There’s been a lot of focus on a potential partnership with Donovan Mitchell and the New York Knicks — and rightfully so. The Knicks have been aggressive in pursuing the Utah Jazz’s guard, and Mitchell would love to play for the city near where he grew up.
But the Jazz don’t have to trade Mitchell to the Knicks. Utah has Mitchell under contract for three more seasons and CEO Danny Ainge is known for being patient and ruthless in his dealings.
Other NBA teams are going to be interested in acquiring the 25-year-old star scoring over 25 points per game. Indeed, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported this week that along with the Knicks, “several other teams have expressed interest to the Jazz when it comes to Mitchell, such as Washington, Miami, Toronto, Charlotte, Sacramento and Atlanta, according to sources.”
The Jazz could find a deal they prefer outside of New York. Or they could even use that interest as a negotiating tool, pushing the Knicks to raise their price in order to purchase the Jazz’s remaining star.
What might those offers look like? Each will have to have three components: future first-round picks to help the Jazz’s future rebuild, young players to entice the Jazz to make the trade, and substantial enough player contracts to act as salary ballast to make the trade legal by NBA rules (adding up to $24.3 million, to get within 80% of Mitchell’s $30.3 million deal).
Let’s see what each team has to negotiate with:
Future picks: The Hawks just traded three picks to the San Antonio Spurs for Dejounte Murray, but still have picks they could trade to the Jazz for Mitchell. They could still move their own 2023 first-round pick and their 2029 first-round pick. They also have Sacramento’s 2024 first-rounder, but it’s protected: 1-14 in 2024, 1-12 in 2025 and 1-10 in 2026.
Young players: The Hawks still have four players left on their rookie deals: 2019 No. 4 pick De’Andre Hunter, 2020 No. 6 pick Onyeka Okongwu, 2021 No. 20 pick Jalen Johnson, and 2022 No. 16 pick A.J. Griffin. Hunter was previously reported to be of interest to the Jazz in Gobert negotiations. Okongwu is a promising, efficient center.
Salary ballast: 24-year-old John Collins’ $23.5 million deal would nearly be enough to counter Mitchell’s salary on its own — he also qualifies as young talent that would interest the Jazz. Clint Capela’s $18 million for the next three years should probably be considered a negative at this point. Beyond that, Justin Holiday’s $6.2 million contract and Maurice Harkless’ $4.5 million contract could be helpful in completing a deal, but a trade would have to wait until Aug. 30.
Synopsis: The biggest question is “Why?” The Hawks already have Trae Young and just acquired Murray. ... Why would the 6-2 Mitchell make sense in that backcourt? They likely inquired on Mitchell before completing the Murray trade.
Future picks: Charlotte has already traded away its 2023 first-round pick — protected for selections 1-16 in 2023, 1-14 in 2024 and 1-14 in 2025. That means, as it stands, they can’t trade away their own pick until 2027, thanks to the Stepien rule. (It is, however, easy enough to imagine the Hornets sending the Spurs a small trinket to shorten the protections on the pick they’re owed, making it possible to trade their 2025 pick as well.) They could also trade away their 2029 pick. Finally, they also own Denver’s 2023 pick, protected for 1-14 in 2023, 1-14 in 2024 and 1-14 in 2025.
Young players: 2019 No. 12 pick P.J. Washington, 2019 No. 55 pick Jalen McDaniels, 2020 No. 42 pick Nick Richards, 2021 No. 11 pick James Bouknight, 2021 No. 19 pick Kai Jones, 2021 No. 37 pick J.T. Thor, and 2022 No. 15 pick Mark Williams. Truthfully, none of those players have set the NBA on fire so far. Would they really entice Ainge and the Jazz?
Salary ballast: Well, there’s Gordon Hayward, making about $31 million for the next two seasons. That could be interesting. Beyond that, there’s former Celtics draftee Terry Rozier at $21 million, Kelly Oubre at $12.6 million, and Mason Plumlee at $8.5 million.
Synopsis: There’s just not a lot here. The Hornets could conceivably send out their three picks available to trade, the maximum number of pick swaps, and their most interesting young talent ... and it would probably be a lesser return than what the Jazz got in the Rudy Gobert deal.
Future picks: The Heat can currently trade their 2023 and 2029 first-round picks. Beyond that, they owe their 2025 pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder — protected for picks 1-14 in 2025, then unprotected in 2026. If they wanted to trade their 2027 pick to the Jazz in a Mitchell deal, they could send a small trinket to the Thunder to change the protections.
Young players: 2019 No. 13 pick Tyler Herro, 2022 No. 27 pick Nikola Jovic, and undrafted contributors Gabe Vincent (26 years old), Max Strus (26), and Omer Yurtseven (24). It’s a limited list headlined by Herro, though Vincent and Strus were playoff starters for the Heat to mixed results.
