‘We have a plan’: Jazz announce Mitchell trade, admit change was needed

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)

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SALT LAKE CITY – Danny Ainge has a plan, but there’s this caveat: It’ll take some time.

The Utah Jazz made things official Thursday afternoon, announcing the team had traded Donovan Mitchell for guard Collin Sexton, forward Lauri Markkanen, rookie wing Ochai Agbaji, three future first-round picks and a couple pick swaps.

It’s a deal that’s been known since Friday, but the announcement allowed for the Jazz executive 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 needed to make some changes now. Essentially, he admitted that the duo of Mitchell and Rudy Gobert had reached its peak, and it was time for a 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 truly contend and establish sustained success, we needed to transition our roster,” Ainge said. “In trading Rudy and now Donovan, it was a rare opportunity to maximize our ability to get quality talent and picks to best position us moving forward.”

The Jazz now have a lot of options ahead of them. But most, if not all, will require a lengthy rebuild. The Jazz tore it all down, and now they’ll attempt to build it up stronger. Ainge hinted that the process won’t be a quick one.

“We have a plan in place to help us assemble the championship team our fans deserve,” he said. “It will take time to craft our roster. We all understand the work ahead and are committed to our vision.”

Utah went out in search for first-round picks in return for their stars and found them. It could take some time for any of those picks to turn into players on a championship-hopeful roster; but while the picks were the big prize, the Jazz say they are 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 drafted rooke since Mitchell (No. 13 in 2017). Markkanen is entering his sixth season and has been 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 over 24 points in 2020-21, his last full healthy season.

“Ochai, Lauri and Collin are exciting young players, and we’re thrilled to add them to our roster,” Zanik said in a statement. “We believe that they fit the Jazz culture and hard-nosed, 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 toward the future. We look forward to our fans getting to know them. “

It’s hard to see those fans embrace any of them the same way they did Mitchell when he came to Utah as the wide-smiled kid from Louisville. He brought excitement and hope back to a franchise that had just been spurned by Gordon Hayward. That hope, though, eventually burned out; and that led to the decision to move on from the home-grown All-Star that averaged 23.9 points, 4.5 assists, and 4.2 rebounds in his five seasons in Utah.

“The Jazz had so many great moments with Donovan over the past 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 human and touched the lives of so many through his engagement in the community. Our entire organization wishes him every success in his future. Once a Jazzman, always a Jazzman. “

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Ryan Miller has covered the Utah Jazz for since 2018.

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