For Donovan Mitchell and the Jazz, the 2021-22 marks the third straight year of disappointment.
After getting out to a red-hot 26-9 start to the season, Utah regressed, going 23-24 over its last 47 games to finish with a 49-33 record for the season and the West’s fifth seed.
Among the lowest points of the Jazz’s season was a blown 25-point lead to the Clippers which drew the ire of Mitchell, who had this to say: “This is the same s— … this is literally the same thing as last year,” referring to their playoff shortcoming in 2021.
Mitchell’s late-season comments and Utah’s first-round exit add fuel to the thought that it might be in the best interest of both parties to move on from one another, but is that the case?
As the Jazz enter the 2022 offseason, they face a number of pressing questions, including what to do with their 25-year-old All-Star.
Is a Mitchell trade inevitable? Just as there are a number of potential destinations, there are a number of obstacles that could stand in the way of a deal.
Donovan Mitchell trade rumors: Possible destinations for 2022-23 NBA season
As a native of the New York area, it’s impossible to not link Mitchell to the Knicks. In Game 1 of Utah’s first-round series with Dallas, Knicks’ brass were present at the American Airlines Center to watch Mitchell (or Jalen Brunson).
Why it would work: The Knicks have long searched for a marquee star to serve as the main attraction under the Madison Square Garden lights and a player with a hometown connection could fit that billing.
Mitchell will be 26 during the 2022-23 season and will be on the second year of a five-year extension that runs through 2025-26.
Why it wouldn’t work: New York is preparing to offer an extension to 2019 No. 3 overall pick RJ Barrett, who is on the precipice of making an All-Star leap. The addition of Mitchell could hinder the growth of Barrett and Immanuel Quickley, who made leaps at the end of the 2021-22 campaign.
To entice the Jazz, the Knicks would have to part ways with members of their young core like Quickley, Cam Reddish or Obi Toppin. They might be more willing to be active in free agency.
It might have come up short in the Play-In Tournament, but Cleveland exceeded expectations in 2021-22. Adding a player of Mitchell’s caliber could accelerate the Cavs’ future plans.
Why it would work: Cleveland has a jumbo-sized frontcourt of Lauri Markkanen, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen, which would offset a smaller backcourt of Mitchell and Darius Garland.
The Cavs’ successes in 2021-22 came despite a season-ending injury to Collin Sexton. Sexton, who is set to enter free agency, could be paired along with Caris LeVert and future picks to soften the blow of the Jazz parting ways with an All-Star.
Why it wouldn’t work: What message would this send to Garland, who was just given the keys to the franchise? This young Cleveland team is on the trajectory of improving next season, which could be negatively impacted by such a bold move.
How about an All-Star backcourt in Buzz City? This one seems a bit more far-fetched, but with a new head coach on the way in Charlotte, perhaps the front office could look to pair Mitchell and LaMelo Ball.
Why it would work: Mitchell is smaller than your typical off-ball guard, but Ball is much taller than your typical point guard, and he’s used to playing alongside 6-foot-1 scorers from Louisville.
Speaking of, the Hornets have a number of players they could offer in a package for Mitchell, including Terry Rozier and P.J. Washington or even Gordon Hayward, who is familiar with playing in Salt Lake City.
Why it wouldn’t work: A few big contract extensions loom in Charlotte, with Miles Bridges in line as the first to get paid before Ball does in 2023. Would absorbing Mitchell’s $30 million salary help in that cause?
Of potential suitors, the Hornets’ potential package isn’t necessarily very strong.
From a surprise Eastern Conference Finals appearance to a first-round exit, it’s amazing how much can change in a year for the Hawks. With an array of wings, maybe it’s time the Hawks look to consolidate their talent and bring in another star.
Why it would work: The Hawks seem to have too much of a good thing, with Bogdan Bogdanovic, Kevin Huerter and De’Andre Hunter all standing as wings deserving of plenty of playing time and a good chunk of the salary cap.
Bogdanovic is a bit older, but either of the Hawks’ two young wings could have enough promise to be included in a package, but it would have to include much more.
Why it wouldn’t work: A backcourt of 6-foot-1 Trae Young and 6-foot-1 Mitchell would have some struggles on the defensive end. Clint Capela and Onyeka Okongwu are good rim protectors but, that’s probably asking too much from them as defensive anchors.
As talented as Atlanta’s young players are, its young wings ultimately wouldn’t move the needle in a potential package.