Salary ballast: Duncan Robinson’s $16.9 million is the obvious candidate here — but it’s for the next four seasons. All of the other big salaries the Heat have are critical to their starting lineup.
Synopsis: We’ve reported that the Heat have been aggressive in trying to get Mitchell, but their best offer possible is currently Herro, Jovic, Strus, Vincent, two firsts in 2023 and 2029, and pick swaps. That’s certainly not nothing, but you can understand why the Jazz turned it down — and why many think the only way a Mitchell-to-Miami deal gets done is if the Heat can get a third team involved from which to get long-term assets.
Future picks: Sacramento’s only traded away one first round pick, their 2024 pick to Atlanta in the Kevin Huerter deal. But because it’s protected through 2026, it makes it impossible to trade any of their other picks until 2028. They don’t own any other teams’ first-round picks.
Young players: 2018 No. 49 pick Chimezie Metu, 2021 No. 9 pick Davion Mitchell, 2021 No. 39 pick Neemias Queta, 2022 No. 4 pick Keegan Murray. It’s a surprisingly short list, but Murray and Mitchell would headline the possibilities.
Salary ballast: Harrison Barnes’ $18-million expiring contract would likely be involved, but the transaction would get more interesting if the Kings included Kevin Huerter’s $14.5 million or Richaun Holmes $11.5 million in the deal instead.
Synopsis: A whole bundle of pick swaps with the Kings would be somewhat appealing — but there’s a real possibility that even the lowly Kings would outperform the Jazz for the next couple of seasons without Mitchell. Keegan Murray played extremely well in summer league, and would be one of the best individual talents the Jazz could get back in a deal. But those 2024 pick protections really limit the number of picks the Jazz can get back in such a deal.
Future picks: The Raptors have yet to send or receive any future picks. Therefore, the most that the Raptors can offer are their 2023, 2025, 2027, and 2029 first-round picks.
Young players: You would figure that 25-year-old O.G. Anunoby and 23-year-old Gary Trent Jr. would be parts of logical returns for the Jazz. But the Raptors also have an array of younger players that they could trade: 2017 No. 17 pick D.J. Wilson, 2018 No. 47 pick Svi Mykhaliuk, 2020 No. 20 pick Precious Achiuwa, 2020 No. 29 pick Malachi Flynn, and the best piece of all: 2021 No. 4 pick Scottie Barnes.
Salary ballast: In this case, it probably is the contracts of Anunoby and/or Trent, making $17.3 million each, that would carry the deal from a salary point of view.
Synopsis: The Raptors could offer the Jazz more than essentially any other team. But Barnes’ rookie of the year performance might outweigh Mitchell’s value on his own. Would a deal including Anunoby, Trent, several first round picks and pick swaps be enough for Utah? And, critically, would the Raptors be willing to do that deal, given that they could offer a similar package for the Nets’ Kevin Durant? The Raptors were involved in the Rudy Gobert negotiations, so it’s clear that they’d like to acquire a star, but it also appears they were value-hunting.
Future picks: Ah, how protections can limit a team’s flexibility. Washington has only traded away one first-round pick, their 2023 first-rounder. But the protections mean they can’t trade a first-round pick until 2028: the pick is protected for selections 1-14 in 2023, 1-12 in 2024, 1-10 in 2025 and 1-8 in 2026. Normally, you might be able to shorten those protections if need be ... but in this case, the pick is owed to the New York Knicks, who would be pretty unhelpful in helping the Wizards get Mitchell.
Young players: The best young player the Wizards have is Kyle Kuzma, but he’s already 27. Beyond that, there’s 2019 No. 9 pick Rui Hachimura, 2019 No. 39 pick Daniel Gafford, 2020 No. 9 pick Deni Avdija, 2020 No. 32 pick Vernon Carey, 2021 No. 15 pick Corey Kispert, 2021 No. 31 pick Isaiah Todd, and 2022 No. 10 pick Johnny Davis. It’s a cornucopia of mostly disappointing picks to this point.
Salary ballast: Kuzma’s $13 million deal would help consummate a deal. Will Barton’s $14 million and Monte Morris’ $9 million would be options as well, but would need to wait until Aug. 28.
Synopsis: Washington truthfully has a dearth of tradable future picks and compelling young players that would make sense in a Mitchell deal.
In the end, you can see why the Jazz might prefer a deal with the Knicks: many of these teams don’t have a package that would compete with even the minimum the Jazz might accept in a Mitchell deal. If Toronto and Sacramento were truly interested, they could perhaps put together a package that would really intrigue the Jazz. But other teams would have to acquire other kinds of assets from other places before realistically consummating a deal.
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