Slept on coming out of the University of Louisville in 2017, Donovan Mitchell has transformed himself from an athletic, undersized guard to one of the best scorers in the entire NBA.
The cornerstone of the Utah Jazz franchise, Mitchell has made the All-Star Game for three consecutive seasons now and is the main reason why the Jazz have made the playoffs every year of his young career.
However, every season has seemed to end in postseason disappointment for Utah and this season was no exception.
Injuries are to blame for some of this team’s misfortunes during the regular season, but overall, Utah still finished the year as the best offensive team in the league based on offensive rating and they ranked ninth in the league in defensive rating. All around, the Jazz entered the playoffs as one of the better teams in the NBA metric-wise.
Against the Dallas Mavericks in the first-round of the playoffs this year, Utah never seemed to assert themselves, even with All-Star Luka Doncic missing the first three games of this series for the Mavericks, and they let Dallas dictate the flow of each game.
The Jazz lost this series to the Mavericks in six games and now, questions are swirling about what this offseason will hold for a small-market franchise that has worked so hard to try and build themselves into a real contender over the years.
Donovan Mitchell now finds himself at a crossroads entering the offseason after yet another disappointing exit from the postseason.
Donovan Mitchell's Faith vs. Reality in Utah
Tension in Utah has been rising since the 2019-20 season when Rudy Gobert became the first NBA player to test positive for COVID-19 and now, with new ownership and new faces in the front-office, there are questions rising about the direction of this Utah Jazz franchise.
Being under contract through the 2024-25 season with a player option for the 2025-26 season, Mitchell is in no rush to make a decision about his long-term future in this league.
The idea of leaving Utah immediately this offseason is definitely a thought that Donovan Mitchell has faced time-and-time again, but he is not the type of person to give up on something.
Even back at Louisville, he was always the first one in the gym and the last one out of it, always looking to get ahead of his competition to set his team up for success. Quitting is not something Mitchell wants to do, nor will he, but the reality of his situation with the Jazz is starting to become clearer.
The Jazz as an organization quickly embraced Mitchell early on in his career to be their leader and the All-Star guard does genuinely enjoy both Salt Lake City and the Jazz fanbase.
Building something in Utah and making the Jazz a real contender is something Donovan Mitchell has set out to do early on in his career, but the 2020-21 season when they finished with the best record in the NBA may have been their best chance to go on a deep postseason run.
Mike Conley Jr. is now 34-years-old and is turning 35 before the start of next season. Bojan Bogdanovic is now 33 years-old and both Rudy Gobert and Royce O’Neale are not getting any younger either.
Having really no high-impact youth on their roster and still having many flaws that have not been addressed, this franchise really has not gone anywhere since drafting Mitchell in 2017.
Their front-office and personnel are committed to building with and around Donovan Mitchell for the foreseeable future, but it is not hard to believe that he is torn between the reality of Utah’s situation and what he envisions the Jazz being.
The Jazz will not be looking to trade Mitchell in the offseason unless he requests a trade and as of right now, the sense around the league is that Donovan Mitchell is going to be willing to see what Utah’s front-office has planned moving forward.
After the 2022-23 season, this mindset could absolutely change, but the Jazz recognize moves need to be made and their front-office does seem motivated to give their All-Star guard the help he needs immediately, even if that means sacrificing other top assets in the process.
New York Knicks A Favorite For Mitchell?
As for where Mitchell could possibly end up if he was to leave the Utah Jazz, the New York Knicks have been a heavily speculated landing spot for him and there is a level of mutual interest that exists between the two sides.
The Knicks’ front-office has not hid their interest in Utah's star and he does have connections to the city of New York.
Donovan Mitchell’s father, Donovan Mitchell Sr., has worked with the New York Mets organization in the MLB for over two decades now and Mitchell was always around New York City growing up.
Should the opportunity come his way, Donovan Mitchell is not opposed to the idea of playing for the New York Knicks one day, sources say, but he is not the biggest fan of Knicks’ owner James Dolan.
Many around the league share the same feelings as Mitchell in regards to how Dolan runs the Knicks organization and over the years, several other All-Star talents have turned down the opportunity to sign with the Knicks in free agency because of the lack of accountability and willingness to succeed at the top of their franchise.
“Fans, players, league personnel… so many people have been calling for James Dolan to sell the Knicks for years, yet he has been unwilling to do so,” one league source told SI Fastbreak. “So many owners around the league actually care about their team, their success on the floor and their players, yet Dolan is never around and he cares more about his music and band than the Knicks as a whole.”
The Knicks’ owner is the founding member of JD & The Straight Shot, a country blues and roots rock vanity project that was once described by The New York Times as a group of “well-known sidemen backing a karaoke grade singer.”
“When you have All-Stars, some of the best of the best, turning down an offer to play in arguably the greatest basketball arena in the world in Madison Square Garden for one of the league’s most historic franchises because of the team’s owner, that is a major problem not only for the franchise, but for the NBA as a whole,” one NBA agent told SI Fastbreak in regards to the Knicks. “[James] Dolan is not around for the first 80 games of the year and then comes back after touring around with his band thinking he knows what’s going on and that he can magically fix things. It is just a complete joke to be perfectly honest and you almost feel bad for those who have had to try and run this organization under him.”
For years now, many have criticized Dolan’s ability to be the owner of the Knicks and former NBA commissioner David Stern did not hold back his feelings pertaining to the Knicks’ owner in 2007, stating that “they’re not a model of intelligent management.”
Playing in New York City and for a team that he was always exposed to in the New York Knicks is definitely something that peaks Donovan Mitchell’s interest, but it does not appear that the All-Star wants to deal with all the inconsistencies that come with the Knicks, particularly stemming from the top of their organization.
Almost every team in the league would show trade interest in Mitchell if he was to request a trade out of Utah, but the Miami Heat and Atlanta Hawks are two other teams besides the Knicks that Mitchell would have interest in, sources familiar with the Jazz guard noted.
Pat Riley’s success throughout the years in Miami’s front-office and the Heat already having proven All-Stars on their roster makes them an attractive destination and one of Mitchell’s best friends in the league is Trae Young, also making the Hawks a fascinating destination for Mitchell to potentially build one of the best backcourts in the league with Young.
A long offseason full of questions and different paths awaits the Utah Jazz and while Donovan Mitchell is committed to the team and has stated in the past that he has “no intention on leaving Utah,” the clock is ticking for this franchise to surround their All-Star with championship pieces.