Will the Utah Jazz be forced to trade Rudy Gobert?

NBA Trade Rumors, Utah Jazz

With the deadline for signing to a supermax extension coming quickly, will the Utah Jazz have to trade Rudy Gobert?

The Utah Jazz have two core pieces around which everything else revolves — Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert. Mitchell has gotten a new contract, a five-year rookie max extension worth up to $195 million, and Gobert is eligible for a supermax deal worth 35 percent of the salary cap.

The deadline to ink the supermax is Dec. 21. But according to ESPN’s Porter Larsen, the Jazz and Gobert are apart in negotiations as the clock winds down.

The “normal” max is now worth 30 percent of the salary cap. But that’s still a pretty significant gap between what Gobert wants and what the Jazz have offered. Negotiations on a different deal can continue into the season, but the supermax goes off the table soon.

Will the Jazz have to trade Rudy Gobert?

Gobert is a two-time Defensive Player of the Year, and he was a finalist to win the award a third time in a row last season. He averaged 15.1 points, 13.5 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game during the 2019-20 regular season, and 16.9 points, 11.4 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game over seven playoff games.

Gobert made headlines in March when his positive COVID-19 test led to the NBA suspending the season. Reports of a severed relationship for he and Mitchell then followed, which fueled speculation the Jazz could trade Gobert if they didn’t get a contract extension done with him.

Via ESPN’s Tim Bontemps back in June:

“They’re not Stockton and Malone,” a Western Conference executive said. “It’s a different time. There’s not a lot of guys like that anymore.”

Absent a down-to-the-wire agreement on a supermax deal, nothing would stop the Jazz and Gobert from talking about (and ultimately agreeing to) a different, lower value multi-year deal. For some context on the value of a supermax contract right now, Giannis Antetokounmpo agreed to a five-year, $228 million deal with the Milwaukee Bucks this week.

Gobert is what he is, a traditional center who’s a top-end defender and rebounder and shoots 64 percent from the floor of his career. But 90-plus percent of his field-goal attempts from within 10 feet of the basket every year, and most of those (80-plus percent of his field-goal attempts in four of the last five seasons) come from within three feet of the basket. Hardly a supermax player in today’s game, if we’re being honest.

The worst-case scenario for the Jazz is this. Gobert plays out this season with no progress on a new contract, and regardless of interest or a possible flimsy demand, a trade doesn’t happen. Then he leaves for nothing as an unrestricted free agent next summer.

The smart move for Gobert’s side is to keep contract negotiations going if the supermax deadline passes without a deal. The Jazz could have greater motivation to trade him if those ongoing contract talks go nowhere. But the Jazz don’t have to do anything with Gobert they don’t want to do right now, including giving him the full supermax deal he wants or trading him.

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