The Kevin Durant situation is delaying the NBA offseason right now. DeAndre Ayton remains unsigned and the Suns are desperate for a CD. The Pacers and Spurs still have room in the cap and could be the future home of Ayton or other players. The Lakers still have Russell Westbrook and their future first players, and they need Kyrie Irving. What do all these teams have in common? They all need Duran’s resolution before their cases can be sorted out. And now, Donovan Mitchell is back in the news after ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski revealed on Tuesday that the Jazz are now open to listening to trade offers for their All-Star defenseman.
Around July 1, when Rudy Gobert was transferred to Minnesota, league officials mentioned three teams showing interest in Mitchell: the Heat, the Knicks, and the Nets. In the weeks that followed, speculation about Mitchell’s future and where he might be headed only intensified.
Andy Larsen of Salt Lake Tribune It was reported Tuesday that the Heat had made offers for Mitchell, but none of them met Utah’s demands for at least one great young player and a large number of draft picks. The Heat continues to chase Durant, but Mitchell is considered a fallback if the Heat fails to land him.
However, getting Durant to Miami won’t be easy. The Nets are likely to want to sign Bam Adebayo. But they already have Ben Simmons, and NBA rules forbid a team from trading more than one player who has signed a maximum rookie extension. It’s a deal that Simmons signed with Philadelphia and Adebayo signed with Miami, so it will likely need at least a third team in the KD Miami scenario when that team takes Simmons. That suggests Miami would even ditch Adebayo, a 24-year-old Defensive Player of the Year nominee, for Durant, 33. It’s possible there just isn’t a deal, and the Heath may turn their attention to Mitchell instead.
The Nets are in a similar situation in their pursuit of Mitchell, as he signed fellow rookie Max to Utah. If the Nets had acquired Mitchell, Simmons would have had to be sent back to the Jazz or another team. But Brooklyn’s interest is also intriguing, because to make a strong offer for Mitchell, the Nets will likely have to include some of the catch they get for Durant or Irving.
Voy had been reporting for some time that the Nets wanted “one of the biggest trade earnings in league history” for Durant. Maybe mega-trading is in the works that satisfies them. The Nets have no reason to sink to the bottom as they don’t own most of their future first-round picks. In Mitchell’s case, the Nets could have prevented the Knicks from acquiring a star as well as giving themselves a young foundation to build on. Mitchell will be just 26 next season and have three guaranteed years left on his contract.
Utah could also use Brooklyn’s interest to raise the price of a Mitchell war. The Knicks have been the team most often associated with the Jazz Guard, and with 11 first-round picks from 2023 to 2029, they are armed with enough assets to make a competitive bid. Because many of their incoming innovations are protected, they depreciate in value compared to unprotected innovations. But if the Knicks want to, they can probably make the strongest offer with a combination of picks and young players.
It’s unclear which players New York would need to send to Utah in exchange for Mitchell, but Evan Fournier would be a realistic salary filler to keep the deal in line with finances (although the Knicks would still need to send more money back). I can’t imagine the Knicks turning down R. J. Barrett, but some combination of Obi Toppin, Cam Reddish, Immanuel Quickly and Quentin Grimes would probably go against the Utah depending on the number of draft picks .
After the Knicks signed another 6-foot-1 guard in the off-season in Jalen Brunson, one could argue that they should waive Mitchell. One little guard on the floor is enough for playoff teams, let alone two. A few months ago, Brunson and Mitchell were only 30 points behind each other. Who would they stop on defense if they shared the court? On the other hand, New York may not have a better opportunity to attract superstar talent. In the future, it was possible to make an exchange in order to solve an awkward situation in the rear zone. And when was the last time a star really wanted to perform in New York? The temptation for Knicks leadership may be too strong.
The Knicks should keep Barrett, but otherwise they’ll bet on Mitchell and deal with the rest later. But it will be expensive. The deal is not guaranteed here, although the Jazz is now undeniably open, as with Gobert, who received five firsts plus a trade of spades, bringing the Jazz to 12 prospective firsts. The asking price for Mitchell is so high that his trade could take the Jazz to the top of the league in first-round picks, surpassing the Thunder (17) and the Pelicans (13).
But is there a moment when a team can have too many picks? Having multiple choices does not always guarantee future success. This gives you options, but after making a pick-based trade for Gobert, perhaps prioritizing a player returning to picks would be the right way to trade Mitchell.
Simmons and some collection of picks can be very attractive. Utah are clearly recovering and the low pressure situation could be a great way for Simmons to get back on track. Plus, he’s probably not good enough to stop them from getting a strong shot at winning Victor Wembanyama, the 7-foot-3 French center who is headlining the 2023 NBA draft. It’s worth noting that Wembanyama is represented by Bouna Ndiaye, who is also Gobert’s agent.
Other organizations armed with more draft picks or contenders looking to improve their chances of winning the postseason could also bet on Simmons. Take, for example, a team like the Hawks. They have a valuable player they were trying to move in John Collins, and with two point guards in Trae Young and DeJonte Murray, Simmons could be the perfect passer due to his playing style, size and defense.
Simmons hasn’t played in a while and his future will be in question until he proves himself on the court again. But he’s an NBA-level player and will only be 26 next season. The Nets should be perfectly happy to keep him and see what they can build. But he’s certainly not an untouchable player. If the Nets decide they need Mitchell and want to move Simmons, he’s still valuable despite a difficult year.
The Nets should drag this out for as long as they can, in the hope that Durant gives up and decides to come back. None of these ideas or players will set Brooklyn on a better championship path than its current lineup of Durant, Irving and Simmons. In addition, the Nets increased their depth by adding two wings in Royce O’Neal and TJ Warren, as well as re-signing Patty Mills, Kessler Edwards and Nick Claxton. On paper, the Nets have a powerful offense with a ton of defensive versatility. If Simmons accepts his role, and if Durant and Irving stay healthy, this team can compete.
Durant could always consider returning to Brooklyn with Irving and Simmons, at least to give the franchise another shot. If Brooklyn fails, he could leave in the middle of the season when he has a better idea of his preferred homes.
Teams across the league meet in Las Vegas, but there are so many potential moving parts that this saga could drag on into the summer. With so many big names and so many teams looking to complete the deal, something big is bound to happen. Eventually.
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