less than 12 months from a really strong playoff showing is far from untradable.

Finding a team that needs a point guard right now might be the tougher ask, but a lot of rosters will make significant adjustments this summer, and any team would be lucky to add Conley.

Rank The Jazz Trade Assets This Offseason

Not to state the obvious, but a lot of times the most marketable player might just mean the player that has the most value to one specific team who is in need of that exact role.

So, a team that needs a sixth man might be willing to give up a lot for Jordan Clarkson, while a team that needs 30 minutes of floor spacing may prefer Bojan Bogdanovic, but I will give you my best guess of Jazz player values in a vacuum.

  1. Donovan Mitchell
  2. Rudy Gobert
  3. Bojan Bogdanovic
  4. Jordan Clarkson
  5. Mike Conley
  6. Royce O’Neale
  7. Jared Butler
  8. Nickeil Alexander-Walker
  9. Rudy Gay
  10. Juancho Hernangomez
  11. Udoka Azubuike

This is probably how I would rank them considering what they have provided on the court, and what they are set to make going forward.

I doubt there is any interest in Azubuike who hasn’t shown he can stay healthy and never really made sense as a first-round pick anyways, but could be used to make salaries match in a trade.

The same goes for Juancho Hernangomez who might offer the Jazz more than he does any other team in a trade.

I wouldn’t be surprised if there was interest around in the league in Rudy Gay who seemed like more of a bad fit in Utah than a player who doesn’t have anything left to offer.

Nickeil Alexander-Walker wasn’t able to break into the Jazz rotation, but he’s still young, has good size, and there are likey a few different pathways for him to develop into an NBA player. Other teams won’t chase Alexander-Walker in a trade, but he’s not valueless.

Butler’s salary is so small it’s hard to imagine him offering another team more value than he does the Jazz. I wouldn’t trade him, especially with the unknowns for Conley and Mitchell in the near future.

I honestly believe everyone else on the roster can help good teams win, and can play valuable minutes in the playoffs.

Dennis Lindsey didn’t build a perfect roster, but he did acquire a collection of guys who can help most teams, and that has given the Jazz reasonable flexibility and value on the trade market.

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