Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) prepares to shoot free throws during the game against the Philadelphia 76ers at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021. (Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)
Estimated reading time: 3-4 minutes
SALT LAKE CITY — Danny Ainge has a plan, but there’s this caveat: It’s going to take a while.
The Utah Jazz made things official Thursday afternoon, announcing that the team traded Donovan Mitchell for guard Collin Sexton, forward Lauri Markkanen, rookie Ochai Agbaji, three future first-round picks and a couple of pick trades.
It’s a deal that’s been known since Friday, but the announcement allowed the Jazz’s management team to offer some thoughts behind the move.
Ainge said in a statement that in order for the Jazz to compete for a title in the future, they had to make some changes now. Basically, he admitted that the duo of Mitchell and Rudy Gobert had reached their peak, and it was time to reset. He and Justin Zanik went ahead and pushed that button.
“It was clear that in order to optimize our opportunity to create a team that could really contend and establish sustained success, we needed to cross our roster,” Ainge said. “In trading Rudy and now Donovan, it was a rare opportunity to maximize our ability to acquire quality talent and picks to best position ourselves going forward.”
The Jazz now have many options in front of them. But most, if not all, will require a long rebuild. The Jazz destroyed everything, and now they will try to build it stronger. Ainge suggested the process won’t be quick.
“We have a plan to help us put together the championship team our fans deserve,” he said. “It will take time to build our roster. We all understand the work ahead and are committed to our vision.”
Utah went out looking for first-round picks against their stars and found them. It could take some time for any of those picks to become players on a championship-hopeful roster; but while the picks were the big prize, the Jazz say they’re excited for the young prospects they got back from Cleveland for Mitchell.
Agbaji was the No. 14 pick in the 2022 draft and represents the highest draft pick since Mitchell (No. 13 in 2017). Markkanen is entering his sixth season and was one of the best players at the 2022 EuroBasket tournament. Sexton, who the Jazz signed to a four-year, $72 million deal as part of the trade, averaged more than 24 points in 2020-21, his last full healthy season.
“Ochai, Lauri and Collin are exciting young players, and we are excited to add them to our roster,” Zanik said in a statement. “We believe they fit the Jazz culture and tough, competitive brand of basketball we’ve built here in Utah. They give us versatility and athleticism on both ends of the floor as we grow into the future. We look forward to our . fans getting to know them.”
It’s hard to see those fans embracing any of them the way Mitchell did when he came to Utah as the big-smiling kid from Louisville. He brought excitement and hope back to a franchise that had just been scorned by Gordon Hayward. That hope, however, eventually burned out; and that led to the decision to move on from the home All-Star, who averaged 23.9 points, 4.5 assists, and 4.2 rebounds in his five seasons in Utah.
“The Jazz have had so many great moments with Donovan over the last five years as he developed into a perennial All-Star,” owner Ryan Smith said in a statement. “But just as important was the lasting impact he made in Utah. He is an amazing person and has touched the lives of so many through his involvement in the community. Our entire organization wishes him every success in his future. Once a Jazzman, always a Jazzman .”