The Utah Jazz saw their season come to a heartbreaking end on Tuesday, as they suffered a hugely disappointing Game 7 loss to the Denver Nuggets in the first round of the playoffs. This marks another early postseason exit, which appears to have become the norm for the Jazz.
To make matters worse, Utah already had a seemingly insurmountable 3-1 series lead in this one, only for the Nuggets to come storming back to win three straight closeout games.
As it appears, the Jazz face an intriguing offseason ahead, in which they might require a major shakeup in the lineup.
Much has been made about the Rudy Gobert-Donovan Mitchell rift that all started when the pair tested positive for COVID-19 back in March. Utah tried to kill the narrative, and to their credit, they succeeded to some degree. The latest reports suggest the relationship is in a good place.
In the thrilling seven-game duel against the Nuggets, Mitchell was able to prove just how valuable he is for the Jazz, and also how he has become one of the most promising young stars in the league. He is expected to sign a max extension in the offseason and will be a face of the franchise for years to come.
But with Gobert currently set to hit free agency in 2021, Utah has to decide what to do with him. Should the Jazz decide to make Gobert available instead of signing him to a supermax, they should get quite a haul in return. As a matter of fact, the Jazz might just be able bring a bona fide superstar to Utah in exchange for Gobert, to form a new dynamic duo with cornerstone stud Donovan Mitchell.
Below we’ve identified three potential Gobert-centered trade scenarios for Utah.
Jazz targets: Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
There’s no denying that Draymond Green was a key piece for the Golden State Warriors during their dynasty run. However, if the Dubs get the opportunity to land the premier big man they have been searching for for years now, then pouncing on Gobert might be an option for them — even if it means parting ways with Green.
For the Jazz, they get an all-around stud in Green that has proven his worth at the highest level. The 30-year-old is a three-time NBA champion, and his leadership will go a long way for a team like Utah. Green is not exactly the prototypical NBA superstar, but surrounded with guys like Mitchell, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Mike Conley, this team could thrive as a legitimate contender in the West.
Then again, a Green-for-Gobert trade does seem to favor the Dubs much more than it would the Jazz. As such, Utah may require another key piece in the deal. The Warriors might be willing to part ways with the second overall pick in the upcoming draft, or perhaps even Andrew Wiggins.
Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
There is trouble in paradise, as the Philadelpha 76ers head into a crucial offseason for their franchise moving forward. After yet another disappointing playoffs exit for the Sixers, the team’s front office will have a tough decision to make on whether or not it is time to break up the Joel Embiid-Ben Simmons partnership in Philly.
Should the Sixers end up placing Embiid on the trading block, then the Jazz should be one of the teams that ought to make a run for the prized big man. A Gobert for Embiid deal could prove beneficial for Philadelphia, as they might just get the defensive cornerstone this team requires.
As for Utah, they give up Gobert for arguably the best big man in the league right now. That should still be seen as a significant upgrade, and one that might just take the Jazz to the next level.
With a core of Mitchell and Embiid, Utah’s status will almost certainly be upgraded from perennial dark horses, to a true championship-caliber squad.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
Let’s get crazy here.
Let’s assume a worst-case scenario for the Milwaukee Bucks, wherein they suffer an early exit in the playoffs (maybe even an upset by the Miami Heat in the second round?). This forces Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo to reconsider his future in Milwaukee, which results in the league MVP opting not to sign a mega-extension with the team that drafted him several years ago. Milwaukee will be forced to trade their prized star in the offseason, lest they risk losing him as a free agent in the 2021 offseason.
A package centered around Gobert might just pique the interest of the Bucks. There’s no way to replace Antetokounmpo, but at this point, Milwaukee will need to accept their fate. One Defensive Player of the Year for another does not sound like too bad an idea.
Milwaukee will definitely be more inclined to a deal centered around Donovan Mitchell, but being in a more advantageous position to negotiate, the Jazz might be able to turn the Bucks’ attention towards Gobert.
Still, the Bucks will require more from the Jazz in exchange for a once-in-a-generation type of star in Antetokounmpo. Utah might need to throw in a guy like Jordan Clarkson (sign-and-trade), or perhaps even Mike Conley and his expiring deal. As with any other potential deal, current and future Draft picks will almost certainly also be in the mix here.
There will be no shortage of competition to sign Antetokounmpo, but if the Jazz get lucky, a Giannis-Mitchell pairing looks like one that will terrorize the league for many years to come. This instantly places the Jazz as a favorite to win the title, so if a superstar is what they’re aiming for, then might as swing for the fences with Giannis.