Whether it is fair or not, a cloud has hovered over the Utah Jazz organization for a while now, centered on the future of All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell.
In the aftermath of the Rudy Gobert trade, which sent the All-Star center to Minnesota in return for a wealth of assets, speculation only increased that Mitchell may want out of Utah, or that the Jazz would embrace a complete rebuild and look to trade him.
As of right now, though, the Jazz are committed to moving forward with Mitchell as the face of the franchise.
“Look,” Jazz general manager Justin Zanik said Saturday, “if you had asked me three months ago about anyone on the roster or any sort of change, change is inevitable in the NBA. I’m not trying to be cryptic or anything else, but Donovan is on our roster and he is a very important part of what we are trying to do.
“Things evolve in the NBA so I couldn’t sit here and say anyone is (untouchable). We are trying to build a championship team, but there is no intent there at all (to trade Mitchell).”
As for Mitchell, the Jazz have been in regular communication with him and his representatives and Mitchell has supported the current vision for the franchise.
“With all of our players and all the possible transactions that we do, we solicit input on possibilities of change on the roster,” Zanik said. “Donovan has been very supportive of all the things that we are doing. He has a previous relationship with Coach (Will) Hardy as well from Team USA.
“We have been in contact with both him and his representatives, kind of keeping him up to date, and we will continue to do so.”
The Jazz believe that their new roster — both Zanik and Jazz CEO Danny Ainge emphasized that it isn’t close to being finalized yet — will afford Mitchell real opportunity for growth.
“I think this is a great opportunity for him,” Zanik said. “Obviously he is a high character, highly motivated player who wants to be great. We are going to continue to give him resources to do that and accomplish it.”
One specific area of growth for Mitchell that the Jazz hope to see going forward is as a point guard.
Ainge noted that Mitchell has been a part-time point guard for the Jazz — Mitchell is listed at 6-foot-1 — when on the floor without Mike Conley, but that position might be where he can be the most impactful.
“We have talked about that a lot,” Ainge said. “He has played some one. He played some last year at times when Mike was out of the game. Him evolving into a one will make him a better player, whether he is the actual full-time one or a part-time one.”
The Jazz also expressed hope that with Gobert gone, Mitchell will become even more of a leader for the franchise than he has previously been.
“He is a driven young man,” Zanik said, “and the opportunity is there to assume a leadership role, which he has continued to grow into.
“Along with all of our other players and veterans there, with Mike and Bojan (Bogdanović), guys that he has been with and (who’ve) helped him, I think the new guys can come in and help with that too, both on and off the court.”