With newly minted All-Star Lauri Markkanen and Rising Stars tournament selection Walker Kessler apparently the only Utah Jazz players absolutely off-limits, this year’s NBA trade deadline has the potential to be wild.
Which is not to say anything significant will happen, but with so many players at least theoretically available to be moved, intrigue in the team’s machinations is bubbling over.
So then, with less than a week left until the Feb. 9 deadline, let’s take a look at some more trade rumors involving the Jazz right now …
Jarred Vanderbilt to Portland?
Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that it’s “increasingly likely” that Vanderbilt is traded, and that the Trail Blazers “have emerged as a strong suitor.”
From the Jazz’s perspective, it absolutely makes sense to deal Vanderbilt. While he earned early adoration from fans for his frenetic energy and hustle, he’s increasingly found himself the odd man out in coach Will Hardy’s big man rotation.
To be sure, Kessler’s unexpected emergence during his rookie season has contributed to the relegation of Vanderbilt to a backup role. So too, though, have the fifth-year forward’s own deficiencies with shooting, screening, and defensive rebounding. And when he has a rough night defending, such as he did in Friday’s loss to the Hawks, his value to Utah is all the more diminished.
So then, why is Portland interested? The Blazers are apparently on the lookout for a low-usage, long, rangy forward type with the capacity to defend wings. On paper at least, Vanderbilt fits that bill as a potential complement to the likes of offense-centric Damian Lillard and Anfernee Simons.
There is the question of the price, of course. Utah’s front office has reportedly been holding out hope to get an offer of a first-rounder for Vanderbilt, who was part of the Rudy Gobert trade. Portland cannot offer one. So then … what? Nassir Little’s salary would work; the Blazers might well find that too steep a price and try to counter with Keon Johnson and maybe a second-rounder or two. Does that get the deal done?
Kelly Olynyk to Boston? Or Miami?
When the Jazz traded Bojan Bogdanovic for Kelly Olynyk just before training camp, it was perceived as perhaps the only real head-scratcher among the offseason moves made by Danny Ainge and Justin Zanik. Still, it was done with the idea of not having Bogdanovic and Markkanen not being duplicative, getting the Jazz an extra big-man presence, and not taking on any additional long-term money.
The side benefit? Olynyk’s contract (a $4 million buyout next season or $12.195M fully guaranteed) makes him easy to re-route, and shooting is always a valued commodity in the league. While Olynyk’s shortcomings with rebounding and defense lessen his value somewhat, he still has suitors because of his passing and frontcourt versatility.
Heavy’s NBA insider, Steve Bulpett, believes that both the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat — two former Olynyk teams short on frontcourt depth — are seeking a potential reunion, but cited an unnamed “Eastern Conference source whose club has been working the market for a center/power forward” as saying they don’t “believe the Heat or Celtics will be able to meet what Utah wants for Olynyk.”
Obi Toppin to the Jazz?
The Jazz and Knicks were linked frequently as trade partners during the summer, when New York was rumored to be the front-runner for Donovan Mitchell, only to ultimately get cold feet on the asking price and see their dream acquisition shipped off to Cleveland instead.
Now, though, according to a new report from HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto, the teams are talking once again. The conversation this time? The Jazz shipping Vanderbilt and Malik Beasley to the Knicks in exchange for Obi Toppin, Evan Fournier, and draft compensation.
Scotto notes that the Jazz are seeking approximately first-round pick value for each of Vanderbilt and Beasley, and that in this proposed deal, Toppin — a former No. 8 overall selection — would serve as a proxy first-rounder, while New York would be asked to include an actual first-rounder to convince Utah to part with Beasley and to take on Fournier’s remaining salary ($18.86 million next season and a $19 million team option for 2024-25).
While Beasley is seen as a more valuable asset than Fournier, owing to his superior shooting and friendlier contract (team option for $16.5M in ’23-24), Scotto reports that, to this point, New York has been unwilling to attach a first-rounder to the Frenchman to shed his salary.
Russell Westbrook to the Jazz?
Another trade idea seemingly resurrected from the summer is that of Lakers guard Russell Westbrook to the Jazz.
The teams are known to have previously discussed such a deal, with Utah apparently having offered some combination of Bogdanovic, Mike Conley, and Jordan Clarkson in exchange for the former MVP, plus the Lakers’ unprotected first-round picks in 2027 and ’29.
L.A. GM Rob Pelinka was unwilling to part with those picks at the time, but now, according to Bleacher Report’s Chris Haynes, the teams are talking once again. The Lakers are apparently keen to augment around LeBron James and Anthony Davis, and have been buoyed by the recent addition of Rui Hachimura; however, they recognize they remain shooting-deficient, and so could be helped by some combination of Conley, Clarkson, and Beasley.
Meanwhile, Yahoo’s Jake Fischer reported that “Any deal that sends Westbrook to the Jazz would almost certainly include veteran point guard Mike Conley, wing shooter Malik Beasley and forward Jarred Vanderbilt.”
The Jazz might be hoping to get off the $24M it would cost to keep Conley on the roster next year, which could be an enticement to take on the remainder of the $47 million being paid to take on Westbrook. Still, at least one of those future Lakers first-rounders would need to be part of the deal.
There’s one other Westbrook-to-Utah idea making the rounds, though.
Friday’s news that Kyrie Irving had demanded a trade from the Brooklyn Nets in the wake of the sides’ inability to agree upon a contract extension has some Jazz fans wondering if the controversial but supremely talented guard could be a target for their team. Given that Ainge has seen firsthand what havoc Irving can have upon a locker room, he may be disinclined to go after the All-Star starter. Perhaps far more likely, though, is the Jazz getting involved in an Irving deal not as the destination franchise, but as a third-team facilitator.
There is speculation that Irving would be amenable to a reunion with James, this time in Los Angeles. The Lakers would need to shed Westbrook’s salary in such a deal, but the Nets are not thought to be eager to reunite him with his former OKC teammate, Kevin Durant, thus necessitating a third team’s involvement.
Enter the Jazz. There’s a school of thought out there that a three-team deal could be constructed entailing the Lakers getting Irving and, say, Seth Curry from the Nets, Brooklyn getting Conley, Clarkson, and Beasley, plus a draft pick from the Jazz, and Utah getting Westbrook and picks from the Lakers, plus a future pick from the Nets.