Utah Jazz announce Donovan Mitchell trade, say they ‘needed to transition our roster’

With the physicals of the new players completed, the team’s front office acknowledged that its blockbuster trades were necessary “to best position us moving forward.”

Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) reacts during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Golden State Warriors in San Francisco, Saturday, April 2, 2022. (AP Photo/Jed Jacobsohn)

With the physicals and medical check-ups of the players involved now completed, the Utah Jazz could finally announce Thursday afternoon what the basketball world has known for a week: They’ve traded Donovan Mitchell to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

And to no one’s surprise, they confirmed that, in return, they are getting guard Collin Sexton, forward Lauri Markkanen, rookie wing Ochai Agbaji, and a haul of future first-round picks and a couple of pick swaps besides.

CEO Danny Ainge noted that the Mitchell trade and the Rudy Gobert deal which preceded it stemmed from the perception that the team had gone as far as it could as presently constructed.

He also braced the fanbase for a potentially lengthy rebuild.

“It was clear that in order to optimize our opportunity to create a team that could truly contend and establish sustained success, we needed to transition our roster,” Ainge said in a statement. “In trading Rudy and now Donovan, it was a rare opportunity to maximize our ability to get quality talent and picks to best position us moving forward. We have a plan in place to help us assemble the championship team our fans deserve. It will take time to craft our roster. We all understand the work ahead and are committed to our vision.”

While the unprotected first-round picks in 2025, ’27, and ’29 are undoubtedly viewed as the primary return in the deal — the Jazz now have 13 first-round picks between 2023-29 — Utah’s front office made it a point to tout the new players coming in from the deal.

Agbaji was the No. 14 pick in the 2022 draft, Markkanen is a former All-Rookie First Team honoree now entering his sixth season, and Sexton (who agreed to a four-year, $72 million deal as part of a sign-and-trade) has averaged 20.0 points per game through four seasons.

“Ochai, Lauri and Collin are exciting young players, and we’re thrilled to add them to our roster,” general manager Justin Zanik said in a statement. “We believe that they fit the Jazz culture and hard-nosed, competitive brand of basketball we’ve built here in Utah. They give us versatility and athleticism on both ends of the floor as we grow toward the future. We look forward to our fans getting to know them.”

Still, as many fans have noted, it’s a bittersweet move to part with a homegrown talent such as Mitchell.

He has career averages of 23.9 points, 4.5 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 1.3 steals, and has made three All-Star rosters.

Mitchell ranks second all-time in franchise history in 3-point field goals made (958), eighth in points (8,234) and field goals made (2,953). In the franchise’s postseason history, he ranks first 3-pointers made (129), fourth in points (1,105) and seventh in assists (185).

The Jazz acknowledged their cognizance of what exactly they’re giving away — a homegrown player who exceeded expectations and became a star not only on the court, but also within the community.

“The Jazz had so many great moments with Donovan over the past five years as he developed into a perennial All-Star,” owner Ryan Smith said in a statement. “But just as important was the lasting impact he made in Utah. He is an amazing human and touched the lives of so many through his engagement in the community. Our entire organization wishes him every success in his future. Once a Jazzman, always a Jazzman.”

But also now a Cleveland Cavalier.