If Donovan Mitchell wants out of Utah, can San Antonio put together an enticing offer?

Amidst rumblings in The Crossroads of the West (I rolled my eyes so hard when I looked this up. Salt Lake City really needs a new nickname!) that Donovan Mitchell is uneasy with Snyder’s retirement, and in light of their subpar performance yet again in the playoffs, it has me (along with Heat and Knicks fans) thinking that the Jazz might just blow everything up. While I think this will probably happen to a degree, I'm skeptical any shake up will include Mitchell, if only because if I were the GM (which, for my usual disclaimer, I most certainly am not), I’d have a hard time giving up such a young, exciting player.

But, there may be a world where the Jazz realize that collectively, Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, Mike Conley, Bojan Bogdanovic, Jordan Clarkson, and Royce O’Neal can’t get the job done, but that independently, each has trade value that could lead to an expedited rebuild. And let's assume, for funsies, that the Jazz entertain offers for Mitchell. In such a scenario, I think it is possible for San Antonio to put together a competitive package for Mitchell that would allow San Antonio to pair Mitchell and Dejounte Murray in the backcourt and jump back into competition in the West.

The Trade: Utah sends Donovan Mitchell to San Antonio in exchange for Doug McDermott, Josh Richardson, Joshua Primo, Toronto’s 2022 1st round pick, a lottery protected 2023/2024 San Antonio 1st round pick, and Chicago’s 1-10 protected 2025 1st pick.

Show Me the Money: Donovan Mitchell makes $30.35 million in 2022-23 and is under contract through 2025-26 (2025-26 is a player option for $37.1 million). Doug McDermott makes $13 million in both the 2022-2023 season and the 2023-2024 season. Josh Richardson is on an expiring contract worth $12.2 million in 2022-23. Josh Primo is on a rookie scale contract with team options in 2023-24 and 2024-25.

Why This Works for San Antonio: San Antonio creates a complementary all-All-Star backcourt that is on the same timeline and under contract for multiple seasons, keeps Keldon Johnson, Devin Vassell, Jakob Poeltl, and the 9th pick in the draft, and is instantly competitive for a top-6 seed in the Western Conference. Additionally, they go into free agency with cap space and draft assets that they can use to pursue other established talents that might be gettable like DeAndre Ayton, Miles Bridges, OG Anunoby, or Jerami Grant (just to name a few). Oh, and by the way, Mitchell and Pop are pals. A return to relevancy without mortgaging the future or messing with the timeline of the Spur’s youth movement is a clear win for the Spurs.

Why This Doesn’t Work for San Antonio: Any team that wants Mitchell is going to have to pay full price. He’s 25, an electric offensive talent, and under contract for at least three more years. And San Antonio would have to give up significant assets to acquire him. While McDermott and Richardson are decent veteran acquisitions that could represent two more 1st round picks in later trades for Utah, they would mostly be used to match salaries and are not enough nearly enough for San Antonio to acquire Mitchell. Utah will also need at least one young prospect and a few 1st round picks to make this trade worth it. Luckily, it seems like San Antonio would have the assets to put together such a package. My biggest fear is that Utah would insist on the inclusion of Johnson or Vassell for this trade to happen. If I were San Antonio, I’d consider adding additional assets (our 2022 2nd round pick, Chicago’s 2025 2nd round pick, Denver’s 2028 2nd round pick, or the pick swap with Boston in 2028) or remove lottery protections on our 2024 pick, before agreeing to any trade centered around either player. This also only leaves San Antonio with its 2026 and 2028 first round picks to use in future trades (because of Ted Stepien, San Antonio would retain its 2025 and 2027 first round picks, but would not be able to use them in future trades).

Why This Works for Utah: This is a great collection of assets from which to start a rebuild and a full haul for Mitchell. They get a few first round picks. The vets can be flipped to contenders for a couple more picks. Josh Primo is a young talent with a high ceiling. If Utah then goes on to trade Gobert (Charlotte and Atlanta are interested I’ve heard), and the rest of the starting cast for more prospects and picks, it’s turbocharging a rebuild. I don’t think many teams can offer more than San Antonio, and the teams that could (Oklahoma City, Houston, etc.) may not be in a position to give up the assets and take a stab at contention this year. Similarly, teams that may be more motivated to make a trade for Mitchell, like the Miami Heat or New York Knicks, may be unable to scrape together the necessary assets. San Antonio is in the relatively unique position of having the assets to pay full price for Mitchell, while already having an All-Star on the roster that they want to build around. Utah may not find a better offer.

Why This Doesn’t Work for Utah: Inherent in most rebuilds (absent an injury laden season a-la the 1997 Spurs or the 2020 and 2021 Warriors) is walking away from contention. If Utah believes they can retool around Mitchell, then this trade is dead on arrival. Simply put, this trade doesn’t create a plausible path to the Finals for Utah.

The Nitty Gritty: The salaries balance out. The more complex elements of this trade involve any 2022 draft picks. It makes sense that Utah would be interested in a 2022 pick, as they have none of their own, but that would also involve a trade being worked out prior to June 23, 2022. Otherwise, any rookie chosen with those picks could be included in the trade, but Utah would obviously lose the ability to make their own picks.

Verdict: I think up random trades for the Spurs (or in the NBA more generally) most mornings while stuck in traffic, sipping my second coffee with bachata on the radio. I very rarely get excited enough to write a 1000+ words on the concept. I think this trade vaults the Spurs back into contention, preserves the majority of the Spurs’s depth, and is a sustainable move. Mitchell would be here for several more years, his acquisition would likely allow us to extend/ resign Murray, and financially, it’s a reasonable, if not affordable, contract. Also, at 25, Mitchell fits our current timeline. The Spurs would still need to address the gaping hole at power forward, and find a long-term solution at center, but a Murray, Mitchell, Johnson/ Vassell rotation from 1-3 would be a great core with a nice blend of offensive and defensive talent. It's obviously a pipe dream, but I really want this to happen. And I think Utah would seriously consider this trade too.

My fellow Pounders, thanks for reading, and as always, I look forward to your colorful commentary.

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