It may be a short stay in the playoffs for Donovan Mitchell in the playoffs.
The Utah Jazz came into the 2019-2020 season with extremely hopes for what they could achieve. Following two straight seasons of overachieving and earning trips to the playoffs, the Jazz weren’t going to sneak up on anybody. Considering Donovan Mitchell’s ascension to star status and likely all-star season ahead as well as the acquisition of former all-star Mike Conley and rising swingman, Bojan Bogdanovic, the Jazz were headed towards a big season.
It took a while to get going, but finally the Jazz started clicking and were playing like one of the top teams in the West, putting themselves in great positioning once the playoff push arrived. Mitchell put together an All-Star deserving campaign, averaging 25 ppg on 46 percent shooting from the field and 37 percent from behind the three-point, all career highs. With Conley out for several stretches, Mitchell also assumed a lot more of the point guard responsibilities and proved to be quite the playmaker.
Following the all-star break is when things started to get a little rocky for the Jazz as a franchise. It all started with the introduction of the coronavirus to the NBA, as Rudy Gobert was the first player to test positive leading to a shutdown of the NBA.
Gobert’s nonchalant behavior had made the viral rounds just a day or two previously where he made light of the situation by touching the mics and phone of reporters and reportedly doing the same with his teammates belongings.
That ultimately led to not only the aforementioned shutdown, but also for teammate Donovan Mitchell to test positive as well, creating a feud between the two never before seen in the league. The shutdown lasted for nearly three months leading to a lot of speculation that Mitchell or Gobert could asked to be traded due to their unwillingness to make amends with the other.
Bubble trouble for Donovan Mitchell and the Jazz
While both claim they are over it and moved past, the Jazz’s time in the bubble may show a little bit of a different story. Dealing with injuries yet again, Utah was never quite able to find their grove and stumbled to a 3-5 finish and dropping from the third seed in the west into the sixth seed.
Now they’ll get a matchup with one of the NBA’s brightest up and coming teams in the Denver Nuggets and to be quite honest, things really aren’t looking good for the Jazz. Momentum is clearly not on their side, experiencing a lopsided finish to the season and without another key piece to the puzzle in Mike Conley, I’m not sure I can convince myself that the Jazz can push it past a four or five game series.
Don’t discount Mitchell just yet, as we’ve seen his more than capable of doing his part in a playoff series. While the bubble restart hasn’t produced his finest moments, Mitchell did average 22 points and five assists per night and scored 30-plus points on two different occasions against the Lakers and Nuggets.
It’s not Mitchell I worry about. Instead, it’s worries about a supporting cast that is missing two guys capable of being the Robin to Mitchell’s Batman in Conley & Bogdanovic, as well as a relatively unproven bench filled with youth.
Should Utah go down to Denver without much of a fight, things really could start to get interesting when talking about the future – especially with Mitchell. In today’s NBA it’s unrealistic to believe that big stars will stay in small markets, especially as one as challenging as Salt Lake City for the Jazz.
Mitchell has said time and time again that he envisions himself being a member of the franchise for a long time to come, but would three straight early playoff exits, a fragmented relationship with the franchise’s second star, and the potential of big business elsewhere be enough to either help him force his way out or make things difficult when it comes time to negotiate?
Things will really heat up between the Jazz and Mitchell this offseason as he’ll become eligible for his first long-term extension before being set to enter free agency after next year. It’s very rare for players in similar contracts to Mitchell’s to turn down the max contract that will likely be coming his way, but if there’s concern about being competitive long-term it could cause him to play into free agency.
There’s been talk about Mitchell potentially signing his extension this summer, however, some like ESPN’s Jalen Rose don’t think it will happen. During the opening week of the NBA bubble, Rose was asked on ESPN’s Countdown about Mitchell’s future and had interesting comments.
That’s just an opinion, and obviously doesn’t mean much of anything – but it is interesting to note because it’s clear other people see that staying in Utah may not be in Mitchell’s best interest.
As my colleague Presley Meyer semi-seriously pointed out earlier in March during the Mitchell/Gobert fued, there are other teams out there that make sense for the former Cardinal star – especially one’s that could attract bigger name stars to play alongside him.
Utah is going to do everything in their power to lock Mitchell up for the next four to five seasons with a big dollar max contract this offseason. Should Mitchell resist on signing, the Jazz will hold all the power has he enters restricted free agency retaining the ability to match any offer from another squad.
A playoff series still has to be played out before the offseason arrives and the best way to convince Mitchell to resign would be to win.
Utah could do the unthinkable and upset a young Denver squad that is still struggling with injuries heading into the playoffs especially if they get the best out of Mitchell and Gobert. However, it’s more likely that they succumb early resulting in an exit of the bubble and a lot of talk about whether or not the future for Mitchell is in Utah.