There might be trouble brewing in Utah, which could result in an NBA All-Star becoming available on the trade market this summer.
According to a story by The Athletic's Shams Charania, Sam Amick and Tony Jones, the Jazz are working on the relationship between Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, but the latter may be reluctant to fix something that "doesn't appear salvageable."
Mitchell was not pleased with Gobert's attitude about the coronavirus outbreak leading up to both players testing positive for the virus. In an interview with ABC's "Good Morning America," Mitchell admitted it took a while for him to "cool off" following the entire saga.
So if Gobert and Mitchell are headed toward a breakup, could the Wizards potentially make a play for the two-time Defensive Player of the Year?
First thing's first, it's important to understand that due to the NBA suspending all transactions indefinitely, any trade for Gobert would have to happen late this summer or early fall, depending on when the league ends the freeze.
What would the Wizards get in Gobert?
Washington would gain perhaps the best interior defender in the game who was averaging 15.1 points, 13.7 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game on 69.8% shooting before the NBA season was suspended.
The Wizards' interior defense struggled all year and was a major factor in the team's league-worst defensive rating. Acquiring Gobert would automatically turn things around on that end of the floor and provide a solid screener for John Wall and Bradley Beal on offense.
However, Gobert severely lacks lateral quickness in space and has routinely been played off the floor in the playoffs due to his inability to contain ball handlers on switches.
There's also the fact that in an age where more and more bigs are shooting threes, Gobert takes all of his shots in the paint. During the 2019-20 season, he attempted three field goals farther than 10 feet away from the rim.
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Gobert would also be entering the final year of his contract and will earn $25.7 million according to HoopsHype and Spotrac. He also qualified for a supermax extension last season and will be able to sign a five-year, $247.3 million contract in the summer of 2021. That'd be an average of $49.5 million per year for Gobert's age-29-through-33 seasons.
There's no telling at this point whether a team will want to offer him that kind of money, but whoever has him on the roster, whether it be the Jazz or any other team that trades for him, will face the possibility of paying a center top-of-the-market money into his early-to-mid 30's.
What would it cost?
It's very likely neither the Wizards or Jazz will have cap space next season, meaning Washington would have to match salary with Gobert in any trade. Working with the $25.7 million salary figure, the Wizards would have to send at least $19.3 million Utah's way for the trade to be legal.
If the Wizards want to hold onto their core in Wall, Beal, Rui Hachimura and Davis Bertans, then they'd have to consider parting with at least four players from their current group.
Thomas Bryant and Ish Smith would have to be included in this case. Then general manager Tommy Sheppard would have to look at including either Jerome Robinson and Moe Wagner or Robinson and Troy Brown Jr.
That's just to make the money work. If the Jazz also wanted draft picks, the Wizards might have to think about parting with their 2020 first-round pick, which currently sits with the ninth-best lottery odds.
Would the Wizards consider paying up for Gobert? Who's to say? Only Sheppard and his front office know the answer to that question. However, Sheppard explained his philosophy on centers in a Reddit AMA last month.
"If you look at the way the game is played, it's harder and harder to have significant money tied in to one player at the center position," he wrote. "We found it as a necessity to do center-by-committee. We're pleased with the progress of Thomas Bryant, Moe Wagner, and Anzejs Pasecniks."
Paying $25.7 million next year and possibly $247 million over five years would definitely qualify as significant money.
The case for and against
There are plenty of reasons for the Wizards not to take a run at Gobert. If Washington traded a number of promising young players to get him in the building, its cap sheet would be taken up almost entirely by Wall, Beal, Gobert and Bertans' contracts.
It's hard to build a championship team without money to spend or young players to develop.
If adding Gobert into the mix improves the defense to the point where they're contenders with Wall and Beal, then the Wizards have to go for it regardless of the financial commitment. Wall and Beal's contention window won't be open forever, so if the Wizards think Gobert can put them in the mix with Milwaukee, Boston and Philadelphia then they should go and get their guy.
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