Trade talks for Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell have stalled, and the original plan to rebuild around the All-Star is back in the conversation.
If the Jazz stay put, is a playoff series in the cards?
Let’s look at a best case, but also the most realistic scenario for the Jazz 2022-23 and beyond.
With the capital project acquired in the exchange of Rudy Gobert, the Jazz have the means to develop the roster if an opportunity arises. It’s been rumored that Collin Sexton and the Cleveland Cavaliers aren’t on the same page in an extension, and the Jazz are reportedly interested in a potential sign and trade.
It would require sacrificing future draft capital and a player (Mike Conley) to match salaries, but Mitchell at point guard and Sexton at shooting guard would be a dynamic 1-2 punch that could fill him with the best of them all. them.
In the small striker, we can register Bojan Bogdanovic. He’ll be 33 to start the season, but he’ll still give you 16 points a night and provide the spacing you need to maximize Mitchell’s talents. Bogdanovic would be an upgrade over Royce O’Neale, who has recorded most minutes at 3 in 2021-22.
Where the current roster is, Jarred Vanderbilt has the inside lane to start at the forefront. The rambling ex-Timberwolf would bring the energy, grit and tenacity the Jazz desperately needed in their recent streak of early playoff exits. Given the starting minutes, Vanderbilt could average a double-double.
Getting production to center position may be Utah’s kryptonite, but what if 2022 NCAA Defensive Player of the Year Walker Kessler is NBA ready right off the bat? Kessler brings rim protection and a presence in the paint that the Jazz will need with the departure of Gobert. It wouldn’t be the first time a late first-round pick had an immediate impact in the NBA.
The bench is deep with experience. Malik Beasley, Jordan Clarkson and Patrick Beverley are all rookie-caliber players who could make hay against other teams’ subs.
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A wildcard is newly acquired free agent Simone Fontecchio. If he’s ready for the NBA, Fontecchio could give the Jazz some much-needed depth at the small forward position. His highlight reel is impressive, and time will tell if that translates to the NBA.
Finally, can a new voice take this band to new heights? Head coach Will Hardy has work to do, but change can be good, as we saw with the transition of former Boston Celtic head coach Brad Stevens to Ime Udoka last season.
Even in a busy Western Conference, this roster could make a playoff run, but more importantly, the Jazz have the draft capital and salary cap flexibility to make upgrades down the road.
Jazz executive Danny Ainge could have more than $30 million in cap space associated with three first-round picks in a loaded draft heading into next year. The Jazz are well organized with only Bogdanovic, Beverley and Rudy Gay not under the team’s control.
Can a rising young team turn the script on Mitchell’s desire to stay in Utah? What if he becomes eligible for a super-max contract?
A lot can happen in three years.
Ainge could still pull the trigger to trade Mitchell if he’s blown away by an offer, but until that happens expect the No. 45 to suit up in Salt Lake City when the new season kicks off. will begin.
Follow Patrick on Twitter @pbyrnesNBA.
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