The NBA trade deadline is legitimately right around the corner — Thursday at 1 p.m. MST, to be exact — and that means Utah Jazz fans are on the edge of their seats waiting to see what is going to unfold.
So I opened up the mailbag to try to get fans through this final day before the deadline expires. I asked for thoughts, feelings, questions, concerns and everything in between. No reason to waste another second — let’s get to it.
What is the Jazz front office thinking? What’s the plan? Are Jazz officials going to try to get better through the trade deadline? Or, are they going to try to get worse so they can keep their 2024 top-10-protected pick that otherwise will go to the Oklahoma City Thunder?
This is an important place to start the mailbag because it gets at the biggest issue that I see with the Jazz — a lack of clarity. I don’t know if I believe that people within the Jazz can truly answer these questions right now.
I know that the players really want to make the playoffs and that head coach Will Hardy wants to coach as hard as possible and push this team to reach its full potential. But, I don’t know if the front office is fully decided on what it wants and I worry that it wants to both win and keep the pick, which would be really difficult to manipulate into happening.
The feeling that I’m getting from speaking with numerous team and league sources is that the Jazz aren’t going to be big-time buyers at the deadline. I think they will make some moves around the edges of the roster, but nothing that would require them pushing assets all in for any top-tier names.
In terms of answering the above questions regarding the direction of the team and temperature of the Jazz brass, making minor moves at the deadline is not helpful. Could minor moves make the Jazz better? Sure, in theory. But, could it also just leave them right where they are? Also yes.
That being said, I think this is the last year that the Jazz can operate in this weird one-foot-in, one-foot-out space. They need to decide what direction they’re going. Either go for it or recalibrate.
Now let’s get to some more fun stuff.
You and me both, Jack.
I’ve loved the idea of Jordan Walsh since last spring, leading up to the draft. Alas, he ended up in Boston. But, a recent report from The Athletic’s Tony Jones suggests there is a certain Italian role player on the Jazz roster that the Celtics could be interested in.
If the Celtics were wanting to trade for Simone Fontecchio, Walsh and a second-rounder might be enough to get that deal done. But, if the Jazz get rid of Fontecchio and replace him with another wing (Walsh), they are still weak at the wing position.
Which brings me to my next point — the Jazz need wings.
When the Jazz played the Thunder on Tuesday night, Ochai Agbaji was sick and couldn’t play and that meant that the wing rotation was Fontecchio and Luka Samanic.
Of course, there was some maneuvering (Lauri Markkanen can play at the three, four or five, and other players are versatile in position as well) and Samanic only ended up playing six minutes. But, the point still stands that if Fontecchio were to get traded, would that mean Agbaji starts? Then who gets the minutes behind him?
This team needs small forward depth. That is the biggest weakness.
I know that there have been conversations between the Atlanta Hawks and the Jazz, but I don’t get the sense that those talks were very advanced.
League sources say that Atlanta wants to recoup the assets it gave up when the team acquired Dejounte Murray from the San Antonio Spurs. But the Hawks gave up three first-round picks in that deal, and that is not what they are going to get in return.
Murray is who the Hawks are definitely shopping and the Jazz could put together a deal to get him, but any offer would not be the one the Hawks want. I’m not sure anyone makes the Hawks the offer they want.
Depending on the direction the Hawks would want to go money-wise, there are two deals that could make sense here. Option 1 — Kelly Olynyk and Talen Horton-Tucker and two first rounders. Option 2 — Jordan Clarkson and two firsts.
If the Hawks want money off the books, getting two expiring deals in Olynyk and Horton-Tucker would give them flexibility. If they want someone that will play and score and be around on a deal that’s more team-friendly over the next two years, Clarkson would make sense.
I go back-and-forth on whether or not I think this would be a good move for the Jazz. On one hand, it would give the Jazz a ballhandler that can create and set the table for Markkanen, while also being a good defender. On the other hand, his shot selection is mystifying and his contract would require deep commitment.
Murray is under contract through the 2026-27 season with a $31 million player option for the 2027-28 season. That is a sizable piece of the cap space pie.
Can Hardy get Murray to stop taking step-back midrange jumpers and chucking early in the shot clock? Maybe he can. And maybe Murray proves to work next to Keyonte George and Kris Dunn and Collin Sexton just as well as Clarkson did, and maybe even better.
But maybe he doesn’t get better. Maybe you realize that there was a reason the Spurs and the Hawks decided to get out of the Murray business and then you are stuck with him on the roster with two less picks and a lot of money guaranteed going out.
I think there is a fairly good chance that Olynyk is going to get moved before the deadline. I’ve been told about at least four teams that have registered interest in Olynyk and heard that there could be even double that number.
There have also been teams that have been in talks about acquiring Clarkson, but based on conversations I’ve had with people around the league, I think it’s less likely that he’s moved this week. I think teams would rather trade for Clarkson this summer, when his salary dips down to $14 million from the $23 million he’s owed this season.
I’ve also heard that Houston is looking to bolster things and accelerate their timeline, so Jalen Green could be a possibility, but I’ve heard there are some concerns about him meshing with different players. I know that New York has been in conversations, but it doesn’t really seem like there’s too much traction there with the Jazz.
Outside of that, I know that the Jazz would like to find a new home for Horton-Tucker, but it might end up being that there isn’t anywhere to move him.
There are other players on the Jazz roster that the team would be willing to include in deals, but by all accounts, the only ones that have a real chance of moving by the deadline are Olynyk, Clarkson, Fontecchio (as mentioned above) and Horton-Tucker.
This all comes with a huge caveat, which is that this is the NBA trade deadline and things can change in a matter of minutes.
Here is my personal list of players that I think would be awful for the Jazz:
Miles Bridges, Trae Young, Andrew Wiggins, Royce O’Neale.
I don’t think I have a No. 1 trade target I would want for the Jazz, but I do have some players in mind that I think would be really good on this team.
Remember Bojan Bogdanovic? A seriously good wing player who shoots the lights out and can turn on the defensive engine when the lights are bright, that sounds a lot like what the Jazz could use right now. Don’t we all miss watching him?
I also think Daniel Gafford from the Washington Wizards is interesting. If the Jazz are going to be out of the Olynyk business, it might be good to also stop pretending that they’re going to use Omer Yurtseven and get someone like Gafford, who can play real and reliable minutes at the five but also push out to the four.
(I know many of you are probably screaming “Taylor Hendricks,” but if you’d watch the G League games, you would know that he’s not nearly ready.)
I also think Dorian Finney-Smith could be an interesting addition. He’s a little older than I’d like for this Jazz team, but he’s also not seemed like he’s showing much age. He’s a low-usage wing who hits shots and defends at a pretty high level. That’s the kind of player I’d like to see on the floor with Markkanen and Co.
That’s going to do it for right now. So many people sent in a ton of great questions that aren’t even necessarily about the trade deadline, so I’ll be back soon to answer more.