Mannix: Okay, Beck, the Jazz season is over and there may not be a more interesting offseason than the one coming to Utah. For the third time in the past four years the Jazz have been rebounded in the first round and with a new CEO in (Trader) Danny Ainge, there is a real chance to see some substantial changes. Let’s start here: do you believe that Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert are the foundation of a championship-level team?
Beck: Sure, Mitchell-Gobert could be the foundation of a title team … if the Jazz acquired Jayson Tatum. O Luka Doncic. Or Kevin Durant. Mitchell + Gobert + Can RPGs Win It All? No. Clearly, no. They’ve had five seasons together and the Jazz have yet to advance beyond round two. They have been rebounded in the first round in three of the last four years.
To their credit, the Jazz found a formula for regular season success: Gobert anchoring an elite defense, Mitchell leading the attack, and plenty of shots around them. But they have taken this formula as far as possible. Just swapping a group of role players for (presumably) better role players won’t raise their ceiling much, not in a conference dominated by MVP nominees in Dallas (Dončić), Golden State (Steph Curry), Denver (Nikola Jokić ). ) and Memphis (Ja Morant), not to mention the ultra-talented and very deep Suns. It’s time to break this group and try something new.
Mannix: First, a disclaimer: I’m the lead attorney on Rudy Gobert’s defense team. The slander directed at Gobert last week was ridiculous. Yes, Dallas scored the Mavericks defense. But the idea that it was Gobert’s fault, when his perimeter defenders let him down, is crazy. I spoke to a Mavs assistant after that series. He said the Jazz wanted Gobert to protect everyone. You can’t win when your best defender is yours alone defender, and that’s what Gobert was.
That said, I’m not ready to give up on Mitchell / Gobert. And I completely I disagree that they can’t win without the right RPGs. What they need are the defenders. Mike Conley is a very good offensive player, but he is not the answer on the defensive. Bogdan Bogdanovic is an outstanding scorer, but he can’t defend either. Are you telling me that the Mitchell / Gobert tandem will no longer be dangerous with a group of defenders around them?
Beck: I’m telling you the Jazz problem goes Street beyond the defense (which, to note, is always excellent in the regular season, albeit usable in the playoffs). As our friend Bobby Marks of ESPN noted, the Jazz ranked 23rd in the net clutch time rating this season. For Marks too: Mitchell shot 33 percent during clutch time, the third worst rate among 37 players with at least 50 attempts in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime, with play within five points. So the Jazz also have some offensive concerns, including an over-reliance on Mitchell.
Here’s the thing: Jazz have an All-Star duo. Is fantastic. It takes at least two stars to win a championship in this championship. But it’s not that simple, and the Utah stars have glaring flaws. Gobert is one of the top five walking defenders, but he is not a scorer. Mitchell is one of the top scorers in the league, but he’s only three-point average, average playmaker / passer, and a net negative on defense.
Unless one or both of them make huge leaps in their games, the Jazz don’t have the firepower to match the Suns or the Warriors, or the full-strength Nuggets and Clippers, or even the Mavericks.
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So you want to keep Jazz together and pray for a better result than they’ve had in the last five years? Isn’t that some kind of definition of insanity?
Mannix: Obviously not. But Mitchell and Gobert are both under contract until at least 2025. I would like to try to change the tires before going into the car. Conley has two years and $ 46 million left on her contract. I’d like to see the Jazz hand over the playmaker’s keys to Mitchell – which I agree, he needs to improve in defense – and see if Conley can bring back a decent winger. Same with Bogdanovic. He seems rushed to break two established All-Stars before at least attempting to change the team around them.
Beck: Hurried? Hurried ?! Five years is a lifetime in this league. In the half decade Gobert and Mitchell were co-stars, James Harden and Kyrie Irving played for a total of five teams! The Kings and Knicks have faced (approximately) 57 coaches and GMs in that time frame!
You don’t have much more than five years to build a contender in this era, especially if you’re perpetually stuck in the good-not-great level, which is where Jazz is at. People start getting fired. The stars start to get impatient and (cough, cough) ask for swaps, for themselves or their co-stars. The Jazz can’t keep tinkering and expecting Mitchell to keep his cool, no matter how many years he has his contract. We have seen more stars with long-term contracts forcing trades in recent years. You can’t assume anything. And you can’t afford to sit still.
Mannix: Nobody suggests that Jazz is standing still. But it’s hard to find combinations like Mitchell and Gobert. Think about how Jazz did it: Gobert was 27th pick in 2013. Mitchell finished 13th in 2017 (I still can’t believe Frank Ntilikina, Dennis Smith and Malik Monk preceded him). And what will you get for them? If you trade Gobert, you’d better get the dollar-for-dollar value back if you want to keep Mitchell happy. Andrew Wiggins and one of the young Warriors players offer it? We’ve all heard of Mitchell’s desire to be in New York. So tell me: are you suggesting that we trade one and attempt to win with the other, or do you want Ainge to Gordon Gekko this thing and strip it for parts, er, choices?
Beck: I would keep Mitchell and trade Gobert. You can produce a defense in the top 10 without an elite and expensive circle protector. (The Mavericks, Clippers, and Raptors have all done it this season.) The Jazz have too many needs to have $ 41 million a year tied to a blocker that may or may not get along with your main star. Gobert can help a lot of teams and he should bring back a nice booty in a trade. Mitchell is only 25 and still entering his prime. If you are going to hit the reset button and try a new approach, now is the time.
Mannix: You can craft any of the top 10 defenses with That squad? You’ve seen the numbers. They were the No. 1 defensive team with Gobert last season. They were the last third in the NBA without him. Swap it out for a veteran winger and some young talent / picks and they won’t play enough D to win the Final Four, much less an NBA championship. And I can’t imagine Mitchell will be motivated (eventually) to sign a contract extension with such a team.
Oh well, we will never agree! But I think we both recognize that she’s going to be a glamorous offseason in Utah.
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