After a disappointing exit in round one of the NBA playoffs, the Utah Jazz and their stars seem to be in shambles with breakup is on the horizon.
On Monday a SiriusXM announcer claimed Jazz star center Rudy Gobert is not seeing eye to eye with co-star Donovan Mitchell and they can no longer coexist. In a pair of May 2 tweets, former MMA fighter-turned-sports radio host Sean O’Connell said Gobert allegedly told Utah’s front office that one of them has to be traded, whether it be him or Mitchell.
“I know I am not usually @utahjazz breaking news guy, but a source close to situation has informed me that Rudy Gobert is at ‘him or me’ point with Donovan Mitchell and will demand that one of them be traded in next few days. Doesn’t feel they will win championship together.”
“Rudy feels that his own numbers are consistent or getting better, while Don is D liability and is falling off in terms of explosiveness. Gobert also aware of at least 1 Western Conference power that would be willing to pay handsomely for his abilities,” O’Connell tweeted.
Rudy feels that his own numbers are consistent or getting better, while Don is D liability and is falling off in terms of explosiveness. Gobert also aware of at least 1 Western Conference power that would be willing to pay handsomely for his abilities. (NBA teams never tamper..)
— Sean O'Connell (@realOCsports) May 2, 2022
With their history of early playoff exits and underwhelming playoff disappointments, the Jazz’s contention window might be closed. It’s up to Utah’s front office to make that call though, and they can surely get their money’s worth for either star should they decide to trade one or the other.
Gobert To The Warriors?
The aforementioned “Western Conference Powerhouse” O’Connell mentioned that would be willing to pay handsomely for Gobert might be the Warriors. After the rumors of Gobert wanting change in Utah surfaced, the Warriors immediately emerged as a possible favorite to try and acquire the “Stifle Tower.”
Whether the Warriors move on him or not in the offseason, many predict Gobert will go, the younger Mitchell will stay. Good quality interior defense is much easier to replace in this league, a career 24 ppg scorer who can carry a team’s scoring load isn’t.
This is a big offseason for the Utah Jazz and significant changes may be coming. Will they trade Donovan Mitchell and/or Rudy Gobert?
Here are 4 trade ideas involving Donovan Mitchell: https://t.co/hsIs04f1Jj
— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) May 4, 2022
Not to mention Gobert is set to turn 30 next month and will be on the last year of his contract next year. A contract extension is not likely at this point. On the other hand, Donovan Mitchell is only 25 and has yet to even enter the prime years of his career.
Gobert and Mitchell have played together for five seasons at Utah, both spending their entire careers with the Jazz. Not being able to capture any notable achievements during their time together, and the lack of success from an organizational standpoint, has reportedly caused a rift to grow between the two.
Another event to keep in mind is back in 2020 Rudy Gobert was initially the first player to test positive for COVID-19, beginning the NBA pandemic that spiraled the league into the bubble. Mitchell tested positive for COVID shortly after, and after that rumors came out that their relationship was fractured permanently, and one source even went on to describe it as “unsalvageable.”
Moving forward, Mitchell and Gobert were able to get past their differences, and eventually were said to be back on good terms. Since then, the Jazz have gone 101-53 in two seasons, and also have made the playoffs (six seasons straight), and even finished first in the West in the 2020 season. They have been a top-tier team and have captured the respect of the league behind the Mitchell-Gobert tandem.
Pass Me The Damn Ball
But after a season of Mitchell and Gobert reportedly not getting along, and Mitchell not passing Gobert the ball, things have become shaky in Utah again. According to the NBA’s tracking data, the number of Mitchell’s passes to Gobert that was once at 5.8 passes per game (14.2 percent pass frequency) two seasons ago has dwindled to 2.3 passes per game (5.6 percent).
These are alarming stats, as Mitchell, who is Utah’s primary ball handler next to Mike Conley, is usually a drive-and-dish type of player when he’s not scoring. Gobert proves to be a reliable scoring option on those types of plays, as he shoots 73 percent when shooting 0 to 3 feet from the hoop.
Utah head coach Quinn Snyder tried to destroy the narrative that Mitchell doesn’t like passing to Gobert, stating it’s the media trying to “drive a wedge” between them. But at the end of the day Mitchell is a very smart player, and it doesn’t make sense to continuously lower your passing attempts to someone who is very adept at scoring close to the basket like that.
This season the Jazz finished with a record of 49-33, fifth place in the Western Conference. Mitchell, who was an All-Star this season, finished with averages of 26 points per game on 45 percent shooting, four rebounds per game, and five assists per game. Meanwhile, defensive stalwart Gobert, who was also an All-Star this year, ended the season with 15 points per game on 71 percent shooting, with 14 rebounds a game.
They faced the fourth-seeded Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs, where they were eliminated in six games. While Luka Doncic and Jalen Brunson torched Utah, Mitchell, who is usually an elite playoff performer, was very inefficient.
He averaged 25 points per game in the series, but he did it on 39 percent shooting from the field, shooting just 20 percent from three, and he’s Utah’s primary scorer. Gobert also underperformed during the series, only mustering up averages of 12 points and just under 10 rebounds throughout the series.
The three-time Defensive Player of the Year may be frustrated and ready to move on, or take a bigger role in the franchise if the Jazz are to trade Mitchell. But Gobert dismisses the rumor that it’s either “him or Donovan.”
“Everyday has its own new ‘rumor,’” Gobert tweeted in response to these allegations of him demanding a trade for him or Mitchell.
While NBA players can very much lie to the media and fans while waiting for scenarios behind the scenes to play out, Gobert has given nine years of his life to Utah, and they love him for it. Maybe Rudy does want to stay in Utah and keep the core intact to keep hacking at a championship run.
But either way, Utah is clearly missing something, and they need to figure out what that”‘something” is, because with the rise of other Western powers such as the Grizzlies, Suns, Warriors, Nuggets, Mavericks, and Clippers, their team is looking less and less like title contenders.