It seems inevitable that Donovan Mitchell will be traded — right? — despite the front office’s oft-repeated line about how there’s “no intent” to trade away the three-time All-Star. Between reading the tea leaves on the team’s rebuild, and the myriad reports of negotiations between the Jazz and other teams around the league, you can’t help but come away with one impression:
It’s probably going to happen. Perhaps even soon.
The situation has some Jazz fans upset, unsure of how to feel about another deal sending away one of the team’s all-time greatest players, and one who is only 25 years old and under contract for three more years, at that. To be sure, there are plenty of questions. I’ll add a couple more, though only tangentially related to Donovan: What is the context for such a deal in franchise history? What are the all-time biggest trades the Utah Jazz have ever made?
Honestly, it’s probably fair to say that the very recent trade of Rudy Gobert to the Timberwolves ranks No. 1 at the moment. And any Donovan deal to come will be right there with it. Also, frankly, the deals by the Jazz to acquire those two would be right up there as well, considering getting a pair of franchise centerpieces in exchange for Trey Lyles, Tyler Lydon, Erick Green, and a couple of million dollars in cash is a pretty big win.
So then, let’s exclude Rudy and Donovan, and look at the other five biggest trades in Utah Jazz history (plus a couple of honorable mentions).
• 2019: Dante Exum and two second-round picks to Cleveland Cavaliers for Jordan Clarkson. The Jazz needed bench scoring. They got that in the pre-Christmas deal, plus an incredible locker-room presence.
• 2010: 2011 first-round pick, 2012 first-round pick, Kosta Koufos to Minnesota Timberwolves for Al Jefferson. No, Big Al didn’t ever carry the team to great heights, but getting a guy who’d average 18.5 points and 9.5 rebounds over three seasons for what would turn out to be Koufos, Donatas Motiejunas, and Terrence Jones is a good value.
• 2019: Jae Crowder, Grayson Allen, Kyle Korver, 2019 first-round pick, 2022 first-round pick to Memphis Grizzlies for Mike Conley. Huuuuge deal, considering Conley got his first All-Star nod with the Jazz, and helped them to the league’s best record in 2020-21. Only reason it’s not in the top 5 is the point guard’s unfortunate injury history here.
5. 1994: Jeff Malone, 1994 first-round pick to Philadelphia 76ers for Jeff Hornacek, Sean Green, 1995 second-round pick
This one usually lands a lot higher on Jazz fans’ lists because of the perception that Horny immediately got the team over the top and into the NBA Finals. Except it wasn’t quite as instantaneous as people remember. Utah lost in the Western finals to Houston in 1994, in the first round to Houston in 1995, and in the Western finals to Seattle in ’96. It wasn’t until ’97 that the Jazz finally got their shot. Still, not a bad trade at all, considering knee troubles limited Jeff Malone to just 76 games thereafter, and that ’94 1RP turned into … B.J. Tyler, who played 55 career games, averaging 3.5 points on 38.1% FGs.
4. 2005: No. 6 pick in 2005 draft, No. 27 pick in 2005 draft, 2006 first-round pick to Portland Trail Blazers for No. 3 pick in 2005 draft
In the lead-up to that ’05 draft, it was known that the Bucks were taking the University of Utah’s Andrew Bogut No. 1, and the Hawks would be going with North Carolina’s Marvin Williams at No. 2. So when the Jazz moved up to No. 3, I wasn’t even a Jazz fan, but as a basketball aficionado, I was geeked out that Chris Paul was gonna play here. Chris Paul! Soooo … they took Deron Williams instead. OK. He still turned out to be really good, especially considering the picks Utah gave up turned into Martell Webster, Linas Kleiza, and Joel Freeland.
3. 2011: Deron Williams to New Jersey Nets for 2011 first-round pick, 2013 first-round pick, Derrick Favors, Devin Harris, cash
Even though the D-Will era in Utah came crashing down spectacularly, the deal to trade him away ultimately involved three total No. 3 overall picks — Deron, Derrick Favors, and the guy the Jazz used that 2011 1RP on, Enes Kanter. (Hindsight being 20/20, Kawhi Leonard and Klay Thompson probably would have been better selections.) That ’13 pick wound up No. 21 overall (Gorgui Dieng), which the Jazz packaged with their own No. 14 pick (Shabazz Muhammad) to the Wolves to get No. 9 pick Tre Burke.
2. 2004: Keon Clark and Ben Handlogten to Phoenix Suns for 2004 first-round pick, 2010 first-round pick, 2005 second-round pick, and Tom Gugliotta
From a pure value perspective, this was an absolute haul for the Jazz. Keon Clark and Ben Handlogten for two first-round picks, a second, and Googs? That 2010 pick — six years away at the time — has quite the story, by the way. Both that one and the ’04 first-rounder here started out as Knicks picks, which were involved in a deal with Phoenix including the likes of Penny Hardaway, Stephon Marbury, and Antonio McDyess. Two months after that, they got re-routed to the Jazz in the Clark/Handlogten deal. The 2004 pick? Kirk Snyder. Meh. But that 2010 pick? It wound up No. 9 overall, where Utah would wind up selecting … Gordon Hayward.
1. 1979: Spencer Haywood to Los Angeles Lakers for Adrian Dantley
The simplest, most straightforward deal on the list. At the time, the Jazz were giving up the established star (Haywood was a five-time All-Star who averaged 24 points and 9.6 rebounds in Utah) for young talent. Haywood’s heyday ended as soon as he got to L.A., as a cocaine addiction ended his time as a top talent. Dantley, who was six years younger, would make the All-Star team six of his seven years with the Jazz, during which time he averaged more than 30 ppg four times, and led the league in scoring twice.