According to Kevin O’Connor of the Ringer, The Utah Jazz have been connected to the Lakers and Russell Westbrook and may be starting more talks soon.
Utah has been connected to the Lakers for months, too. League sources say that before the Jazz sent Bojan Bogdanovic to the Pistons, the Lakers offered Westbrook, a future first-round pick, and second-rounders for Bogdanovic and others. Sources expect the Lakers and Jazz to resume talks later in the season with some combination of other players discussed. (Utah has Jordan Clarkson, Mike Conley, and Rudy Gay—three veterans who can all shoot.)
That’s an interesting trade package that makes you wonder what the details of those picks were. We had heard this rumor before, but that there were heavy protections on those picks. Was Danny Ainge looking to find a better fit in Kelly Olynyk, or would he have traded for the picks if they were unprotected? We’ll probably never know for sure, but it’s clear that there will likely be more discussions at some point. From O’Connor’s article:
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that a trade involving Westbrook isn’t likely until after Thanksgiving. That’s around the same time that Dennis Schröder, who at this point is undoubtedly a better point guard than Westbrook, could return from his thumb surgery.
With information like this, you wonder when it was leaked because this might be changing soon. The Lakers have had a disastrous start to the season, going 0-3, while the Jazz have looked like a playoff team at 3-1. O’Connor mentioned Mike Conley and Jordan Clarkson, but there are better options for the Lakers on this Jazz team. Mike Conley is the obvious choice with his elite shooting and playmaking, but the Jazz could also offer Malik Beasley, who’s looking like a big success story. The Jazz could also offer Kelly Olynyk, who’s been fantastic to start the season and could fit perfectly with Anthony Davis. For example, Olynyk is shooting a scorching 78% from three after 4 games. That won’t keep up, but it’s clear that Olynyk is still a high-level player. Rudy Gay is likely very available, but he may not have the value or fit that Olynyk brings with his shooting, passing, toughness, and IQ.
Whatever the Lakers may want, the price is likely going to be unprotected 1st round pics. Would the Lakers be willing to give unprotected picks for these players? That’s likely what it takes. Danny Ainge spent all summer proving he’s willing to wait until his price is met with a trade partner. So what’s holding this up? Two things, the Lakers’ willingness to offload unprotected picks, and the possibility of a trade with the Pacers.
When that time comes, Los Angeles will explore trade combinations with the Pacers that involve center Myles Turner and/or wing Buddy Hield. Those talks are currently on hold, but Turner and Hield would both add much-needed shooting, and Turner would provide rim-protection depth behind the oft-injured Davis.
The Pacers may be looking to tank as well, although are we certain that’s what they want to do? For a decade, they’ve been a team that competes as best they can without interest in bottoming out. with the emergence of Bennedict Mathurin, they may decide to make a run for the playoffs again. Mathurin is looking like an absolute star in his first week with the Pacers. Right now, he’s averaging 24 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 assists while shooting 52% from the field and 52% from three. The other interesting thing for the Pacers is that they have started 1-3. If they’re successfully tanking without a trade, they might be willing to not go through with it. Yes, things have not been great with their relationship with Myles Turner, but they might be more interested in a player-for-player type trade rather than just losing a starting center just for picks. If Mathurin evolves into a high-level star, they may want to get a player that contributes now rather than later.
Whatever the case, it’s looking like the transactions for the Jazz aren’t done and a big trade could be coming soon.