Utah Jazz Mailbag: Donovan Mitchell, Danny Ainge, Juancho Hernangomez and more

Utah Jazz Mailbag: Donovan Mitchell, Danny Ainge, Juancho Hernangomez and more


We’re in the dog days of the NBA and there isn’t much activity around the league right now, but that doesn’t mean there’s a lack of burning questions on fans’ minds.

So, it’s time to open the mailbag and answer some Utah Jazz questions.

I think the Jazz have been very patient with this roster and despite their excellent 2020-21 regular season record, they have been a mediocre playoff team for six straight years and it was clear that this is not the case with this current roster. He was about to win.

Danny Ainge was hired in December 2021 and given the latitude to make tough decisions on the details that need to be made.

That doesn’t mean he’s impatient. He could come in and decide that some rebuilding is all the team needs, but clearly Ainge, along with people in positions of power in the Jazz organization, believed this team had run its course, and I agree.

Regular-season success is nice, and it feels good when it happens, but there’s no denying that an unexpected second- and first-round playoff exit following that success speaks volumes for what this team can do more than any of their regular-season accolades.

I receive more Donovan Mitchell questions than any other, and understandably so.

I’ll try to answer most of them here as briefly as possible.

I personally believe the Jazz are going to trade Mitchell before the start of the 2022-23 season. There’s always the possibility that a deal doesn’t get done, but I think getting the optics done would make life easier for the Jazz than if they didn’t.

Will it be for the New York Knicks? Another team? Does the deal involve multiple teams? not sure.

If I had to make a guess, I’d say New York is the most likely, but I wouldn’t be shocked if a deal involves a third party to improve asset quality.

I don’t think the Jazz are the only ones waiting to know everything after the Mitchell deal. I think there are a lot of decisions to be made around the league in the end on the Mitchell and Kevin Durant situations.

But, to answer the question above, yes, a lot of the rest of the roster will depend on what happens to Mitchell. I’ll go into that more in the next Q&A.

I’m sure there was interest in keeping Juancho Hernangomez before he signed with the Toronto Raptors, but there’s more to it than interest in some role players here.

First, the Jazz had to make sure they had enough roster spots to bring in players in the Rudy Gobert trade and other potential future trades.

Currently, the Jazz roster stands at 14 regular players and a two-way player, which includes all the players the Jazz received from Minnesota.

If the Jazz complete the Donovan Mitchell trade, they’ll be getting a lot of players back again, and that will force more weight shedding from the roster.

That could include trading some fringe players or other veterans like Bojan Bogdanovic, Mike Conley and Jordan Clarkson.

Sure, he was interested, but the Jazz have to be flexible, and if they’re going to move on Mitchell, there’s no need to waste Hernangomez on a team that’s going to lose.

Part of the beauty of basketball is that it’s not always pretty.

I understand that if the Jazz enter a full rebuilding season with Tanker as a priority, it will be difficult to watch and enjoy.

You should try changing your fandom for a while. You don’t go looking for victories against tough opponents or looking for playoff spots.

Instead, you Jazz will lose to the teams you pick, and lose in a major way. You look for the diamond in the rough and you follow the progress of players like Jared Butler, Walker Kesler and other Jazz players.

Maybe because you can get cheap tickets to see the games, you should find joy in hoping for misery in a rebuilding year.

Think about the future. Imagine how great it would feel to lead a historic Jazz team that could win a title, and how fondly you would look back on the tough years.

Think of kids watching their first NBA games against a tanking Jazz team and their first bad team.

It’s the little things, but you have to approach it that way.

It was very clear that the Jazz did not need to develop a reserve center. It couldn’t have been clearer that the Jazz needed wing defense and depth, and that drafting Azubuike was the wrong move, no doubt about that.

I think drafting Butler was a future draft, considering what the Jazz might want in a post-Conley world, so I don’t see that as a huge mistake.

But if the Jazz had drafted Desmond Bane (or any other player) instead of Azubuike, it’s unlikely it would have been much different.

Is that all Jazz has taken from the top? I doubt it’s true.

I think there are other roster building issues and flaws that have kept this Jazz team from working, and I have a hard time imagining one draft pick making a difference over the past two years.

Bane is great for the Memphis Grizzlies, but Ja Morant is the most important piece in that equation and Bane is great because all the pieces fit. The Grizzlies may be succeeding at the same rate with another player named Bane.

I don’t think the only draft mistake is entirely to blame for the Jazz missing the title window with this team, but it certainly didn’t help.

If the Jazz don’t add another center to the roster, there could be an easy competition between Azubuike and Kessler.

The most important thing about who gets that starting spot is that it signals the Jazz’s desire to grow at a faster rate.

It’s impossible to predict who will take the biggest step in their development next year, but I can tell you who needs it.

This upcoming season is very important for Butler. If the Jazz are completely rebuilding, it will give Butler every chance he needs to become a legitimate NBA player, and if he doesn’t make progress, it will be a really bad sign and a big impact on his career.

In the Rudy Gobert trade, players whose salaries are combined cannot be traded together for two months after the trade, but can be traded individually.

Therefore, the salaries of Patrick Beverley and Jared Vanderbilt cannot be combined to be traded for another player until September 6 (two months after the official trade that brought them to Utah from the Minnesota Timberwolves), but Beverley can be traded individually to any team. And the same goes for Vanderbilt, Beasley and Leandro Bolmaro.

All that said, negotiations and deals are done before they’re actually done all the time in the NBA, so technically the Jazz can make a deal in principle by combining the salaries of the players received in the Gobert trade and then not officially. Execute the trade by September 6th.



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