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Was Quin Snyder’s exit from the Utah Jazz a precursor to an exit by one of their star players?
The Jazz have been one of the most active teams during early offseason trade conversations in recent weeks, most notably featuring All-Star center and three-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert. Utah has not entertained rival teams’ overtures to steal away All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell, sources said, but the Jazz front office has engaged various teams in Gobert discussions.
Bleacher Report previously illustrated the Atlanta Hawks’ and Toronto Raptors’ interest in acquiring Gobert. As Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer first mentioned, Chicago has also emerged as a potential trade destination for Gobert, sources told B/R.
Any deal that lands Gobert with the Bulls would almost certainly include Nikola Vucevic, the two-time All-Star center Chicago obtained from the Orlando Magic prior to the 2021 trade deadline. Vucevic’s contract will expire at the end of the 2022-23 season, and with Zach LaVine set for a lucrative free agency, Bulls brass has been considering their options at center since February’s trade deadline, sources said.
Vucevic-for-Gobert seems to make more sense for Chicago, in the Bulls’ efforts to fortify a defensive attack around LaVine. And while Vucevic is generally considered a net negative on the defensive end, the popular package that’s been mentioned by league executives of Vucevic and second-year forward Patrick Williams would introduce the perimeter defender the Jazz have long been said to covet.
Chicago’s willingness to part with Williams remains to be seen. The Bulls were strongly resistant to including Williams in preliminary conversations with the Detroit Pistons to acquire Jerami Grant before the trade deadline, sources told B/R. Adding Coby White, whose value the Bulls previously explored on the trade market, and Javonte Green would make the money work to match Gobert’s hefty contract.
For the Jazz to move Gobert, any return would have to be geared toward reshaping Utah to advance further in the postseason. By accounts, Jazz leadership has no intention of rebuilding or pivoting from a period in which they’ve made the playoffs in each of the last six seasons.
What’s Next for Jazz in Head Coaching Search?
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After months of speculation about Snyder’s future, he stepped down from his head coaching duties Sunday.
Two sources with knowledge of Snyder’s thinking said his departure was a result of nothing more than his wanting to go in a different direction and take a step away from basketball for the foreseeable future. There were no ultimatums from either side, no demands on how to shape the roster. The Jazz made multiple offers of various structures to extend Snyder’s tenure, sources said, but were consistently rebuffed.
There is an expectation in league circles that whenever San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich inevitably steps away from his own head coaching post, Snyder will be the leading candidate to replace the fabled leader. Snyder is said to be held in high regard by Spurs CEO RC Buford.
This has been a summer of staffing changes for the Jazz. The Snyder news came after Utah assistant coach Sergi Oliva departed to become one of three new assistant general managers for the Portland Trail Blazers. Another Jazz assistant, former New Orleans Pelicans general manager Dell Demps, has been repeatedly mentioned by league personnel as a likely addition to Tim Connelly’s Minnesota Timberwolves front office.
The initial list of targets to replace Snyder only features one candidate with previous head coaching experience: Terry Stotts, the former Blazers play-caller. Stotts has a strong relationship with Snyder, and the same representation, and spent several weeks around the Jazz this season. Utah officials are still compiling their list of interviewees, sources said, and will begin formal outreach to candidates in the coming days.
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New York Knicks associate head coach Johnnie Bryant—who played collegiately at the University of Utah from 2005-08 and developed a close relationship with Mitchell during the second half of Bryant’s stint as a Jazz player development coach from 2012-20—is considered to be a leading candidate for the position. Utah has made no bones about placating Mitchell’s interests, from trading for his childhood friend Eric Paschall to changing the team’s medical staff and bringing on Mitchell mentor Dwyane Wade as a minority ownership figure.
Hiring Bryant would be consistent with the franchise’s recent behavior of building around his superstar guard, especially as talk has increased among NBA personnel about Mitchell’s potential to request a trade before the end of his contract.
There are questions around the league about whether Jazz CEO of basketball operations Danny Ainge will be amenable to catering to Mitchell and his representation. But if Mitchell and Jazz chairman Ryan Smith are aligned on Bryant, or any other candidate, league sources with knowledge of the situation don’t expect Ainge to stand in the way. Ainge is not known to be someone who scours the market of the NBA’s up-and-coming head coaches.
Jake Fischer covers the NBA for Bleacher Report and is the author of Built to Lose: How the NBA’s Tanking Era Changed the League Forever.