The Utah Implosion

Updated: June 13, 2022
d-mitch gobert

They’ve said for years that insanity is the repetition of the same action over and over expecting a different result. Like a child stuck at home punch-drunk with boredom opening a refrigerator every 5 minutes desperately hoping for cookies or cake to somehow manifest out of thin air…only to find the same half-empty plastic bottles of condiments and the day-old scraps of curdled over animal fat that once was food and now couldn’t even be given away. Maybe the mirage has been cast and shaded its characters with illusionary depth from the Orlando Bubble pyrotechnics. Or maybe it stems from the rookie phenom narratives coming off of the 28-point series-tying performance against the soft big 3 in OKC or the young D-Wade comps that followed. Maybe there’s a hope intertwined in his 220-pound combo guard frame and the previous life at Louisville as a plus defender that D-Mitch has the ceiling as the primary option on a true title contender.

But after 5 disappointing trips to the postseason, one in which they came in as the 1-seed riding a hype train of ESPN and Ringer praise, how many times over does Salt Lake City wanna watch this same B- mediocre basketball film? Especially considering, outside of the hobbled Denver Nuggets without Murray and MPJ, the Utah Jazz were the team everyone wanted to face in the 1st round of these playoffs. They gave a near super-max to a 7-footer no one is entirely sure can play crunch time minutes in a series, and their so-called superstar guard has been rumored several times to have big market aspiration and play in his hometown in the Big Apple. They have no young rookie blue-chip contracts, a piss pour defensive identity that doesn’t hold a wax candle worth of fire under the bright lights, and somehow there are those who think a Rudy Gobert trade is the answer to turning this franchise and disgruntled 25-year-old New York guard into a threat in the loaded West.

The top-tier polarizing center in Rudy Gobert is owed 170 million over the next 4 years with an unimaginable 46.6-million-dollar player option in the 25/26 season. Utah fans can philander their way through the trade machine all they want creating unrealistic exchanges sending back stars to Salt Lake, but the sobering truth remains—there are teams thirsty to add Gobert but on the cheap. Especially considering outside of The Stifle Tower the Jazz’s defense would struggle to try to stop the first team All G-league squad, swapping out Rudy for a John Collins or even a great perimeter defender like Ben Simmons would unlikely make the team substantially better and would most likely end up being a costly draft capital exchange with lateral on floor improvements.

So, what’s the answer for this perennial playoff team? Well, if Mitchell suddenly married into the Mormon church and made a commitment to Utah long-term, you could sell ownership on the fact he’s only 25 and still ascending. Unfortunately for new owner Ryan Smith, Mitchell appears to have strong desires to play in New York and his lack of dedication on the defensive end looks like he’s content being a 1-way weapon and an inconsistent shooter at that. The Jazz can roll it back again, narcissistically fixated on the upcoming All-Star game they’re hosting in Utah, and wait for the rest of the NBA to come around that neither of their Ace assets are Kings, or they can start a firestorm and slang off all their pieces for picks in a rebuild.

The only silver lining in this scenario is that the Jazz do own the rights to their own pick in 2023. And because of this precious stone could be shaped into a gem in a much-anticipated draft, it’s not a Gobert trade for an upgrade, but a full sale of Rudy, D-Mitch, Conley, Bogdanovic, and Clarkson. It appears as if they are unable to see the forest for the trees because they believe they have something with this roster when actually what they have is a luxury tax for a black horse western conference contender who would need multiple injuries to swing their way to get there. They are in no way a contender for the title in a Conference with the Warriors, Suns, Nuggets, Clippers, Mavericks, and Grizzlies, and with their current chemistry between their two All-Stars are more likely to be a first-round knockout next year rather than a team advancing past any of these squads when healthy.

In the case of trying to climb the mountain around Mitchell, the trades for Gobert are a dead-end and even the worth of Mitchell on the trade market isn’t spectacular if you wanna swap star for star. Where they do have value is in draft-heavy exchanges for a rebuild. The New York Knicks, Mitchell’s presumed ideal location to migrate to, have all their 1st rounders moving forward, along with RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickly still on their rookie deals. They also have bad asset contracts in Fournier and Kemba Walker which they’d love to get off of if possible.

The route long term is to try and get a few young pieces and the biggest assortments of 1sts to rebuild moving forward in a post-Mitchell/Gobert apocalypse. The Hawks who have rumored to have interest in Gobert also have their picks moving forward and the expiring 21-million-dollar Gallinari contract that can soak up some of the fat in the exchange for a Gobert trade for a pair of 1sts. Presumably, Bogdanovic, Clarkson, and Conley are worth a 1st apiece and with a single tank year for a top 3 pick in 2023 and some young players and an assortment of picks moving forward, this route may create the foundation for found money in the future.

Though we have seen many times over that these tanking processes end in vain. It is a gamble that Utah may not have the stomach for…but one thing is for certain, if they run it back as is, there’s no gamble or upside, only the results of repeating a broken equation again and again expecting a miracle that will never come.

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