In the midst of the NBA’s coronavirus shutdown, league owners and the players union have agreed to suspend all player transactions at least for now. That means, even amid reports of stubborn tension between the two biggest stars in Utah—guard Donovan Mitchell and center Rudy Gobert—any chatter about potential trades is speculation.
Gobert, of course, was the first NBA player to test positive with coronavirus, on March 11. It was that positive test that spurred the league to call a suspension in play to begin the following day. Gobert had been cavalier about the threat of coronavirus days before, jokingly touching every microphone and surface on a press conference table in front of gathered media members.
The joke wore off quickly once his own test came back positive and things took another bad turn when Mitchell was found to have tested positive, too. Gobert apologized publicly and days later, Mitchell appeared on Good Morning America. He conceded that there was anger toward Gobert. “It took a while for me to kind of cool off and I read what he said and I heard what he said, so I’m glad he’s doing okay,” Mitchell said.
On Friday, The Athletic reported that Mitchell has not quite forgiven Gobert and that members of the Jazz organization are working to get him to see that the infection within the team could have come from everywhere, not just from Gobert’s carelessness. But The Athletic reported that the relationship may not be, “salvageable.”
Rudy Gobert Trade Scenarios for the Jazz
So where does that leave the Jazz?
Well, they’re not going to give up on Gobert just yet, but whenever we do finally get around to the NBA offseason, Utah may have to at least consider some trade options for their two-time Defensive Player of the Year. His situation will be complicated by the fact that he can hit free agency in the Summer of 2021 (he will make $26 million next year), but there will be takers.
Boston Celtics. The Celtics need to find a way to consolidate their big men and Gobert’s ability to protect the rim and contribute offensively without requiring touches makes him the ideal candidate. To make a deal work, the Celtics would have to have former Jazz swingman Gordon Hayward opt in for next year and send him back to Utah in a trade, probably adding one of their three first-round picks to sweeten the deal.
Philadelphia Sixers. Gobert for Joel Embiid? Talent-wise, the Sixers lose out. But we all know Embiid’s injury history. He missed 21 games in this short season and has missed at least 18 in every season of his career—including the first two years in which he sat out altogether. Philly has chemistry and payroll issues. Sending away Embiid (three years, $95 million remaining on his deal after this season) for a defensive-minded big would help on both fronts.
New Orleans Pelicans. Doubtful that the Jazz would trade Gobert within the conference and ultimately, the Pels could look for a center who can create space for Zion Williamson with 3-point shooting. But Gobert could erase some of Williamson’s defensive shortcomings and allow New Orleans to firm up in the middle. Piecing together a deal without giving up a player the Pelicans consider part of their core—Jrue Holiday, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball—would be nearly impossible.
Toronto Raptors. The Raptors have designs on bringing in Giannis Antetokounmpo when he hits free agency in 2021. If they played things just right, they could acquire Gobert, sign Antetokounmpo and then go over the cap re-signing Gobert that summer. Question is, what more beyond Kyle Lowry (signed for next year at $30 million) could the Raps send to Utah?
Orlando Magic. Orlando needs an offensive burst from somewhere on the roster but the Magic’s clear focus has been building a long-limbed, swarming defensive team and that makes them a good fit for Gobert. The Magic would have to send back Nik Vucevic but a swap of forwards, too, could help both sides—Aaron Gordon going to Utah, Bojan Bogdanovic going to Orlando.