Sarah Todd covers the NBA and Utah Jazz for the Deseret News.
Just before the Utah Jazz ran onto the court on Tuesday night to face the Oklahoma City Thunder, they huddled together for a moment of understanding and gratitude.
“We talked about it before heading out, in the tunnel,” Lauri Markkanen said. “You’ve just got to enjoy these moments. It’s a business and you never know what’s going to happen, so just try to go out there and play for each other and have fun.”
It is a very unique spot this Jazz team is in as we approach the trade deadline. There are, of course, many teams that are feeling the pressure of this point in the NBA calendar, but the reason the Jazz are unique is that there are very few players in the locker room that can truly feel safe.
If we’re being honest, it’s just Markkanen. So, the next time the Jazz play a game (Thursday night) the roster could look very different.
Or, it could look very much the same. With that in mind, here is my argument for the Jazz not making any big moves over the next couple of days.
I think if this team had the clarity and the understanding that they were going to be together for the rest of the season and they were going to do everything in their power to get as many wins as possible, they could make the playoffs.
Markkanen is a legit dude in the NBA and deserving of being looked at as a player who can be built around.
Collin Sexton is as fierce a competitor as you will find in the NBA and he’s proven to be coachable and malleable.
Walker Kessler has such unique capabilities as a defender, Simone Fontecchio has turned into a reliable role player, Jordan Clarkson can legitimately win you games and has become a great facilitator, Keyonte George continues to get better, Ochai Agbaji is versatile, Kelly Olynyk can do everything and Kris Dunn is an absolute dog.
But more importantly, we don’t know what this team looks like when they just go for it. Do they get confused and revert to bad habits and play scared and stupid? Or, do they play like they have recently and beat top teams like the Thunder and Milwaukee Bucks?
This team is capable of shocking and surprising us, and there’s not anyone that can say we know what their true potential is.
Wasn’t that supposed to be the point this year? Aren’t we supposed to be able to see what they are like when they are really competing so that we can know where the true gaps are?
Obviously there are some things we can say the Jazz are lacking — for example wings, experience, toughness. But I don’t know that the Jazz can address those issues in a real way with what players are available on the trade market.
And maybe the most convincing thing to me is how much this group cares about the team.
“We all love each other in the locker room,” Markkanen said. “We love to hang out off the court and so it’s always a tough time of the year.
“Obviously we’ve got a lot of talent in this group. Whatever decisions are being made, we’re moving forward, but yeah, it’s definitely a tough time of the year, especially on a personal level. You get to know each other throughout the year and then it’s the uncertainty.”
I know that sounds cliche and fluffy, but it’s true. This team has a lot of players with heart who want nothing more than to ball out and play hard for each other.
I don’t expect the Jazz to stand pat at the deadline. I believe moves will be made, but I don’t think it’s necessary this season and the kind of fire they played with in a win over the Thunder on Tuesday night is exactly why.