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Could "unsalvageable" Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert relationship lead to a trade?

Could

While it feels like it’s been forever since the NBA suspended the 2019-20 season, the decision actually came down one month ago today.

To review: the NBA shut down the league after Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for coronavirus. The next day, teammate Donovan Mitchell tested positive, and there were rumblings that the All-Star guard wasn’t too happy with his All-Star center.

Well, it sounds like things haven’t gotten any better over the past month. Shams Charania, Sam Amick and Tony Jones of The Athletic report that the relationship between the two teammates is “unsalvageable.”

Mitchell was reportedly angered by Gobert’s reckless behavior on the days leading up to the NBA’s suspension. If you don’t remember, the center foolishly breathed on reporters’ phones and recording devices, leading to some well-deserved condemnation from pundits. Considering Mitchell’s continued hostility, we can only assume that behavior carried over to the locker room.

This is a disappointing turn in what’s already been a disappointing season in Utah. While the Jazz sat with the fourth-best record in the Western Conference at the time of the shutdown, the team had struggled to adapt with Mike Conley running the show. If there was any silver lining, it was the fact that the Jazz had multiple All Stars for the first time since the 2006-07 season (Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur).

Now, it appears that the relationship between the two franchise players may be unrepairable.

Naturally, as we’ve seen so many times in recent years, that will lead to rampant trade talks. There’s one thing to make clear right away: the organization won’t be trading Mitchell. The former first-rounder is still playing on his rookie contract, has improved his scoring and shooting in each of his three seasons, and is only 23 years old.

Gobert is another story. The center’s contract expires following the 2020-21 season, and he’s eligible for the supermax. It’s unlikely the front office will want to pay the 27-year-old that kind of money, while Gobert will understandably command that extension. In other words, even without the recent fiasco, the two sides may have been heading for a divorce.

The former first-rounder has emerged as one of the best defensive big men in the NBA, earning Defensive Player of the Year honors in both 2018 and 2019. While there are naturally some concerns with Gobert’s offense and his ability to guard on the perimeter, there would be plenty of suitors lining up for his services.

Who could those suitors be? The Celtics make sense, but the financials would be tough; the Celtics don’t have the ancillary contracts to match Gobert’s $25.7M salary, meaning they’d have to bail on someone like Gordon Hayward or Jaylen Brown.

The Clippers could be an interesting squad, especially if impending free agent Montrezl Harrell is willing to engage in some kind of sign-and-trade. The Lakers will also be naturally mentioned as a suitor, but you’ve got to imagine the Jazz will receive a better offer than a package headline by Kyle Kuzma.

A sleeper team could also emerge. The Mavericks are always searching for big names, and the Blazers are constantly looking for a third star.

For what it’s worth, it sounds like not everyone is buying into the tales of disfunction. Jazz forward Joe Ingles had a simple reaction to the story:

Regardless, things could look a whole lot different in Utah next season, even if both Gobert and Mitchell stick around. While this hypothetical trade wouldn’t impact the Jazz 40/1 odds for a 2020 championship, we surely wouldn’t be opting for those odds in 2021, either.

Last updated: Sat 11th April 2020

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