Could Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert unrest help the Knicks?

Mitchell Gobert
Donovan Mitchell (left) and Rudy Gobert (right). (Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports)

The coronavirus isn’t just fracturing sports fans from the games they love. 

Reports last week from The Athletic’s Shams Charania, Sam Amick, and Tony Jones revealed that the relationship between Utah Jazz stars Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell “doesn’t appear salvageable.” 

The seemingly broken relationship stemmed from the way Gobert handled himself during the early portions of the COVID-19 outbreak in North America. 

The French center exhibited a careless attitude about the matter, especially when he ended a press conference about the virus by touching the voice recorders of journalists who were forced to stay at least six feet away from him. 

Just days later, on March 11, Gobert was confirmed to have the first case among NBA players — prompting the league to shut down play indefinitely. 

Mitchell tested positive shortly thereafter and both have made full recoveries since then. 

But Mitchell made his frustrations known during the ordeal, telling “Good Morning America” last month that it “took a while for me to kind of cool off,” about how Gobert went about conducting himself. 

While there is time to fix the relationship, a rift between the two could very well result in the trading of one. 

Gobert is one of the best defensive players in basketball, averaging 15.1 points, 13.7 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks per game this season. 

His defensive win shares mark (an estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player because of his defense) has been at four or more in three of the past four seasons, including a league-best 6.0 in 2016-17. 

But he would appear to be the prime candidate to move considering Mitchell is more explosive, offensively gifted, four years younger than Gobert, and a more marketable face for the franchise. 

Now in his third NBA season, the 23-year-old is averaging a career-best 24.2 points per game. 

Regardless of who the Jazz decide to trade, the Knicks have quickly been linked to such rumors. 

Some of that has to do with their big-market reputation even though they’ve been minor players and mostly ineffective for the better part of 20 years. 

Longtime Knicks writer Frank Isola reported last month that the team is interested in trading for veteran point guard Chris Paul, which would usher in a “win-now” mentality for a franchise that has refused to commit the time to execute a full rebuild. 

Rather than develop their young players, some would have to go to the Oklahoma City Thunder to acquire the 34-year-old Paul, who was having a resurgent campaign this season.

If the Knicks are truly in that win-now mode, then going after Mitchell or Gobert — whoever is made available — becomes a viable option. 

It would cost a pretty penny, regardless. 

For Gobert, the Knicks would have to let go of up-and-coming center Mitchell Robinson — who many believe could be the next Gobert given his defensive prowess near the basket. 

For Mitchell, the Jazz could ask for either Robinson or the 2019 third-overall pick, RJ Barrett. 

Those players would just be the headline of a package that would also have to include a first-round pick to sweeten the deal. 

A steep price for a team that refuses to commit to a rebuilding plan.

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