If either Donovan Mitchell or Rudy Gobert because available from the Utah Jazz, should the Orlando Magic consider trading for either?
While every NBA team has had to navigate the never before traveled waters of a stoppage to the season because of a virus, the Utah Jazz have the added difficulty of trying to keep their star players happy as well. This is because center Rudy Gobert now infamously joked about COVID-19, before being the catalyst for the games to stop.
Not only that, but he contracted the illness himself, while also giving it to Donovan Mitchell. Both players are fine at this stage, but it is unclear if their personal relationship is something that can be salvaged from this mess. Executive vice president of basketball with the Jazz, Dennis Lindsay, recently said that the franchise is ready to move on together as one.
What may be most worrying for the Jazz is that in amongst this call for unity, it did come out that Mitchell and Gobert did not speak for a month after both were confirmed to have the virus. This means that trade rumors surrounding the two are only going to continue, especially with there being little else to talk about. This is where the Orlando Magic come in.
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The Magic are an organization that, although they’ve been cautious over the last three years since the current front office took over, could be a team that gets more aggressive in pursuing free agents and trades as their rebuild continues. They’ve got some young players that could be of interest to other franchises as well, although their cap space situation is a little trickier.
If either Gobert or Mitchell were available to trade for then, would the Magic have any interest in going for one of these players? Let’s look at the case to be made for or against trading for either Gobert or Mitchell.
We’ll begin with Mitchell because, well, there really isn’t much of an argument here. He’s a star player, who looks like he’s only going to get better, who under ordinary circumstances wouldn’t even be possibly available. He’s only 23, and has already been an All-Star. His career average in three years in the league is 22.7 points per game. He can create his own shot.
Everything mentioned there is why the Orlando Magic should be willing to give up anybody not named Jonathan Isaac to see if they could get him. Even at that, Isaac shouldn’t be held off the table completely. Mitchell is that good already, that trading for him is a no-brainer. The Magic haven’t had a guy who can create his own shot like that in years.
It’s a guards league these days, and Mitchell is one of the best young guards in the game and figures to be for the next decade. You say yes to getting this kind of player every time. With Gobert, however, it is much more difficult. On the one hand, he is “The Stifle Tower”, and that kind of defensive ability in what is already a successful Magic defensive scheme would be outrageous.
The Orlando Magic would be the best defensive team in the league, and at only 27 himself and having already been a two-time Defensive Player of the Year, there is no reason to think Gobert still doesn’t have some levels to reach. He is only now entering his prime. Even the contract isn’t an issue, as 2020-21 will be the last year of a four year, $102 million deal.
You know who else makes similar money? Current Magic center Nikola Vucevic. If the Magic could convince the Jazz to take Vucevic, such an accomplished offensive option at this point in his career for a center, to pair with Mitchell, then taking back Gobert could make sense for a couple of reasons.
He’d improve them defensively straight away, but by the summer of 2021, he could in theory walk as an unrestricted free agent. Given that Isaac and Markelle Fultz will also need to be paid at some point, as well as Gobert’s compatriot Evan Fournier, it is clear there is not enough money to go around. Instead, this could be viewed as a way of getting out from under Vucevic’s deal.
That runs until 2023, and although he has been the Magic’s best player for five years and such a loyal servant, the feeling we all have is that he has taken them as far as he can go as their best player. Freeing up cash to spend elsewhere, especially in a league trending away from centers anyway, would be a smart business move, even if they a step back in the short-term.
The dream scenario would then be bringing Gobert back for much less money than Vucevic was on, and while that is highly unlikely, the Magic would have one card they could play against Gobert’s representatives. The same one the Jazz are capable of pulling now. For all of the rain protecting he brings, we have already seen that Gobert can be forced to sit in the playoffs.
In a series, opponents are able to highlight his flaws so that he’s taken off the court, and it would be those same deficiencies that could possibly have him coming back for less money. Again not likely, but worth bringing up. It should also be mentioned that the Magic absolutely should not trade a young player for Gobert (except maybe Mohamed Bamba), it would just be Vucevic.
If one or both of these guys are now disgruntled, the Jazz will have to act fast to get one of them out of town. The Magic should do anything they can to get Mitchell, but other organizations would have better offers. When it comes to Gobert, moving on from Vucevic really sweetens that deal, even if his game is difficult to build around in today’s game.