Donovan Mitchell’s Frustrated Comments Could Foreshadow the End of His Utah Jazz Career

At the beginning of the season, the Utah Jazz were viewed as one of the elite teams in the Western Conference. Now, Donovan Mitchell and company are as close to the play-in round as they are to securing homecourt advantage in the first round of the postseason.

Tuesday served as the low point in a previously-enjoyable Jazz season. Utah squandered a 25-point lead to lose 121-115 to the Los Angeles Clippers, their fifth consecutive loss.

Mitchell, the team’s perennial All-Star, was understandably upset with himself and the Jazz after the game. But things can get a lot worse for Utah if Mitchell’s frustrations boil over into the offseason.

Donovan Mitchell expressed his frustration after Tuesday’s loss

One year ago, the Jazz were the number one seed in the Western Conference. But their season once again ended in disappointment after the Clippers eliminated them in a six-game Western Conference Semifinals series. Worse yet, Game 6 of that series also featured Utah blowing a 25-point lead as it went on to lose 131-119.

Needless to say, the comparisons to Game 6 were hard to ignore for Mitchell. The three-time All-Star contributed 33 points and six assists in Tuesday’s loss. Yet he also had six of Utah’s 14 team turnovers, as he discussed in a moment of honesty after the final whistle.

“I don’t know. It’s the same s***,” Mitchell told reporters (h/t: FanNation). “I don’t know, it feels the same way. It’s the same thing, it’s literally the same thing. I had six turnovers, turned the ball over too much, we didn’t get back on defense, we didn’t rebound. I don’t know, I don’t have anything for you right now.”

The Jazz now sit at 19-20 on the road and 45-31 overall. Entering Wednesday, they’re two games back of the four-seed Dallas Mavericks and hold the tiebreaker over the six-seed Denver Nuggets. That said, they’re just two games up on the seven-seed Minnesota Timberwolves, the team currently occupying a spot in the play-in round.

Another playoff disappointment could spell the end of Mitchell’s time in Utah

Barring a drastic turn of events, it doesn’t look like the Jazz are heading toward a long playoff run. Assuming that’s the case, one can’t help but wonder how long Mitchell is willing to stay with Utah.

There have been rumblings dating back to last year about the 6-foot-1 guard calling Salt Lake City home for the long run. Last June, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported on his Hoop Collective podcast that co-owner Dwyane Wade was privately concerned Mitchell wouldn’t want to stay with the franchise. Several months later, Tim MacMahon appeared on Hoop Collective and dropped a rumor that market size mattered to the 25-year-old.

There’s also his relationship with center Rudy Gobert. While the two have co-existed on the court for five seasons, there have been reports on their mounting tension behind the scenes.

If Spida does in fact want to play in a bigger market, the best way to convince him otherwise is to finally break through and win a title, a la Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks. But as Utah stumbles across the finish line, the likelihood of doing so is diminishing by the day. If the Jazz get bounced in round one, why would Mitchell be encouraged about the future of the franchise?

It’s worth noting that Mitchell is a long way from free agency. The 2017 first-rounder is in the first year of a five-year, $163 million contract extension. But as we know in the NBA, a superstar’s contract isn’t enough to keep him committed to any one location. If the talented guard wants out, chances are his wish will be granted.

Mitchell already has one suitor willing to steal him away from the Jazz

If Mitchell’s rumored unhappiness eventually leads to a trade request, there will be a number of interested suitors. You can guarantee the New York Knicks will be one of those teams.

According to Steve Popper of Newsday, Executive VP William Wesley has his sights set on Mitchell. The All-Star is represented by Creative Artists Agency (CAA), where Wesley rose to power before joining the Knicks. He’s also a New York City native, which certainly works to the Knicks’ advantage.

Do the Knicks have enough to swing a deal for Mitchell? It’s incredibly tough for Utah to part with its star as it is, so it doesn’t want to trade the talented scorer for pennies on the dollar. At the very least, New York would have to include former All-Star Julius Randle, a combination of young players like Obi Toppin and Cam Reddish, and first-round picks. But even that might not be enough for the Jazz.

The next few months will be very fascinating for Donovan Mitchell and the struggling Jazz. An early playoff exit will only amplify the talk of him wanting out. And if that happens, the Knicks will be the first ones in line.

All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference and contract figures courtesy of Spotrac.

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