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Jazz Most Realistic 2022-23 Scenario Involves Donovan Mitchell Staying & a Playoff Push

The Jazz are still primed to compete.

Trade talks for Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell have stalled and the original plan to rebuild around the All-Star is back in the conversation. 

If the Jazz stay put, is a playoff run in the cards?

Let’s look at a best-case, but also, the most realistic scenario for the 2022-23 Jazz and beyond.

With the draft capital acquired in the Rudy Gobert trade, the Jazz have the means to upgrade the roster if an opportunity presents itself. There’s been talk that Collin Sexton and the Cleveland Cavaliers aren’t on the same page in an extension, and the Jazz are rumored to have an interest in a potential sign and trade. 

It would require sacrificing future draft capital and a player (Mike Conley) to match salaries, but Mitchell at the point guard and Sexton at the shooting guard would be a dynamic 1-2 punch that could fill it up with the best of them.

At small forward, we can pencil in Bojan Bogdanovic. He’ll be 33 years old to start the season, but he will still give you 16 points a night and provide the spacing needed to maximize Mitchell’s talents. Bogdanovic would be an upgrade over Royce O’Neale, who logged most of the minutes at the 3 in 2021-22.

Where the roster stands now, Jarred Vanderbilt has the inside track to start at power forward. The scrappy ex-Timberwolf would bring energy, grit, and toughness that the Jazz desperately needed in their recent string of early playoff exits. Given starter minutes, Vanderbilt could average a double-double.

Getting production at the Center position may be Utah’s kryptonite, but what if 2022 NCAA defensive player of the year Walker Kessler is NBA-ready out of the gates? Kessler provides rim protection and a presence in the paint that the Jazz will need with the departure of Gobert. It wouldn’t be the first time a late first-round pick made an immediate impact in the NBA.

The bench is deep with experience. Malik Beasley, Jordan Clarkson, and Patrick Beverley are all starter-caliber players that could make hay matched up against other teams' subs.

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A wild card is newly acquired free agent Simone Fontecchio. If NBA-ready, Fontecchio could give the Jazz some much-needed depth at the small forward position. His highlight reel is impressive, and time will tell whether that translates to the NBA.

Lastly, can a fresh voice take this group to new heights? Head coach Will Hardy has some work to do, but change can be good, as we saw with the transition from ex-Boston Celtic head coach Brad Stevens to Ime Udoka last season.

Even in a loaded Western Conference, this roster could make a run at the playoffs, but more importantly, the Jazz have the draft capital and salary cap flexibility to make upgrades down the road.

Jazz executive Danny Ainge could have $30 million-plus in cap space paired with three first-round picks in a loaded draft heading into next year. The Jazz are set up nicely with only Bogdanovic, Beverley, and Rudy Gay not under team control.

Can a young team on the rise flip the script on Mitchell’s desire to stay in Utah? How about if he becomes eligible for a super-max contract?

A lot can happen in three years.

Ainge could still pull the trigger on trading Mitchell if he’s blown away by an offer, but until that happens, expect No. 45 to be suiting up in Salt Lake City when the new season gets underway. 

Follow Patrick on Twitter @pbyrnesNBA.

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