Already this offseason, the Utah Jazz have parted ways with three starters and several more rotation pieces from last year’s team. The collection of young players and future first-round picks they’ve received in exchange leaves zero doubt that the front office is embracing a rebuild.
Given that, it seems exceedingly likely that the team’s two remaining starters and its sixth-man extraordinaire will soon follow the others out the door.
A rebuilding team looking to maximize its future draft stock probably could only see that hurt by keeping around such solid veteran contributors as Bojan Bogdanovic, Mike Conley, and Jordan Clarkson.
People around the league certainly expect those guys to be on the move, though not every team will be a good fit.
So then, who are the prospective buyers? And what could the Jazz get in return?
Tradenik consensus seems to be that Bogey is perhaps the most coveted of the Jazz’s pieces, if not the most moveable.
There’s been widespread speculation that the 3-point-shooting-bereft Lakers covet the Croatian precisely to address that deficit. Actually, there’s some chatter that L.A. has some degree of interest in all three of those Jazz players, given their shooting acumen (or at least the gravity created by the threat, in the case of Clarkson).
However, USA Today’s NBA reporter, Jeff Zillgitt, reports that their preference might be for Bogdanovic alone, given their desire to retain future cap flexibility. (Bogdanovic is an unrestricted free agent next summer; Conley is under contract for $24.36 million in ’23-24, though only $14.32M is guaranteed; Clarkson has a player option for $14.26M in ’23-24.)
A big problem in doing business with the Lakers is their lack of mid-tier contracts, which are useful in salary-matching. Really, all they have to offer that works is the package of the Russell Westbrook contract they’re so eager to move on from, and a first-round pick (or two) as an enticement. How do the teams get there and still satisfy L.A.’s preferred parameters, though?
Well, Bogdanovic and Malik Beasley (who has a team option for $15.5M in ’23-24) get them most of the way toward sufficiently matching salaries. Utah would still need to include at least $2.4M more, and probably would like to go beyond that. Rudy Gay? The Jazz wouldn’t mind ditching him, but he has a $6.5M player option. They could include Nickeil Alexander-Walker, and L.A. could simply decline to make him a qualifying offer, but are the Jazz ready to jettison the young wing already?
There are other options, but none are perfectly straightforward for both sides. And would the Lakers be willing to give up both their 2027 and ’29 first-rounders, or would they draw the line at only one?
But then, L.A. is not Bogey’s only suitor.
Arizona Sports’ John Gambadoro reported that the Phoenix Suns reached out to the Jazz to inquire about Bogdanovic’s services, after ultimately striking out on landing Kevin Durant.
Phoenix is still looking to pair another floor spacer with Devin Booker and Chris Paul. The Suns have plenty of workable salaries, but they’d have to send two players back Utah’s way, and none of them really fit the young, up-and-coming mold Utah’s looking for. (6MOY finalist Cam Johnson is 26 years old.) Still, would Utah accept, say, a pair of expiring deals in Jae Crowder and Dario Saric, given that Phoenix holds all of its first- and second-round picks between now and 2029?
As the Jazz’s teardown has unfolded, some have wondered if Clarkson — the 2021 Sixth Man of the Year — would have much of a market, given his sometimes-erratic shooting. The theory went that, as a player who had a very inconsistent season and is maybe perceived as not providing much value beyond scoring, he could be viewed as a negative asset.
Turns out, that may not be the case.
Brett Siegel, working for Sports Illustrated’s “Fastbreak” vertical, reported this week that after the Gobert trade, four teams reached out to the Jazz about Clarkson specifically — the Grizzlies, Bucks, Kings, and Raptors.
Siegel then proposes deals of Clarkson to Toronto for Malachi Flynn, Precious Achiuwa, Khem Birch, and a 2023 second-round pick; to Memphis for Ziaire Williams, Danny Green, a ’23 second-rounder, and Toronto’s ’24 second-rounder owed to the Grizz; and to Milwaukee for Grayson Allen, MarJon Beauchamp, the Bucks’ ’23 second-rounder, and Portland’s ‘24 second-rounder owed to the Bucks.
Sacramento’s addition of Malik Monk would be somewhat duplicative, but if the Kings were still inclined, a package of, say, Terence Davis, Chimezie Metu, Alex Len, plus ’23 and ’24 second-rounders could get it done.
As for those other three teams, Toronto is intriguing because it has a very legitimate need for bench scoring, and that theoretical deal includes two recent former first-rounders. Memphis and Milwaukee are perhaps a bit less needy, though still could use Clarkson’s skillset. The Bucks have plenty of playable wings, and could send Allen back to Utah and also part with 2022 No. 24 pick Beauchamp in order to get some instant offense. The Grizz’s second unit, meanwhile, might be a bit too reliant on the moment on young guys, though they may well view Williams — the No. 8 overall pick in the 2021 draft — as too high a cost.
At any rate, it’s key to note that none of those proposed deals includes a first-round pick.
The veteran point guard and 2021 All-Star might prove to be the most difficult to unload.
Because of his age (he’ll be 35 soon), his injury history, his declining production, his even poorer playoff series against the Mavs (9.2 points, 4.8 assists, 33.3 FG%, 20.0 3P%), and his remaining contractual terms, Conley is widely viewed as a negative asset at this point.
Which doesn’t mean he isn’t without his supporters or potential landing spots.
Nekias Duncan of BasketballNews.com recently broke down Conley’s game at present in order to assess theoretical buyers, and found some bits that could still be useful to teams — efficient 3-point shooting even at an increasing rate, heady playmaking, and an extremely low “blow-by rate” defensively.
Still, with a lot of teams set with young, exciting point guards, Conley’s market is probably limited.
Duncan does suggest a few spots, though: Dallas (as a replacement for Jalen Brunson), with Tim Hardaway Jr. and Josh Green coming back; Minnesota, with Conley, Gay, and Alexander-Walker being exchanged for D’Angelo Russell; to the Lakers in a Westbrook deal; the Bulls, as a Lonzo Ball replacement; and, in non-playoff team territory, to the Rockets — to serve as a mentor for Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr., as part of a three-team deal with the Pelicans that would see the likes of Kira Lewis and KJ Martin coming to Utah.
Sean Barnard of Clutch Points suggests two of the same destinations, but different transactions: to Dallas for Green, Davis Bertans, and a top-15-protected 2025 first-round pick; and to New Orleans, for Lewis, Devonte’ Graham, Garrett Temple, and a top-15-protected 2025 first-round pick.