The two teams with possibly the most disappointing first-round playoff exits this year were the Brooklyn Nets and the Utah Jazz. Now, they are linked in a proposed trade.
Addressing tensions involving stars on both teams, Bleacher Report’s Andy Bailey offered a trade scenario in an April 30 story that would see the Nets move on from point guard Ben Simmons and the Jazz splitting up its two biggest stars, center Rudy Gobert and guard Donovan Mitchell.
Could unstable relationships on both teams make the two first-round flameouts perfect trade partners?
In his story on ways to break up Gobert and Donovan, who have gotten the Jazz to the postseason in each of their five seasons playing together but have not been able to get the team past the Western Conference semifinals, Bailey wrote that Gobert would be the player to get moved. The full details of the deal:
Utah Would Receive: Simmons and a 2022 first-round pick (via Philadelphia)
Brooklyn Would Receive: Gobert
For Utah, there have been reports of tension among their two All-Stars for a few seasons now. As recently as February, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported that Gobert and Mitchell were “under each other’s skin.”
“Gobert and Mitchell have been at each other’s — I don’t know that I’d say — at each other’s throats,” he said on the February 4 episode of the “Brian Windhorst & The Hoop Collective” podcast.
Both Gobert, who will be 30 when the 2022-23 season starts, and Mitchell, who will be 26, are under contract with the Jazz through the 2025-26 season, so which player would be more likely to get traded?
Despite being a three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award winner, Gobert continues to get abused by teams that play small ball in the postseason. Last year it was Terrance Mannof the Los Angeles Clippers. This year it was the Dallas Mavericks‘ Maxi Kleber.
“The Jazz defense is built around the world’s best rim protector in Rudy Gobert, but there’s only so much he can do when the opposing team has five shooters on the floor and his perimeter defenders are regularly getting burned at the point of attack,” wrote Ricky O’Donnell in an April 19 SB Nation story. “Utah’s nightmare scenario played out in [Game 2 of Jazz-Mavericks series] when Dallas subbed out a lob threat in Dwight Powell for a shooter in Maxi Kleber at the center spot.”
In each of past two postseason failures, Gobert’s lack of mobility on the perimeter appeared to be the common denominator.
Meanwhile, the Nets, who got swept out of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals by the Boston Celtics, could be looking for a dominant rim protector and an excuse to cure themselves of the headache that has been the Ben Simmons experience.
Bailey, of Bleacher Report, noted that Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant’s Nets “have allowed 113.0 points per 100 possessions when both are on the floor,” but that when Gobert is on the court “Utah has allowed 6.4 fewer points per 100 possessions.”
“Add the pressure Gobert puts on the paint as a rim-runner, and it’s easy to see how he’d fit with the Nets,” Bailey wrote.
How Simmons Could Benefit Jazz
Simmons, who was expected to bring a pass-first point guard and presence defensively for Brooklyn’s postseason push after a midseason trade from the Philadelphia 76ers, never appeared in a game for the Nets. After ongoing will-he-won’t-he speculation about whether Simmons would play, he eventually said a “mental block” would keep him off the court, according to an April 26 story by The Athletic’s Shams Charania.
So what would motivate the Jazz to want Simmons, a three-time All-Star?
Jazz CEO Danny Ainge is a fan of Simmons, according to an April 27 story by The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor, who noted that a Simmons-Mitchell pick-and-roll duo would be reminiscent of the Jazz’s backcourt that featured Mitchell and Ricky Rubio, from 2017 to 2019. Mitchell benefitted from having a pass-first point guard in Rubio, having a higher effective field goal percentage when the two were on the court together.