The Gobert Report: Possible solutions for an unfortunate situation.
Friday morning NBA Twitter was abuzz about the crumbling relationship dynamic between Utah Jazz players, Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert. According to Sham's Charania and The Athletic, things look close to being beyond repair. If the Jazz do decide to part ways with one of their franchise cornerstones, it will likely be Gobert, and not Mitchell.
Mitchell is 23-years-old and has been the leading scorer for the last three seasons. Gobert, however, is no slouch either. He's a two-time defensive player of the year winner, but he is 27-years-old and has one more year left on his contract extension that will pay him over $26 million next season.
There is a likelihood that Gobert stays put and the Jazz find a way to move beyond this current disfunction. However, for the sake of argument, where would be the best fit for a big man in the middle of prime?
Contending Teams Who Could Make a Move
The Celtics center rotation of Kanter, Theis, and Williams isn't bad, but it's also nothing too special. Especially when not compared to a perennial defensive player of the year candidate. However, to match salaries and to entice the Jazz, would it be worth giving up one of their wings?
Would a reunion with Gordon Hayward sound appealing for the Jazz? At the price he's getting paid, I'm not so sure. Plus you already have Bogdan Bogdanovic and Joe Ingles, so Hayward feels a bit repetitive.
I would imagine the asking price would for the Jazz would start with Jaylen Brown, but if you are the Celtics would you give up such a promising player in a win-now scenario? I'm not sure anything works salary wise if the Jazz don't bite on Hayward.
Throughout the season there were rumblings about breaking up the Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis frontcourt. It's clear the Pacers would prefer Sabonis over Turner, so this deal would be swapping defensive centers.
The Pacers pay a little bit more over the short-term, but if they decide to not extend Gobert, they move on quickly. The Jazz get their defensive anchor at a slightly cheaper price and can continue as business as usual. To match salaries, another Pacer would have to be involved, maybe someone like Doug McDermott?
I'm not sure the Pacers are just ready to break up the band, but this deal is intriguing in that is keeps the identities of both teams intact.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Like the Pacers, the Thunder too had rumors of a big man being traded. Steven Adams and Gobert are making roughly the same amount of money this season, they are also roughly the same age. Gobert is the better center, but if the Jazz want to keep a traditional big man in their lineup to keep things moving forward, Adams is appealing.
What's also appealing is the draft assets the Thunder have accumulated. The Thunder have approximately 500 first-round draft picks over the next few seasons. At least it feels that way. Giving up some of that draft capital for a DPOY center to pair up with your young core would be worth giving up a pick or two.
Hopeful Teams Who Could Make a Move
The Hornets are a team that need help everywhere. Yet, if I am the Jazz, there is nothing worth pulling the trigger on. Unless of course, they land the number one draft pick, which is where the negotiations would have to start.
The Jazz want to win now, but the only real solution here would be a package built around Nicolas Batum's expiring contract and draft picks. Does Gobert even move the needle much for the Hornets the way the team is currently built? I'd argue a top draft pick is more valuable for them right now than Gobert would be.
Before the trade deadline closed, the Cavaliers acquired Andre Drummond for next to nothing. Had they acquired Gobert for the same price, NBA Twitter would have burned to the ground. With their salaries similar, would the Jazz want this swap?
It all depends. The Jazz are playoff-bound and should be for the next few seasons too. Drummond is not what Gobert is defensively, but he would bring other things to the table. If Drummond was fully engaged (which most likely he would be being on a playoff team), he can become a good defender and keeps things afloat for the Jazz.
The Cavs get a defensive anchor to pair next to Love and the cadre of young guards they are trotting out now. Sure it's quite a bit of money tied up into their frontcourt, but they'll have that anyway, so they might as well snag an elite defender if they can.
Like the Hornets, the Pistons could use a little bit of help all over the place. As currently constructed, the Pistons have a bunch of salaries that will expire this offseason. This doesn't help much in means of acquiring a player via trade.
The only player who could be matched salary-wise and be traded is Blake Griffin. If you are the Jazz, how does trading a 27-year-old defensive player of the year who is making $26 million per season, for an injury-prone 31-year-old big man who is making over $36 million a season sound? Exactly. The need is there, but not necessarily the path to get there.
San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs look to miss the playoffs for the first time in a long time. All season long there were rumors centered around DeMar DeRozen and LaMarcus Aldridge. Gobert would fit the persona of the Spurs, as the no-frills, defensive-minded big man.
Gobert for Aldridge straight-up works salary-wise, but I'd imagine the Jazz would ask for a bit more. If the Spurs still had Bertans, this move would be a no brainer for them (if the Jazz would accept a deal around Aldridge), unfortunately, that's not the case. Maybe Aldridge plus Derrick White could be an appealing starting place to the Jazz, who are thin at the point guard position behind Mike Conley?
The Wizards are in a unique position next season. John Wall will be returning and Bradley Beal is still one of the league's top offensive players. With the emergence of Davis Bertans and continued growth from Thomas Bryant, they will be playoff-bound.
The window for the Wizards is open for a few more seasons, but only if they can make the right moves. The deal most likely would need to be centered around a sign-and-trade for Davis Bertans. Bertans isn't a traditional 6'10 big man, so the Jazz would have to find a way to make the fit work. If it was me, I'd try to poach Bryant along with Bertans.
Nothing Gold Can Stay
While there are other possibilities not mentioned above, teams would have to get creative with their offers. If by some big surprise the Jazz decide Gobert is more valuable to them and make Mitchell available, then all 30 teams will pick up the phones and try to get a deal done.
What makes a deal for Gobert slightly difficult, is whether or not teams view him as a long-term addition. Gobert's contract extension is up soon and he will likely look for a big deal. However, how much money would you be willing to give to a traditional center approaching his thirties in the modern NBA?
His best fit is on this Jazz squad, but if the riff is too wide to repair, then this offseason just became more interesting.