If the Utah Jazz are going to trade Donovan Mitchell, the rumors (and applied logic, to be fair) would suggest that his hometown New York Knicks remain the frontrunners to acquire him.
They’ve got young players, a bunch of picks to offer, and a long-known desire to get him.
Tuesday morning’s announcement that the Brooklyn Nets and superstar forward Kevin Durant have agreed to “move forward” together after all, following a tumultuous, drama-filled summer, should have the trickle-down effect of producing at least a few new potential suitors for the Jazz guard now.
With Durant off the market, some of the teams that were holding out hope of being able to land the generational (if mercurial) talent may indeed now turn their focus to Mitchell as a backup plan.
What’s been a relatively settled market for the three-time All-Star — recent reports have Jazz CEO Danny Ainge going back and forth with the Knicks, while the Wizards and Hornets have also kicked the tires — may suddenly get an influx of newly interested parties.
So then, who might we expect to be chatting up Ainge in the coming days and weeks?
Well, on Monday morning — apparently mere hours before the Nets and Durant arrived at their detente — the betting favorites to acquire the four-time scoring champ were, in order, the Boston Celtics, Phoenix Suns, Memphis Grizzlies, Toronto Raptors, and Miami Heat.
Miami already has been a known player in the Mitchell sweepstakes, having previously engaged with Ainge and GM Justin Zanik, with the Utah braintrust reportedly rejecting an offer built around Sixth Man of the Year Tyler Herro. There are not many first-round picks to be included right now from Miami’s side.
Those other teams, however, are not known to have gotten in on the action.
Hypothetically speaking, what could they offer Utah?
A Toronto deal would have to look somewhat similar to those theoretical deals which might have landed them Rudy Gobert, whom they were rumored to be interested in. Presuming the Raptors would be OK with the diminutive stature of a Mitchell/Fred VanVleet backcourt pairing, would they be interested in making a deal around wing O.G. Anunoby?
Throw in Khem Birch, then add Malachi Flynn (and maybe Svi Mykhailiuk), and you’ve got a workable salary situation. As for the picks, the Raptors have all their own picks, so 2023, ’25, ’27 and ’29.
Boston, despite coming off an appearance in the Eastern Conference semifinals, then adding the likes of Malcolm Brogdon and Danilo Gallinari this offseason, is reportedly eager to upgrade its offensive weaponry around All-NBA First Team honoree Jayson Tatum.
While the Celtics made an incredible run throughout the playoffs on the strength of their league-leading defense, they also went through extended periods wherein they simply could not generate any easy buckets. Durant, one of the premier scorers in league history, obviously could have helped in that department. Mitchell, though, could also provide firepower.
Boston’s alleged offer for Durant apparently included Jaylen Brown, Derrick White, and an undisclosed draft pick.
The Jazz could theoretically trade Mitchell straight-up for Brown, or Al Horford, or a combination of, say, White and reigning DPOY Marcus Smart. The issue is, as all of those are talented veterans, they would not exactly enhance Utah’s goal of tanking while amassing young talent and draft picks. Further, Boston trading a protected 2023 first-round pick as part of the deal to acquire Brogdon limits the picks they can offer back anyway.
Phoenix, like Boston is looking to add some additional scoring punch, after the team’s offense bogged down in the Western semifinals this past season vs. Dallas. Mitchell might be an awkward fit, given that the Suns already have a star backcourt in Chris Paul and Devin Booker. Could Mitchell play the 2, handle the ball less, and Booker play the 3, while Mikal Bridges slides to the 4? Perhaps.
As for what Phoenix could offer back … would the Jazz insist on getting Bridges in that deal? If not (or if Phoenix was loath to include him), the combined salaries of Cameron Johnson, Cam Payne, Landry Shamet, and Dario Saric would get it done (though it’s hard to see why Utah would want any of those players besides Johnson).
As for picks, because Phoenix had to send its 2022 first-rounder to OKC to finish off the CP3 trade, they couldn’t convey another first-rounder until 2024. They don’t, however, have a treasure trove of other teams’ picks in hand, so the most they could contribute pick-wise would be firsts in ’24, ’26, and ’28. Is that, plus swaps, enough? That’s a difficult ask. A smaller deal for, say, Bojan Bogdanovic or Jordan Clarkson might be a preferred path for the Suns.
Memphis made headlines by apparently making a late bid for Durant, albeit one that reportedly did not/would not include either of Jaren Jackson Jr. or Desmond Bane. Their quest for more firepower could pivot to Mitchell, though not including Bane might be a deal-breaker.
Still, though, there is a pathway. The expiring salaries of Steven Adams and the injured Danny Green, plus, say, the inclusion of former lottery pick Ziaire Williams would make the money work. Crucially, the Grizzlies could throw as many as five first-round picks into the package as well.
Memphis could include their own first-rounder in 2023, the first they’re owed by Golden State in ’24, and then their own again in ’25, ’27, and ’29. You work out the right protections on those, and suddenly the Grizz have arguably the most exciting backcourt in the league in Mitchell and Ja Morant.
Are those the only possibilities? No.
The point is, there are suddenly more possibilities than just the Knicks. And maybe that provides the leverage needed to finally get the deal over the finish line.