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Where Jazz fit in with fresh trade rumors hitting the league

Monday kicks off with a bang as fresh trade rumors hit the league and we analyze where the Jazz fit in with all that’s circulating the league ahead of deadline day

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Utah Jazz v Memphis Grizzlies
Kelly Olynyk secures a rebound against the Memphis Grizzlies
Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images

In case you didn’t get your dose of caffeine to kickstart your day, the NBA landscape just registered more action on the trade seismograph Monday as Marc Stein published new rumors and updates to his Substack (for full details, please subscribe to support Marc).

But this Monday bomb is but part of the trade chatter percolating recently. Much has been written and discussed about this trade deadline as we near just 3 weeks until the market closes: more buyers than sellers, misaligned value, picks vs contributors, etc.

Rumors are naturally flying as everyone tries to gauge their place in the turmoil and what it could spell for their direction. The Jazz are no different.

Last week Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today reported that, “The Utah Jazz are open to trades except deals that include potential All-Star Lauri Markkanen and rookie Walker Kessler.” This also on the heels of reports Jordan Clarkson “rebuffed” a contract extension from the Jazz, well explained by Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune.

There’s nuance to all of this. Should teams come calling with multiple firsts for Kessler, certainly the Jazz would entertain the offer. Clarkson’s extension is more about the Jazz being limited by the CBA to offer a contract than not seeing eye to eye.

This context, however, is certainly interesting as we get into this week’s firehose of rumors.

The LA Clippers are rumored to be looking for frontcourt depth. They feature no bigs in their rotation outside of Ivica Zubac. They famously lean on 5-out lineups, especially in the playoffs.

Kelly Olynyk would feature here nicely as an ideal bridge between a traditional big and a 5-out lineup. Utah has deployed Kelly in a similar fashion with success. His combination of passing, shooting, and modest rebounding would be very helpful.

Kelly also appears in additional rumors related to the Miami Heat. They’ve been disappointed in Dewayne Dedmon’s play (and interactions with the team) this season. Kelly was rostered with the Heat for 3.5 seasons before finding himself in the Victor Oladipo trade.

The Clippers are also showing interest in Mike Conley. They engaged Utah last offseason before John Wall signed with them. Wall has since suffered an abdominal injury further complicating an already weak position and role for LA.

The Clippers have famously executed many deadline trades, including the acquisition of Robert Covington, Norman Powell, Semi Ojele, and Rodney Hood just last year.

What do frameworks with the Clippers look like?

First we consider salary matching. Conley’s $22.6M and Olynyk’s $12.8M mean the Jazz have to bring back a lot of salary and there’s only so many options there. With the Clippers eyeing a title push, their only interest will be to move pieces not central to their rotation.

The Clippers also are limited in their available draft capital. The only picks at their disposal are either their 2028 or 2029 first rounder.

Here are two frameworks that could make some sense if LA was intent on both Mike and Kelly (you can also see how the Jazz could match salary for only one of them).

Jazz-Clippers trade framework
Potential Jazz-Clippers trade framework #1
Generated with FANSPO Trade Machine
Jazz-Clippers trade framework
Potential Jazz-Clippers trade framework #2
Generated with FANSPO Trade Machine

The Jazz conversation with LA starts and ends with including one of those picks, especially since they’ll have to absorb similar salary of likely less desirable players.

The Jazz receiving a young player with promise like Coffey may allow the Los Angeles Clippers to keep some protections. Marcus Morris Sr. could be a guy you move in the offseason or by next year’s deadline if so desired.

Stein also reported on a new framework for the John Collins to Utah Jazz rumors, which have been circulating for nearly a year. The idea involves the Cleveland Cavaliers, whom the Jazz recently found trade success when the former acquired Donovan Mitchell.

Jazz-Hawks-Cavs trade framework
Potential Jazz-Hawks-Cavs trade framework #1
Generated with FANSPO Trade Machine

The proposed framework sends Malik Beasley to the Cavs and John Collins to the Jazz. Caris LeVert would be the most obvious chip to the Atlanta Hawks. Stein further commented that the hang-up on any Collins to Utah deal is the Jazz insisting on additional draft capital.

As thus described, the trade fails because Utah is taking back more salary than is allowed. Furthermore, it’s unlikely that Utah can successfully insist on a pick from Atlanta with such a framework.

Jazz-Hawks-Cavs trade framework
Potential Jazz-Hawks-Cavs trade framework #2
Generated with FANSPO Trade Machine

A combination that more aligns value across the board would be to sends Jarred Vanderbilt to Atlanta to match the requisite salary and the Hawks redirecting the Sacramento Kings 2024 top-14 protected pick to Utah.

It’s my opinion that Collins does end up in Utah. There’s been a tremendous amount of smoke and multiple frameworks that could make it happen. The Hawks are also under tremendous pressure and featured realignment in the front office where ex-Jazz man Kyle Korver was promoted therein.

It’s also worth noting that Atlanta has given Collins’ representatives their blessing in pursuing deals for their client. This deadline may very well be the conclusion to an epic, multi-year rumor mill surrounding John.

Sports Illustrated also detailed teams to watch this trade deadline. Chris Mannix and Howard Beck collaborated on a this piece and mentioned Utah as the “most intriguing seller”.

Howard Beck goes on to say the point of trading your stars is to pluck the next star in the draft. He’s right; that’s where you combine team control and rookie contract figures to align with a ready-to-go cast for immediate success.

Orlando Magic v Utah Jazz
Lauri Markkanen communicates with a teammate during the Jazz-Magic contest over the weekend
Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

He does suggest gauging the market on Markkanen, specifically saying if there’s “any doubts” (on him sustaining All-Star level going forward), he must be moved.

Howard isn’t crazy. We’ve seen these kind of seasons before.

Remember Julius Randle in 2020-21? He posted tremendous efficiency on volume for New York, making his first All-Star and All-NBA teams. He’s been a negative contract ever since. Victor Oladipo in 2017-18, Kristaps Porzingis 2017-18, and D’Angelo Russell in 2018-19 are other examples.

The point is to avoid treating a player like a franchise guy based off of a single season. Given that Lauri is still under contract for two years beyond this one, there’s time.

But, Markkanen’s leap and Kessler’s emergence points to how potentially franchise altering this upcoming draft could be if Utah finds another star. There are many players slotted in positions the Jazz likely have picks who can fill roles left by traded players:

Cleveland Cavaliers v Utah Jazz
Walker Kessler celebrates a big win over the Cleveland Cavaliers
Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images
  • Guard Cason Wallace of Kentucky replacing Conley (projected for backend of the lottery)
  • Guards Gradey Dick of Kansas or Jett Howard of Michigan replacing Beasley (projected for middle of the 1st round)
  • Center Kyle Filipowski of Duke replacing Kelly Olynyk (projected for middle of the 1st round)

The point of the entire offseason was to afford the franchise with options and flexibility. It was never about each player’s skillset, but their contract size and length. This version of the Jazz came together in large part due to chance and as a function of making the deals work.

This trade deadline and next summer’s offseason will be the first time this regime gets the chance to really craft the roster they want and really chase the goals they reaffirmed for themselves: competitive play en route to a championship.