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Who are the Jazz shopping and who is untouchable? A trade deadline primer

As the NBA trade deadline draws nearer, Jazz brass weighing their options

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Utah Jazz coach Will Hardy, right, and CEO Danny Ainge, left, watch the action during an NBA game against the Sacramento Kings.

Utah Jazz coach Will Hardy, right, and CEO Danny Ainge, left, watch the action during a game against the Sacramento Kings at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023. With the NBA trade deadline nearing, Jazz brass will be busy looking at ways to improve the team for the long run.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

The NBA trade deadline is less than a month away, so let’s take a look at the Utah Jazz roster and break down the likelihood that each player has of being included in trade talks by separating them into tiers. 

The way the Jazz are approaching deals this season is not being determined by the success or failure of the 2022-23 season. Rather, the Jazz are fully approaching trade discussions with the goal of benefiting the long-term success of the Jazz.

Whether a trade makes the Jazz better or worse this year is not a concern, but if a trade makes the Jazz worse this season while giving them more opportunity at success in the future, then it would be a good deal for the team to make. Likewise, if a deal makes the team better now but would not be beneficial even two or three years down the road, the Jazz aren’t going to make that deal.

With that in mind, let’s go through the roster.

Untouchable

There are very few players in the NBA that are untouchable and there is always a price for everything, but for the following players, any team wanting to even get near them being included in a deal would really have to blow the Jazz away with an offer that truly could not be refused. Those players are Lauri Markkanen, Walker Kessler and Collin Sexton.

Markkanen is having a breakout season and is probably going to get his first All-Star nod. He’s versatile, unselfish, dynamic, strong, athletic and at just 25 years old, he is exactly the type of player that can be built around, whether that’s with other star players or role players.

The Jazz knew that they were getting something good in Kessler when he was included in the Rudy Gobert trade, but what Kessler has shown already in his rookie season is that he can be the franchise center of the future and that he’s not far off from being a star in this league.

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Utah Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen drives during the game against Sacramento at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023. It seems unlikely that Markkanen, who could be an All-Star this season, will be involved in any Jazz trades this season.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

The Jazz invested in Sexton for the next four years when he was included in the Donovan Mitchell deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers and they are invested in what he could become. The time that Jazz coach Will Hardy has spent with Sexton and the financial investment by the franchise show the Jazz aren’t intending to send him elsewhere.

An honorable mention here for rookie Ochai Agbaji. He’s a lottery pick that also came to Utah in the Mitchell trade and although he was seldom used in the early days of the season, he has earned more time on the floor in recent weeks and just based on what’s been seen in the last few games, there’s a lot to work with.

Agbaji is exactly the type of player that the Jazz love right now. He needs polishing and he still has to learn the game at a higher level, but all of his instincts are great and he’s already got an NBA body that is built for a long career. He’s not as much of a sure thing as the three players mentioned above, but on a rookie contract, it would be hard to get him included in a deal that wasn’t pretty substantial.

Available

These players have either already been included in possible trade discussions or are players the Jazz are willing to shop. According to multiple team and league sources, these are players that probably aren’t in the Jazz’s future plans, and all for different reasons.

First up, Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt. It shouldn’t really be a surprise that two players that have been dealt away from two teams that are trying to get better (first Denver and then Minnesota) would also be on the trade block for the Jazz.

Utah Jazz guard Malik Beasley hits a 3-pointer in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2022.

Utah Jazz guard Malik Beasley hits a 3-pointer in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2022. Beasley has shown flashes since joining the Jazz but could be available for a trade if the right offer were made.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Vanderbilt, while energetic on the defensive side and one who has his moments when making a difference on the offensive glass, is a flawed player who doesn’t make a huge impact. And, when you think about a future with Kessler on the court, you’d like to have a four that can stretch the floor rather than collapse the offensive spacing.

