25 January 2021

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If The Utah Jazz Are Forced To Part With A Star, Who Should Go, Mitchell or Gobert?

These past few weeks have led to an increased level of uneasiness inside the Utah Jazz locker room. Growing tensions between two star players have sparked a raging question among NBA fans. There was a rumor going around saying that the team were not willing to trade any of their two stars, but if the Utah Jazz are forced to trade either Donovan Mitchell or Rudy Gobert, who would be the one chosen to become the team’s lone franchise player?

There are a number of arguments for each player’s case with many different opinions on which type of player is the best suited to lead a franchise. This can be determined using the previous history of similar players who have led their teams to glory (or failed to) in order to correctly decide who is the better fit to be the franchise player.

Utah Jazz teammates Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell are reportedly at odds. (Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Mitchell Leff / Getty Images

The team surrounding the most crucial players also plays a huge part on which players are better suited for the role. This is another method that will be used to prove why one player would have a greater impact on the success of the team afterwards.

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Which Type Of Player Has Been More Successful In The Past?

Let’s identify both players and pick out what type of players they are. Donovan Mitchell, at just 23 years old, is an elite offensively-minded two-guard who has improved every aspect of his game since entering the league. He has seen a significant uptick in his points-per-game averages but has barely improved on his play-making skills that one would like to see.

Even though he has improved in this category every year since he entered the league, Mitchell’s finishing under the basket remains questionable as he only converts 52.5 percent of his shots that are less than 8 feet from the basket which is among the league average for starting guards across the league. Standing at 6-foot-1, he plays solid team defense but is limited due to his short frame. 

Rudy Gobert is seen as a traditional rim protector every team covets. Standing at 7-foot-1, he dominates the boards, averaging 11.0 total rebounds in his 7-year career. He is an elite shot-blocker, ranking 20th All-Time in highest career shot-block averages, ranking over notable players such as Yao Ming and Dwight Howard. He is the defensive anchor of the Utah Jazz and the defense cannot operate without him.

He has attempted a grand total of three 3-pointers over his career which shows that all his points come from inside the arc, the majority of them coming from inside the paint. He is flawed offensively and the only way he manages to post high averages is by using mismatches to his advantage or grabbing the offensive board and putting it back in the basket. This requires little to no skill. 

Both these players are comparable to Dwayne Wade and Dikembe Mutombo. Don’t stop reading just yet, it’s just an inflated comparison of how each style of play contributed to the success of their team.

Dwayne Wade led the Miami Heat to a championship with a Shaquille O’Neal who was past his prime but still contributed a significant amount and played a huge role that season and playoff run. Dwayne Wade was obviously the best player on the team averaging over 27 points per game that season which is a ridiculous number.

But as Shaquille O’Neal’s performance dropped drastically, so did the team’s success. The Heat never made it past the first round of the playoffs after winning the title until Lebron James decided to join the show. The success was dependent on the performance of the big man and Dwayne Wade was not able to do it alone. 

Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat drives past Dikembe Mutombo of the ...

Dikembe Mutombo, regarded as one of the greatest shot-blockers and defenders of all-time, did not have the same success without a playmaker or a similar Wade, Mitchell type player. The best years of his career were spread across playing for three teams, the Denver Nuggets, Atlanta Hawks, and the Philadelphia 76ers.

He ran into Jordan’s dynasty Bulls and was never able to lift the title. The closest he ever reached to achieve the greatest success was when he was playing alongside a prime Allen Iverson in the 2000-2001 season. Through most of his career, he did not play with any player similar to Mitchell and Wade’s game style and was never rewarded when being the best player on the team, only reaching as far as the second when he was on the Hawks.

These comparisons give proof that both types of players cannot lead a franchise on their own and always need elite players in both positions to form a legitimate contender. 

Teammates

The Utah Jazz plays the game at a very slow pace and have solid shooters and defenders surrounding the two main pieces, Mitchell and Gobert. At this moment, they do not have another competent big-man like Gobert and so he is the one who anchors the defense, locking down the paint. He is also the main big-man whom they play through on offense, being a key component of their pick-and-roll plays as well. You can see an example below of the Jazz using him in a pick-and-roll situation.

Here are some highlights of Rudy Gobert’s fantastic defensive possessions (check out number 1, it seems as though this year wasn’t the only time Damian Lillard was blocked on a game-winning shot against the Jazz):

Donovan Mitchell also cannot be replaced by his teammates as nobody is nearly as talented and athletic as him, but most of his plays are run through isolation, breaking the flow of the game. He is very skilled and has tons of potential but his style does not require any other teammate involved, although he does a good job involving them when needed. This makes him useful in the postseason as he can create his own shot and come up big in clutch moments.

Here are Mitchell’s best plays from the 2017-2018 season:

Decision

Although it’s tough to find an All-NBA defensive talent like Gobert, Donovan Mitchell should be the player who stays with the Jazz and takes sole ownership of being the franchise player.

There are many big-men who are defensive stalwarts around the league who would also be available for a move like Hassan Whiteside or Myles Turner, but there is nobody in the league who is available and has the same unique talents and skills that of Donovan Mitchell.

Donovan Mitchell is also much younger and for the moment, seems to have the locker room advantage. The Utah Jazz would surely miss out on Gobert’s presence on the court but it is the better alternative than losing Mitchell.

This situation only occurs if they are forced to make a move like this. Donovan Mitchell would act better as the sole franchise player, being younger and a rarer find. However, let’s hope they do not decide to break up this promising duo and the players really mend relationships, so they can become legitimate contenders and compete for a title.

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