Trying to determine if the Utah Jazz have been big winners or losers this offseason seems futile at this point — NBA free agency started less than two weeks ago.
In the social media world we live in, though, that matters little, when the drive for content has created a system where analysis and commentary is consumed instantaneously, instead of giving personnel moves a chance to play out.
The biggest move so far for the Jazz, obviously, was trading All-Star center Rudy Gobert to the Minnesota Timberwolves for a cache of draft picks and role players.
Utah also traded away Royce O’Neale to the Brooklyn Nets for a future first-round pick.
In speaking with the media last weekend, a pair of Jazz front office leaders — CEO Danny Ainge and general manager Justin Zanik — showed their confidence in building the team around All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell without completely shutting the door on possibly trading him as well.
So, have the Jazz won or lost in the eyes of the national media thus far?
Here’s what five analysts have said.
“If Mitchell eventually asks out, he’ll bring back an even bigger haul and Utah will be armed to the teeth for a full-scale rebuild,” Botkin wrote.
“Until then, just with the Minnesota assets, Utah can get into the thick of a lot of trade conversations with four extra first-round picks and some nice salary-attachers. This is a win-win. Minnesota needed to make waves with a big move, and Utah needed a fresh start. They both succeeded.”
Writer Michael Pina specifically named Ainge as a winner, as the Gobert trade signified that the Jazz’s new CEO — who once built title contenders as an executive for the Boston Celtics — really has been given the keys to build this team.
“This is a freaking haul for a Jazz franchise that has Mitchell, a first-round pick in 2023 (courtesy of Thursday’s Royce O’Neale trade) and all its own first-round picks minus a top-10 protected selection in 2024 that will go to the Thunder if it’s No. 11 or higher (which doesn’t seem likely),” Pina wrote. “Without Gobert, next season Utah will become one of the worst teams in the Western Conference. And before Mitchell’s current contract expires, there’s a decent chance Ainge flips him for another desirable package.
“Regardless, this was a masterful job by Ainge and the rest of Utah’s front office to squeeze every last drop of value from a center who already gave that team so much. They’re set up for great things down the line.”
Is it possible to be both a winner and a loser in free agency? Writer Andy Bailey believes that is the case for the Jazz thus far.
On one hand, Utah is expected to be worse in the immediate future minus its star big man and without further movement.
“Barring some other dramatic moves this offseason or miraculous improvements from players still on the roster, Utah is going to be worse over the next couple of seasons,” Bailey wrote.
“And if steering toward mediocrity gives Donovan Mitchell an excuse to ask for a trade to a bigger market, this deal could feel like even more of a loss.”
So, how are the Jazz a winner?
By trading the 30-year-old Gobert now, Utah created itself plenty of financial flexibility.
“Getting out of that contract and adding a whopping four first-round picks (three of which are unprotected) and a promising young big like Walker Kessler has a heck of a shot at turning out to be a win,” Bailey wrote.
Like others, writer Ricky O’Donnell labeled the Jazz a winner, for the simple fact that the franchise — which has failed to get past the second round of the playoffs in five straight postseason appearances — committed to rebuilding itself.
“The Jazz finally decided that a Gobert-Donovan Mitchell pairing has run its course. Utah got an incredible return for the 30-year-old center, landing four future first round picks, plus this year’s No. 19 overall pick Walker Kessler. Don’t be surprised if a Mitchell trade is next,” O’Donnell wrote.
Unlike other analysts, writers Cydney Henderson and Jeff Zillgitt did not classify the Jazz as either a winner or loser so far. Rather, Utah was designated a To Be Determined for its offseason efforts.
That’s in large part because it’s not totally clear what the Jazz’s ultimate plan to rebuild is at this point.
“What are the Jazz up to? That’s a question that remains unclear so far,” Henderson and Zilgitt wrote. “Utah hired 34-year-old Will Hardy as its new head coach last week to replace Quin Snyder. Utah traded away Gobert to Minnesota for multiple players and multiple first-round picks and also sent Royce O’Neale to the Nets for a conditional 2023 first-round draft pick to build around Donovan Mitchell.”