Beasley, while a good 3-point shooter overall, has started to taper off a bit with his efficiency and has left a lot to be desired on the defensive end. Though he’s only 26, he’s got some pretty bad habits on the court — some iffy shot selection and his inability to get over screens — that would be tough to break over the next couple of years as he gets closer to 30.

Also being considered in trades is Kelly Olynyk, who was looked at as both an important roster piece and a flippable asset when the Jazz acquired him for Bojan Bogdanovic. There are a couple of things that need to be kept in mind when considering an Olynyk trade. First, he’s been sidelined now for eight games because of a sprained ankle, and being injured leading up to the deadline is not the best place to be in. Of course, it’s only an ankle sprain, but Olynyk is no spring chicken in NBA years. He’s 31 and will be 32 by the end of this season, and that will impact how teams value him.

On the upside, Olynyk has been really good for the Jazz this season and has shown that he still can be a valued part of a rotation and that his career isn’t over.

The other thing to remember is Olynyk’s importance to the Jazz’s roster construction. Without Olynyk the Jazz are incredibly thin in the frontcourt, and if you’re also going to be trading Vanderbilt, you would basically be left with Udoka Azubuike and two-way center Micah Potter. Additionally, Olynyk can play the five and stretch the floor, which has been to the Jazz’s advantage.

So, if the Jazz are going to be trading Olynyk, it would be because they have another deal that would shore up the frontcourt.

In addition to those three, Rudy Gay and Nickeil Alexander-Walker need to be included in this discussion. They would not be centerpieces of any trade — Gay is on the last legs of his career and Alexander-Walker is still a work in progress — but the Jazz would absolutely use them in order to match salaries.

In fact, they’re probably the most likely to be used in order to complete a trade, because the Jazz need to get away from Gay to create openings for Agbaji and any other player on the wing to be able to get game reps; Alexander-Walker has actually improved his value this season and although the development has been positive, he’s probably not a part of the Jazz’s future plans.

Risk-reward veterans

There’s been a lot of chatter about the trade possibilities where Jordan Clarkson and Mike Conley are concerned. There are certainly teams that have shown interest in making a deal for the two Jazz guards, and there’s no doubt that both players, like every other player in the league, would love to be on a contending team. But both players have also said that there is value to them staying in Utah. Plus, there are absolutely risks to trading one or both of them.

The Jazz are going to be working toward building a sustainable core for the future, and the best way to do that is having a mix of veteran players on the team that can help teach the developing players the nuances and subtleties of the NBA game.

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Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson celebrates after sinking a 3-pointer late in the fourth quarter of a game against Philadelphia on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023. If the right offer came for the Jazz sharpshooter, would the team send him packing?

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

There’s certainly a lot that a coaching staff can do when it comes to teaching the game, but there’s really no replacing being able to learn on the court, in the game, under the tutelage of players who have seen it all. Clarkson and Conley know that they are incredibly valuable to the Jazz in that sense.

The Jazz also know the learning curve that could be created by dealing away Conley or Clarkson. That being said, as I mentioned before, the Jazz will make a deal now if it means it will benefit the team in the future, even if it is to the detriment of the team today. So, Conley and Clarkson could be dealt by the deadline. There’s a smaller chance than the players mentioned in the previous tier, but they have garnered interest so it’s just about the Jazz deciding if the reward is greater than the risk.

The rest of the roster

The players on the Jazz’s 15-man roster not mentioned as having a place in the above tiers are Talen Horton-Tucker, Simone Fontecchio, Azubuike and Leandro Bolmaro.

While the Jazz could use any of these players as filler in a trade, they aren’t players that really have significant value, either for the Jazz or on the trade market.

There’s a bit of an argument to be had about Horton-Tucker being so young and having so much potential, but it’s not substantial enough at this point for other teams to be looking at him as a trade deadline fix for anything.

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Jazz guard Talen Horton-Tucker drives on Detroit guard Jaden Ivey during a game at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News