With the Utah Jazz once again making an early postseason exit, trade rumors surrounding Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell will likely circulate all off-season. While rumors don’t always reflect reality, there is reason to believe the Jazz will explore their options this summer, having seemingly capped out their potential with this core.
In a recent hypothetical trade presented by NBA Analysis Network’s Greg Patuto, the Clippers acquire Rudy Gobert and Rudy Gay in exchange for Ivica Zubac, Luke Kennard, Terance Mann, Marcus Morris, and a 2028 first-round pick. The logic presented in the initial article was centered around the Clippers bolstering their already elite defense, while the Jazz add depth around Donovan Mitchell.
While Rudy Gobert is indisputably the best rim protector in the NBA, what he would offer the Clippers is not substancial enough to justify taking on his $41M annul salary over the next four seasons. This season, Gobert held opponents to 50.7% shooting from within six feet of the basket, while Ivica Zubac held his opponents to 56.7% shooting from that same distance. While there was a sizable difference between the two bigs in that category, the Clippers are much less dependent on elite rim protection than the Utah Jazz are.
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Much of what makes Gobert so valuable to the Utah Jazz, is his ability to deter offensive players who penetrate Utah’s perimeter defense. With Utah often playing multiple defenders who struggle to stay in front of their man, Gobert’s elite rim protection offers a last line of defense for a team that is weak on the perimeter. For a team like Utah, this is essential; however, for a team like the Clippers, it is much less of a priority.
With one of the league’s top perimeter defenses, led by Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, the Clippers are much less reliant on an interior force than a team like Utah. Especially with the re-signing of Robert Covington, the Clippers will likely lean heavily into their small ball options next season, prioritizing a 1-5 switch-ability that is not possible with Gobert.
The one area of need that Rudy Gobert would certainly help the Clippers with is rebounding, as the team often struggled in that category that last season. While Gobert would offer support on the glass, taking on his salary, while sending out the package it would take to acquire him, seems like an overpay for an upgrade on the boards.
Part of why the Clippers struggled so much on the glass last season, was because their small lineups were much smaller than they would have been if the team were fully healthy. With Kawhi Leonard out the entire season, and Paul George out most of the season, the Clippers were often stuck playing lineups without the physicality needed to compete on the glass. When fully healthy, small lineups featuring Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Robert Covington, and Nicolas Batum will have much less trouble on the glass than many of the lineups the Clippers were forced to utilize this season.
While Gobert is elite at what he does well, it is hard to justify gutting much of the team’s depth in exchange for his services. While the Utah Jazz will likely find a willing trade parter should they decide to deal Gobert, it seems unlikely that the Clippers will get involved.