What Did Gobert, Mitchell Say About First Round Playoff Exits?

Apr 27, 2023, 3:27 PM | Updated: 3:30 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell each saw their teams experience difficult first-round playoff exits just one season after leaving the Utah Jazz.

It was no surprise that Gobert and the Minnesota Timberwolves were eliminated from the postseason by the Denver Nuggets as eight seeds rarely upset the one seed (sorry Milwaukee).

Mitchell’s early exit after a tremendous season with the Cavaliers came as more of a shock after Cleveland marched to an impressive 51-31 record, but lost to the fifth-seeded New York Knicks, despite owning home-court advantage.

Here’s what the two former Jazz stars had to say about their early playoff exits with their new teams.

Mitchell Says Solutions Coming After Playoff Loss

Less than 12 months removed from the blockbuster trade that sent Mitchell to the Cavaliers for Lauri Markkanen, Ochai Agbaji, Collin Sexton, three future first-round picks, and two future first-round pick swaps, nobody can say that the guard’s first season in Cleveland was unsuccessful.

Mitchell averaged a career-high 28.3 points, led the Cavaliers to a top-four seed in the East, and is a likely All-NBA first-team member.

But in the postseason, the four-time All-Star saw his numbers dip to 19.5 points, 7.0 assists, and 4.5 rebounds per game while shooting 41 percent from the floor and 24 percent from three.

Despite another earlier-than-expected playoff exit, Mitchell assured Cavaliers fans that their struggles would be overcome.

“There’s going to be a time where we figure this out, you know what I mean?” Mitchell promised. “I’m six years in and I haven’t made it past the second round — there’s going to be a time where I figure it out and it’s coming. You know what I mean? But I’m not going to let this, and I don’t think any of us going to let this define us — define me and I’ll be better for it. We’ll be better for it.”

The Cavaliers suddenly find themselves with a condensed window to make things work with Mitchell after their season ended prematurely.

The guard is under contract for two more seasons in Cleveland, with a player option in the third year.

David Locke, the Utah Jazz radio voice, joined Jake Scott and Ben Anderson on the KSL Sports Zone to discuss the first round of the playoffs on Thursday.

If the Cavaliers aren’t winning more playoff series by next season, Mitchell will become a serious threat to opt out of the final contract of his deal in 2025, leaving the Cavaliers only 24 months between now and then before they could lose the asset they paid such an enormous price for.

That means the Cavaliers should be one of the more aggressive teams this summer looking to improve their roster, or may have to start shopping Mitchell as soon as next summer.

Gobert Embraces Adversity With Timberwolves

While Mitchell’s regular season in Cleveland saw the guard reach new highs, Rudy Gobert’s first year with the Timberwolves was littered with peaks and valleys.

Minnesota struggled with injuries throughout the season, while Gobert’s fit alongside his new teammates was at times clunky.

The French center acknowledged the difficulty in his end-of-season interviews on Thursday, but didn’t shy away from the pressure.

“A lot of noise, some positive some negative but that comes with everything especially when you have high expectations and I have very high expectations for myself and I can embrace that, too,” Gobert said.

Minnesota sent the Jazz four future first-round picks, an additional first-round pick swap, Rookie of the Year finalist Walker Kessler, Patrick Beverley who the team flipped for Talen Horton-Tucker, plus Jarred Vanderbilt and Malik Beasley who the team paired with Mike Conley to acquire another first-round pick from the Los Angeles Lakers.

The former three-time Defensive Player of the Year averaged 13.4 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks. Gobert’s points per game were his lowest number since 2016, while his block average was the second-worst of his career.

Worse yet, Gobert’s first season in Minnesota will forever be defined by the punch he threw at teammate Kyle Anderson during a timeout in the Timberwolves regular season finale.

“A lot of ups and downs — a lot of adversity but I’m really grateful for all of that,” Gobert said after Minnesota was eliminated. “I think it was a great year in terms of growth as a team and individually.”

The former Jazzman did see his numbers improve during the Timberwolves’ first-round exit averaging 15.0 points and 12.2 rebounds per game in the team’s five-game series, but speculation about his future on the roster has already begun.

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Ben Anderson is the Utah Jazz insider for KSL Sports and the co-host of Jake and Ben from 10-12p with Jake Scott on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone. Find Ben on Twitter at @BensHoops or on Instagram @BensHoops.

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What Did Gobert, Mitchell Say About First Round Playoff Exits?