Commentary: It’s no surprise the Jazz are willing to listen to trade offers for Donovan Mitchell
Many took ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski’s report as an indication that the Utah Jazz are now willing to trade Donovan Mitchell when prior to Tuesday the team was not. But that’s not entirely true.
So, there was some news that came out on Tuesday that had NBA fans turning their heads and perking up their ears, particularly Utah Jazz fans.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that “rival teams say the Utah Jazz are showing a willingness to listen on possible trade scenarios,” regarding three-time All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell.
Many took this as an indication that the Jazz are now willing to trade Mitchell when prior to Tuesday the team was not. But that’s not entirely true.
On Saturday, Jazz general manager Justin Zanik told reporters that there is no one on the team who would be considered untouchable and that there isn’t any “intent” to trade Mitchell. That’s a very, very long way from saying that the team isn’t willing to listen to offers.
League sources have indicated that the Jazz have shut down some previous inquiries about Mitchell from other teams, but that was mostly based on timing and belief that offers would not have measured up to what the Jazz feel Mitchell is worth.
Make no mistake though, the Jazz are willing to listen to the right offer. There are very few players in the NBA in which the respective front office would outright not consider trading. Mitchell is not that player and the Jazz are not that team.
There isn’t certainty at this point if the Jazz are angling toward a rebuild or if they are going to retool around Mitchell and try to actually contend. But no matter what the end goal, the Jazz brass is not going to come right out and say something like, “Our intention is to trade Donovan Mitchell; tank to rebuild; and we expect to get x, y and z in exchange for Mitchell.”
That would only serve to make Mitchell mad, erode any trust between sides, upset the league office and hamper the Jazz’s ability to negotiate a more lucrative deal if there were to be a bidding war.
Imagine that scenario for a second. The Jazz say they are shopping Mitchell, and then what? Despite all of the rumors and noise about his happiness he’s remained in Utah and never requested a trade, here are the Jazz openly saying they want to get rid of him. How do you think that would go over? And then every team inquiring would know how Mitchell feels and how bad the Jazz need to get him moved at that point. That wouldn’t give the Jazz any leverage in that situation.
As it stands, the Jazz could absolutely keep Mitchell and work toward making a pretty good team now that they have some assets in the bag. That’s a much better position to work from.
The Jazz are playing this situation pretty much exactly as you would expect, which is going to include a lot of vague quotes and phrases that could be taken multiple ways. Take what Zanik said on Saturday for example.
“Things evolve in the NBA, so I couldn’t sit here and say anybody is (untouchable),” he said. “We’re trying to build a championship team. But there’s no intent there at all.”
Trying to “build a championship team” could mean that the Jazz aren’t shopping Mitchell and are instead looking for ways to be a legitimate contender following the Rudy Gobert trade to the Minnesota Timberwolves. But, it could also mean that in order to compete for a championship, the Jazz need to acquire assets because they know the window on a championship with this roster has closed.
You’d be hard pressed to find a large number of NBA executives or staffers who think the Gobert trade was the Jazz’s way of moving closer to a title. It’s much easier to find those who believe the Gobert trade was the first domino to fall in what will be a Jazz rebuild, and among NBA circles there are very few, if any, who are surprised the Jazz are willing to listen to Mitchell offers.