The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting everyone around the world, and the Utah Jazz certainly aren’t exempt. If the impasse between Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell is legit, here are five Gobert trades that might make sense.
A recap of what went down, via Shams Charania, Tony Jones and Sam Amick of The Athletic: several days before the Utah-Oklahoma City Thunder game on March 11, Gobert was visiting family who had traveled stateside from France. The seven-footer started experiencing flu-like symptoms, but played through them and continued to travel with the team. Some teammates urged him to get treated, but the big man did not see the symptoms as a big deal.
This proved to be an error on Gobert’s part. He tested positive for COVID-19 about 20 minutes before tip-off on March 11, and from that point on the dominoes fell. Gobert had been around teammates, touched several opponents through the course of play (specifically the Detroit Pistons, who played the Philadelphia 76ers on that fated night), and even touched media microphones while having coronavirus.
The events that followed this news bordered on nightmarish for members of the Jazz and Thunder. The teams had to get tests ordered ASAP, no one was allowed to leave and the fear of uncertainty clouded over everyone. It was a dreadful night for members of both teams, as well as everyone who came in contact with Gobert leading up to his positive test.
As you would expect, his conduct didn’t sit well with teammates — especially the one who also tested positive for COVID-19. Fellow Utah star Donovan Mitchell expressed his displeasure with Gobert in a video interview with “Good Morning America,” and The Athletic’s report cites that the situation between Gobert and Mitchell “doesn’t appear salvageable.”
(On another note: regardless of how irresponsible you find his antics leading up to the season’s suspension, he really did save lives. If not for him testing positive, how much longer would it have taken for the NBA — and the industries that reacted to the the NBA’s decision — to actually shut down? And by that token, how many more people would have refused to take this seriously until then?)
The Jazz may be able to mend the relationship between those two, but they’re not the only people in the organization. It’s possible (and justified) that many members of the Jazz would feel uneasy about returning to work with Gobert. Utah may be forced to trade its two-time Defensive Player of the Year.
Though there expects to be little negotiating power in Utah’s favor in such a scenario, there would still be buyers. On one hand, the idea of adding someone who did something that reckless is precarious. There are legitimate questions that will be asked about his maturity. But many teams will see this as an opportunity. He didn’t become a two-time DPOY out of dumb luck, and his value cannot get much lower.
There are plenty of teams who should be able to see the latter, and should be smart enough to take a swing at one of the best centers in the league. Such a trade would obviously have to make sense for the Jazz too though, which is not a requirement all teams can satisfy.
Looking at Utah’s situation, they might have been heading for this conflict anyway. Gobert is only under contract through next season; ditto for Mike Conley. Mitchell is a restricted free agent that same summer (2021 offseason) unless they can extend him before the rookie extension deadline, which happens before the last year of a rookie contract’s deal (so for Mitchell, prior to the 2020-21 campaign tipping off).
Despite those huge additions last summer, Utah is only marginally more equipped to challenge the elites than last year. Choosing between Gobert and Mitchell may have already been on the front office’s mind, so even though this year’s trade deadline has already passed, a deal may be on the table in the near future.
Seeing how the Jazz have operated in the past, it’s unlikely that they’d do a full teardown. The most recent example is a pivot from Gordon Hayward‘s departure (which they saw coming) to the Donovan Mitchell trade. In addition, it’s much harder for teams in small markets to completely blow it up.
Whatever Utah gets in return for Gobert, it will be an attempt to stay competitive, even if that means sacrificing future returns. So with that in mind, here are five trades that could make sense for the Jazz if they must part ways with the Stifle Tower.