Which surprised nobody around the league, and it’s why teams were calling Utah from the moment the Rudy Gobert trade was announced — this was obviously the next domino. No matter what the Jazz were saying publicly, their actions — the pick haul for Gobert, trading Royce O’Neal and letting Eric Paschall walk (Mitchell’s two best friends on the team), hiring a young coach in Will Hardy, plus Danny Ainge’s history — said rebuild.
Utah is seeking a Rudy Gobert-like haul of picks and players. The question the teams trading for Mitchell need to ask: What would they look like post-trade? Would these teams strip down their roster so far it would just be Mitchell against the world, a setup he wants to avoid? Can they get a third team in the deal to make it more palatable?
Who are the suitors in a Mitchell trade? Here are the five teams at the top of the list.
1. New York Knicks
The Knicks have been linked to Mitchell since the day former CAA head Leon Rose became president and William Wesley took over in Madison Square Garden (Mitchell is repped by CAA). When Wesley and others from the New York front office made a splashy appearance at Utah’s first playoff game, it’s not a coincidence that Mitchell and Jalen Brunson (who has since signed with the Knicks) were playing. Mitchell was born in Westchester County and the Knicks want to bring him home.
Expect the New York Knicks to quickly try and put together a package for Donovan Mitchell, according to league sources. Utah’s bar for Trading Mitchell is sky high. But the Knicks are the team that has the assets to make this a conversation
— Tony Jones (@Tjonesonthenba) July 12, 2022
The big question: Would the Knicks put RJ Barrett in the deal to get it done? New York has plenty of first-round picks to throw in the mix, that’s not the challenge, but New York’s goal would be to have Barrett and Mitchell together on the wing. The Knicks’ first offer will be something like Obi Toppin, Immanuel Quickley, Quentin Grimes and other role players, plus all those picks. But Ainge has picks (thank you, Timberwolves), he’s going to want Barrett, too. Would the Knicks send the 22-year-old potential All-Star out for a 25-year-old perennial All-Star under contract for four more years? They may not want to, but that is the price.
Mitchell on the Knicks, as constructed, doesn’t make them a threat to the Celtics or Bucks, but it gets them closer. And it gives New York a bonified star.
2. Miami Heat
Another team linked to Mitchell for a long time and who reportedly has expressed interest is the Heat. This is reportedly a destination Mitchell would like, as well, but the Heat offer would be more about players than picks. Miami has limited draft capital it can trade, at most there would be two first-round picks plus three pick swaps. They could eventually throw in 2022 first-round selection Nikola Jovic.
The centerpiece of the Heat offer would be Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson, two quality young sharpshooters (Herro is coming off a Sixth Man of the Year campaign). Does that interest Ainge? Miami also is in the mix on a potential Kevin Durant trade, although with essentially the same Herro/Robinson offer — that’s not enough to land KD. It may be enough for Mitchell, depending on how highly Ainge values Herro (and if the Knicks put Barrett in their offer, most front office people are higher on Barrett than Herro).
3. Toronto Raptors
They have been linked to a Durant trade, but if that’s not going to materialize, could some of the same players and picks land the Raptors Mitchell? The Raptors have picks, plus can trade OG Anunoby along with Thaddeus Young, Khem Birch, and others to make the numbers work.
The Jazz will ask for the same thing that reportedly has stalled out Durant to the Raptors talk — Utah will want Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes. If Masi Ujiri is unwilling to throw Barnes in a Durant trade, there is zero chance he would do it for Mitchell, but that will be the ask. Would Anunoby and Gary Trent Jr. plus picks get it done? The Raptors have the players and picks; they have to be in the conversation.
4. Brooklyn Nets
If Mitchell wants to come back to New York, there is more than one option, and the Nets don’t want to bottom out and tank after a Durant trade (the Nets sent all their first-round picks to Houston in the James Harden trade). The Nets don’t have the picks to make a Mitchell trade today, but after the eventual haul they get back from wherever Durant is traded, plus another pick or two from sending Kyrie Irving to the Lakers, then the Nets would have the picks to interest Utah in a deal.
With the talent the Nets will land from wherever Durant is traded, plus Mitchell and Ben Simmons, the Nets should be a solid team. It would be a start, and Brooklyn could move on from its failed superteam experiment.
5. Philadelphia 76ers
This is the longest shot on the board, but if there’s a mega-trade for a star happening you know Daryl Morey is calling. While the Cavaliers and Pelicans have the young players and picks to put together a Mitchell deal, both those teams like their upward trajectory and don’t want to tear apart their cores to get marginally better.
The win now 76ers would be better tomorrow with Mitchell on the roster, although constructing a trade that work is difficult (at best). The 76ers don’t have the picks to get in the Mitchell trade talks right now, this would likely be a three-team deal where the 76ers would unload Tobias Harris and Matisse Thybulle.
The problem is the Jazz will ask for Tyrese Maxey and the 76ers may not be willing to part with their star young point guard. But if the 76ers were willing to put Maxey, doors open up.