‘We have a plan’: Jazz announces Mitchell trade, admits 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)

Estimated reading time: 3-4 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — Danny Ainge has a plan, but there is a warning: it will take a while.

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

It’s a deal that’s been known since Friday, but the announcement allowed 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 now needed to make some changes. Essentially, he admitted that the Mitchell and Rudy Gobert duo had reached its peak and it was time for a reset. He and Justin Zanik went ahead and pressed that button.

“It was clear that we needed to adjust our roster to optimize our opportunity to create a team that could truly compete and achieve lasting success.” Trading with Rudy and now with Donovan, it was a rare opportunity for us to ability to get quality talent and choices to best position, maximize us.”

The Jazz now has a lot of options ahead of it. But most, if not all, require lengthy remodeling. The Jazz broke it all down, and now they’ll try to build it up stronger. Ainge hinted that the process won’t be any time soon.

“We have a plan to help us build the championship team that 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 looking for first round picks in exchange for their stars and found them. It may take a while for one of those picks to turn into players on a championship-hopeful roster; but while the picks were the big prize, the Jazz say they’re excited about the young prospects they’ve gotten for Cleveland’s Mitchell.

Agbaji was the No. 14 pick in the 2022 draft and represents the highest drafted rooke since Mitchell (No. 13 in 2017). Entering his sixth season, Markkanen was one of the top players at the 2022 EuroBasket tournament. Sexton, who signed the Jazz to a $72 million four-year 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 delighted to add them to our roster,” Zanik said in a statement. “We believe they fit the jazz culture and tough, competitive basketball brand we’ve built here in Utah. They give us versatility and athleticism on both sides of the floor as we grow into the future. We look forward to our fans learning they know.”

It’s hard to see those fans hugging one of them the same way Mitchell did when he came to Utah as the wide-smiling boy from Louisville. He brought excitement and hope back to a franchise that had just been turned down by Gordon Hayward. However, that hope eventually ran out; and that led to the decision to move on from the homegrown All-Star who 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 equally important was the lasting impact he made in Utah. He is a wonderful 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 jazz man.”

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Ryan Miller has been covering the Utah Jazz for KSL.com since 2018.

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