When Quin Snyder walked out of the door with his resignation as
head coach last month, it was the first of many dominoes to fall
toward the Utah Jazz's intention to rebuild.
“And I think it’s pretty clear, we desperately wanted him to
stay,” Jazz head of basketball operations Danny Ainge said during
Snyder’s final press conference.
Since Snyder officially left his perch in Utah, foundational
layers have begun to peel away from a consistent contender who
never got over the hump in the Western Conference.
It all started minutes into the new league year beginning, first
with veteran wing Royce O’Neale being traded to the Brooklyn Nets
for a 2023 first-round pick. Then, less than 24 hours later, the
Jazz dealt three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert
to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Utah received a historic haul of
draft picks in return, with three unprotected and a 2029
first-round selection top-three protected.
With the team prioritizing future assets from Minnesota in a
Gobert blockbuster over win-now pieces to potentially retool on the
fly, the smoke around Donovan Mitchell’s looming departure is
reaching new levels of formality.
According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania and Tony Jones, the
Jazz are now openly listening to trade calls on
Mitchell, and the New York Knicks are a top contender for his
services. Although, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski added Monday that the
Jazz "aren't in a rush" to move Mitchell.
But at this point, there’s no reason to believe Mitchell wants
to stay put in Utah long-term, and Ainge has put this "teardown"
formula to use before, particularly when he overhauled the Boston
Celtics in the summer of 2013; instead of Paul Pierce and Kevin
Garnett, Gobert and Mitchell have presented the Jazz the perfect
opportunity to bottom out when it makes the most sense to do
As currently constructed, the Jazz are maybe the No. 8
seed in the West simply due to Mitchell’s presence. Already
drastically different with Gobert’s departure, it never really made
much sense to stay in the middle of the pack. Their championship
window suddenly shut on them when Synder — the mastermind behind
the the team’s rise — left the building for good.
Luckily for the Jazz, who appear more than ready to fully
submerge themselves into the tank race, Mitchell’s hometown team in
New York presents the right mixture of draft capital and intriguing
young prospects to quickly make a deal where both sides could walk
The star-craved Knicks have been waiting for this moment. As
soon as they traded out of the 2022 NBA Draft at No. 11 overall for
future draft capital — which also helped clear space to sign new
starting point guard Jalen Brunson — the franchise started to leave
a trail of breadcrumbs. New York has the ammunition to strike, and
Mitchell feels like the prize its front office has coveted all
With so many connections to Mitchell in New York, including the
CAA agency ties with team president Leon Rose, the stars all align.
No more false promises on delivering a star to the Big Apple; this
time, it would be accomplished with emphasis by acquiring a top-20
player with consistent All-NBA upside. Mitchell’s score-first
mindset was made for an environment like Madison Square Garden, and
it wouldn’t come as any surprise if we found out that he's been
pulling some strings to make this marriage happen as well.
Entering the second season of his five-year rookie max
extension, Mitchell’s prime years as a 6-foot-1 guard who relies
heavily on athleticism and explosion are within this current
window. For the Knicks, their core — headlined by the rising RJ
Barrett and veteran Julius Randle — is about ready to take a step
forward. And after a season where reality hit hard that they
weren’t as close as internally expected, a big splash might be the
necessary antidote to reviving the New York’s hopes.
The bar has been set in Utah on what the Jazz want most in
return for their building blocks: All of the future draft picks
The Jazz found a team in Minnesota willing to cough up valuable
future picks alongside multiple young prospects under years of team
control (Jarred Vanderbilt, Leandro Bolmaro, Walker Kessler). Look
for Ainge and Co. to want even more from the Knicks or any other
team inquiring on Mitchell. Preparing for this chance to bring
Mitchell home, New York has eight projected first-round picks over
the next four years, which totals up to a whopping 12 selections
through 2029. If the Jazz get what they want for Mitchell, that
number could match or exceed the historic amount of assets that the
Oklahoma City Thunder and New Orleans Pelicans stockpiled in their
past superstar-blockbuster deals.
So, what would a deal even look like where a homecoming happens
for Mitchell and the Knicks? In order to match salaries, they would
need to send out around $25 million. New York can quickly get to
that figure by including either or both of Evan Fournier and
Derrick Rose, the latter of whom has a pseudo-expiring contract
because of a team option. From there, the Knicks have a plethora of
young talent to put together a viable package: Obi Toppin, Immanuel
Quickley, Quentin Grimes, Miles McBride, Cam Reddish, Rokas
Jokubaitis (2021 draft-and-stash). Picking two from that bunch
feels fair on top of the draft-pick barrage.
This will likely turn into a stalemate until one side caves, but
the Jazz and Knicks can craft together a win-win framework — it'll
just have to be haggled over on the negotiation table
In my opinion, a construct like this feels like it could be a
realistic outcome where Mitchell suits up opening night for the
Knicks in MSG.
Knicks receive: Donovan Mitchell, Rudy
Jazz receive: Quentin Grimes, Miles McBride, Rokas
Jokubaitis, Evan Fournier, Derrick Rose, 2023 first-round pick (via
Wizards), 2023 first-round pick (via Mavericks), 2024 first-round
pick (unprotected), 2025 first-round pick (via Bucks), 2025 pick
swap, 2026 first-round pick (unprotected), 2027 pick swap, 2028
first-round pick (top-3 protected), 2029 pick
In total, it would be an absolute haul for the Jazz centered
around six first-round picks and multiple swaps, but one that still
doesn’t really gut much of New York’s core of young talent. Under
this scenario, Utah would own 18 first-round picks over the next
six drafts, which is absolutely jaw-dropping.
Once the Jazz realized their title window shut on them before
ever making a significant postseason push, the organization has
been open to the idea of blowing it all up. Unable to overcome past
failures, Utah is now about to enter foreign territory, bottoming
completely out for years at a time. However, having Ainge running
the rebuild should give those in Utah confidence that there's light
at the end of the tunnel.
Ainge pulled off Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum in Boston, and
now the Jazz need him to pull multiple rabbits out of his hat along