It’s trade season baby and we at SLC Dunk are distilling all of the latest rumors and intel.
Word is flying throughout the league that the Utah Jazz can play both seller and buyer roles at this deadline. Much has been made of Jordan Clarkson’s appeal to the New York Knicks, Utah’s reported interest in Miles Bridges of the Charlotte Hornets, and players/teams/angles in between.
Kelly Olynyk is generating buzz around the league for his stellar play this season and his long history of contributing to winning teams in an elastic fashion.
Olynyk is posting superb efficiency this season in a support role off the bench. His box score stats may be a modest 8.1 pts, 5.1 rbs, 4.3 ast and 1.7 tov a game in just under 21 minutes, but a closer look reveals tremendous value.
At 67% true shooting, Kelly is his most efficient ever this season (previous best was last year in Utah at 64%). Additionally, his AST% is a career high (28.6) as he’s relied upon heavily to keep the 2nd unit offense on track. This year’s production in TRB% is second best of his career (14.8%). While flawed in its own right, Kelly’s Defensive Box Plus-Minus is also
Factor in 48 playoff games, 9 conference finals matchups, and 5 contests in the Finals, Kelly is the exact role player vet contenders around the league are looking for.
Kelly has been linked to the Houston Rockets, Boston Celtics, New York Knicks, and Miami Heat over the past several weeks. He’s also a natural fit with the struggling Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers. Additionally, with the extended loss of Embiid, the Philadelphia 76ers could look into Olynyk as a piece that helps during and after Joel’s absence.
Kelly Olynyk on if he’s talked to the Jazz front office about the deadline: “No one's really said anything but it is what it is. … I love Utah, I love the Jazz, the organization has been unbelievable. The city, the fans are great. I’d love to be here, but it’s a business.”— Andy Larsen (@andyblarsen) February 6, 2024
Unsurprisingly, Kelly Olynyk is highly thought of within the Jazz organization and the feeling is mutual. Utah won’t pull the trigger on a trade for just any offer.
There’s one team for whom Kelly Olynyk is a great fit and fills a need. Coincidentally, this team is an ideal trade partner for the Utah Jazz as well. And no one is talking about them!
The Oklahoma City Thunder, whom the Jazz just beat in Salt Lake last night, check a lot of the boxes required for a deal to get traction.
Willing and able to overpay
Again, Utah feels no pressure to trade Kelly so the deal would have to resemble positive value for Utah. No team is better positioned to make a proverbial “overpay” than OKC.
In fact, there’s some precedent, in fact. Ousmane Dieng was a draft night trade in 2022 where the Thunder parlayed three future firsts of varying value for the privilege of Dieng’s draft rights.
OKC has a range of 1sts and 2nds with value along the spectrum. There’s many permutations to get something done.
OKC is tied for 2nd in the Western Conference through 2⁄3 of the season with the league’s second best point differential (+8.5 points per 100 possessions per Cleaning The Glass). Despite their youth, they boast an MVP candidate in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, two tremendous young talents in Jalen Williams and Chet Holmgren, and a robust mix of youth around the edges. With the shrewd Coach Mark Deignault at the helm, they are force with championship aspirations.
Many have assumed they may try to land a big fish, but more recently national media have posited they will look for a supplemental piece to round out the team. Kelly is a scalable piece with few drawbacks in a vacuum and almost none with the backdrop of OKC’s talent pool.
Addressing needs without compromise
Kelly Olynyk’s modest, expiring salary gives OKC options any way this goes. He also fills, what some have deemed, OKC’s biggest weakness: a multi-faceted big in the middle.
Jaylin Williams is undersized and unexperienced against the likes of Minnesota, Los Angeles, and Denver’s bigs. Some have theorized about Nic Claxton or Wendell Carter Jr. for the Thunder. While those solve one problem, they create another. Olynyk walks that tight rope nicely.
Kelly can absorb the bruising as the primary defender, allowing Chet to roam defensively. Additionally, Kelly doesn’t clog what OKC wants to do on offense thanks to his shooting, passing, and abilities off the dribble.
Clearly OKC and UTA are a natural pairing as trade partners. The curiosity is what a deal might look like.
OKC is over the cap and wouldn’t be able to absorb Kelly’s contract without enough matching salary. At minimum, $9.6M needs to be heading back Utah’s way. Complicating the matter is how many players are contributing positively for the Thunder. Most would be unavailable. Candidates include:
- Davis Bertans - $17.0M
- Vasilije Micic - $7.7M
- Aleksej Pokusevski - $5.0M
- Tre Mann - $3.1M
- Aaron Wiggins - $1.8M
The upcoming draft lacks the talent luster and predictability front offices and coaching staffs would like to see. Were the season to end today, the Thunder would anticipate 3 first round picks headed their way. That may be a natural starting point for conversations.
Coincidentally, one of those picks comes from the Utah Jazz, which was part of the Derrick Favors trade back in the summer of 2021. OKC will only see that pick if the Jazz fall between 11 - 30 in the order this season or 9 - 30 either of the next two seasons.
On one hand the Thunder have a few good shots at a good selection. On the other, Utah is giving every indication with its play and transactions it will compete and let the chips fall where they may.
This may be the opportunity for Utah to regain full control over their own draft picks while OKC collects a sure thing that helps now and in the future. The Jazz should push for a package including Pokusevski, Micic, and their own first back. The Thunder are likely to push back, countering with Bertans and returning the Jazz pick.
Each side has enough flexibility with assets to iron out the value discrepancies of a deal in that range. Ultimately, both sides should feel motivated to find common ground.