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Trading Donovan Mitchell is More Complex than Jazz Dealing Rudy Gobert

This isn't an apples-to-apples comparison.
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Speculation regarding a Donovan Mitchell trade continues across the NBA and within Jazz Nation. Utah Jazz executive Danny Ainge expects a massive haul of first-round picks in exchange for the All-Star, with multiple sources saying it'll take as many as seven to pry Mitchell away. 

There is speculation that Utah could also be asking for players in return for a Mitchell trade. But can the Jazz garner more first-round picks in exchange for Mitchell than received in the Rudy Gobert trade? 

Probably not. 

As NBA teams approach the trade negotiation table, initially offering your best asset is probably the best option. The Jazz opted to trade Gobert first, and not Mitchell. The order of the trade may explain, in part, why a Mitchell trade has not materialized yet. 

An example of the importance of trade order is displayed with the Brooklyn Nets. The Nets desired to complete a trade for Kevin Durant first, as he's been their most valuable asset. The Nets would tackle other potential trades after Durant.

The Minnesota Timberwolves have two young NBA stars in Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards. The Wolves analyzed Gobert's game and felt he was their missing piece to compete for an NBA championship. Gobert is highly conditioned and plays every night, provides superior rebounding and rim protection, and does not mind shouldering the grim assignments. 

Almost overnight, the Jazz had secured multiple first-round picks and players, and the Wolves were happy to accommodate. The media had virtually no inkling of the Gobert trade, which assisted the Jazz and Wolves during negotiations. Minnesota now feels it is a legitimate championship contender.

Ainge must at least consider the totality and timing of the Gobert trade and why teams are reportedly offering relatively meager terms for Mitchell. Teams may be thinking, 'Why give up multiple first-round picks when Gobert was Utah's top asset?'

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Mitchell is a fantastic All-Star with much to offer any team in the league. But when negotiation takes center stage, being an NBA-Star may not be enough trigger an offer. Another example comes from Brooklyn as a Durant trade is yet to be finalized, despite him still being a top-5 player in the NBA.

The New York Knicks were rumored as the front runners in acquiring Mitchell via trade from the Jazz. If Mitchell becomes a Knick, and New York retains its two stars in RJ Barrett and Julius Randle, what is the ceiling of the team? 

Maybe a No. 5 or 6 seed in the Eastern Conference with the chance of sliding down to the newly invented NBA play-in tournament. The Knicks would certainly not be a championship contender with Mitchell in the fold, so why mortgage the future? 

The Knicks could opt to pass on Mitchell, hold onto their assets, and make a play Victor Wembanyama in next year's draft. These musings are just the beginning of why a Mitchell deal could be stalled.

The Jazz may have made a mistake by trading Gobert first — if they truly wanted to deal Mitchell. If teams viewed Gobert as Utah's top asset entering the offseason, then return on the Gobert deal set the bar relative to the picks obtainable via trade for a team's No. 1 resource. 

With so much talent in upcoming NBA drafts, teams may want to retain their assets for a possible brighter future. Michell is an All-Star needing no introduction but the negotiation table is a completely different animal.

In the end, the Jazz will be fine and I'd be surprised if Mitchell is dealt before the 2022-23 season. If Mitchell is retained, at least Jazz Nation can continue its winning tradition and not become the reinvented Sacramento Kings or Orlando Magic.


Follow James on Twitter @jlewNBA.

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