Why are the Utah Jazz trading Donovan Mitchell? Because it's the right thing to do.
Well, guys. It finally happened. The big trade we've all been waiting for.
On Wednesday evening, the Utah Jazz completed a highly-anticipated move, sending Patrick Beverley to the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for Talen Horton-Tucker and Stanley Johnson.
At last, the "Will they, won't they?" discussion is over. Now we can focus on basketball.
I'm kidding of course. Writing this on the evening of the Beverley trade, the air is thick with the pending Donovan Mitchell trade still hanging in it.
Or maybe that's smoke from a fire in my neighborhood.
Anyways, here's my point and thesis: When Donovan Mitchell gets traded, it will be a very sad day. However, it won't be a bad day in Utah Jazz history. It might end up being one of the most celebrated moments in team history when all is said and done.
I'm going to hit you with some hard truth, Jazz fans. And I say that considering myself to be a part of that group. This is the reality: the Jazz were never going to reach the top of the NBA food chain with Donovan Mitchell. At least not at this point in his career.
If the team was still young and up-and-coming, and Mitchell was on his rookie-level deal, then trading him would be completely insane. That's not the case though. As we've seen over the last two postseasons, first in a crushing series loss to the LA Clippers in 2021 and then in another to the Dallas Mavericks this last spring, the Jazz are still considerably far from a title.
Especially with Mitchell and Rudy Gobert, two guys who ate up more than $60 million per season combined in payroll as the team leaders who clearly despised each other. (Let's not kid ourselves, they couldn't stand each other).
The 2020-21 season presented the best possible championship window the team would have in the Mitchell/Gobert Era. However, just a few months later, the 2021-22 season showed that that window had closed violently shut.
So what do you do if you're Jazz brass in this situation? Do you test the definition of insanity - which is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results - by continuing to build on continuity?
Obviously, Jazz VP Danny Ainge doesn't think that's a good idea.
He already cut ties with Gobert and brought back a huge haul; more than enough picks to shake a stick at, and a slew of prospects (Also, an aging, marginally effective Beverley, who has been already been dealt again, as I mentioned). You might think trading Gobert set the tone that the Jazz were giving the keys to the kingdom completely to Mitchell, as was originally reported by NBA insiders.
However, I, being a genius and unappreciated sports expert (that's a joke - or is it?), could see the writing on the wall. Ainge was going to keep making big moves. Essentially, he walked into the Marketing Department at Jazz HQ, scribbled out the "Take" in "Take Note" and replaced it with "Tank."I like to think he also scoffed with disgust at the team's new rebranding efforts, as he rightfully should have.
Mitchell has to be traded. I'm sorry to say that. I know we all got really excited about this guy when he ushered in the triumphant post-Gordon Hayward Era with stunning grace and likeability. Not only could this guy play at an extremely high level for someone so young in his career, but he was also a community superstar. With stories of his goodwill in the Salt Lake area filling the news waves on a nightly basis, "Donovan Watch" became a real thing. We painted murals in dilapidated malls celebrating our new young king.
However, not only has his ability to take the Jazz to great lengths been capped, but his willingness to be a darling in the Utah media has also seemed to reach its limit. If you think I'm wrong, think about this: When was the last time Donovan was seen in Utah this summer? Have we heard any stories about him enjoying a Bees game at Smith's Ballpark lately? Has he stopped to take pics with fans at Fashion Place Mall in a while? No. He's been in New York, his home, for much of the offseason. The days of him randomly showing up to someone's Fourth of July pool party are now just a distant memory. Maybe we put that mural up at The Gateway Mall too early.
I think that's the most telling aspect of the summer-long Mitchell Drama in 2022. It seems to me, that DM45 is already mentally checked out of his Utah experience. He's ready to go home, to New York - or maybe somewhere else. And for a slew of other reasons, including the Jazz's current predicament and the chance to secure a huge bounty of draft picks and other capital, the writing is clearly on the wall.
And again, it's not a bad thing. This is what I'm starting to tell people who ask me about the Jazz; they're trying to be as bad as possible for the next couple of years and it's an exciting next step in their future. Tanking works. Look at Philadelphia, who famously bought into that philosophy under former team decision-maker Sam Hinkle. The Sixers bought into "Trust The Process," and are now perennial contenders in the Eastern Conference. The Jazz would do well to apply a similar slogan: I like "Tank Note" the most.
The Jazz are lucky they are being led in basketball decisions by a guy like Ainge, who also understands the benefits of cleaning house and going for the tank. The team he most recently applied that mindset to, the Boston Celtics, were just in the NBA Finals and have a great shot at going back this season. Ainge is the right man for this job.
I'm sure that some in Jazz management don't want to lose Mitchell, Utah's most marketable player of all time. However, it's obvious they know it's likely going to happen as well. In a year in which the team is slated to host the NBA All-Star Game, have you seen ANY marketing materials promoting the game's location and the possibility of a homegrown three-time All-Star like Mitchell playing in it? Exactly, you haven't.
I see so many folks on Facebook (a well-known gathering spot for rational thought) threatening to burn Ainge at the stake if he trades Mitchell.
Those same people are going to thank him five years from now when the Jazz are back to being a rising force in the NBA.