SALT LAKE CITY — The NBA’s trade deadline is fast approaching and the Utah Jazz have been one of the busiest teams in talks.
The Jazz roster is full of players who they’re open to talking about with other teams. But, what does that mean over the next few days? What do the Jazz hope to accomplish?
According to multiple league sources, they are probably not going to be a buyer. If you are a Jazz fan, you shouldn’t expect them to try and trade for someone such as DeJounte Murray or Zach LaVine. This summer, the Jazz are looking at real cap space for the first time in forever. But it’s also the last time they will have that kind of cap space for quite some time because star forward Lauri Markkanen will get a large payday either this summer or next at the latest.
The Jazz are also not currently in the 2024 NBA Draft. That’s something that could change if the Jazz get compensation in return for any deal. Either way, The Jazz project to figure prominently into the deadline. They have a bunch of tradable contracts. They have a deep team with rotation-level players who can help other teams. They have a motivation to get some value back for guys who may not be in the fold for the long haul.
Below are three of Utah’s players who have emerged as serious trade candidates. It doesn’t mean others won’t emerge over the next day and a half. But these are the most serious candidates as of Tuesday night.
He remains a likely trade candidate, according to multiple league sources. Olynyk has registered widespread interest, particularly among likely playoff teams, because of his status as an expiring contract, but more importantly his versatility on offense. Olynyk is a 7-footer who can play either power forward or center. He’s also a trusted veteran inside the locker room and someone who can help a team in somewhere around 20-25 minutes per night.
The question for the Jazz is whether they can get enough value for Olynyk to make a deal worthwhile. He’s someone who has helped the Jazz immensely since coming to Utah in a trade with the Detroit Pistons. He’s maybe the best passer on the current roster. He’s a stabilizing force off the bench in Will Hardy’s system and his ability to play on the interior and the perimeter helps make Hardy’s offensive system go. It’s also why he’s garnering so much interest. When you combine his skill set with his $12 million contract, it’s easy to see why his potential service would be so attractive.
Clarkson is less likely than Olynyk to be traded at this point. Between now and Thursday anything can certainly happen, but the winds are swaying toward Clarkson staying with the Jazz through the deadline. This would probably be a surprise to some. There is interest in Clarkson. And we reported last week that the New York Knicks have registered interest in Clarkson and Olynyk. Unlike Olynyk, Clarkson’s contract isn’t currently as easy for other teams to handle, which is why Clarkson could stay in Salt Lake City.
Clarkson is in the first year of a three-year, $51 million deal and is making $23 million this season. It’s difficult for teams to match that number. The Knicks have shooting guard Evan Fournier’s expiring contract to dangle, and the Knicks need Clarkson’s ability to score off the bench. More importantly, Clarkson can create an offensive advantage off the bench.
But, if the Knicks don’t make a move for Clarkson, another team is going to have to come up with $23 million in salary to make the numbers work. Even if Clarkson stays, he remains a prime trade candidate heading into the offseason, because his contract is descending and will be at just $14 million once the summer hits. That is a much more manageable number for teams. When you combine that affordable contract with Clarkson’s ability on offense, it’s not difficult to imagine playoff teams and contender types willing to part with some value for him. To be clear, Clarkson is still a trade candidate by the deadline. He’s just no longer as prime a candidate as Olynyk.
Utah’s starting small forward has emerged as a serious trade target for two contending teams, according to multiple league sources: the Phoenix Suns and the Boston Celtics. Both teams need to strengthen their respective second units, and Fontecchio has an easy salary number for Phoenix and Boston to get to as he is in the final year of a contract that pays him $3.1 million annually.
Fontecchio has emerged this season as an effective rotation-level player. He has shot the ball well, particularly since being inserted into the starting lineup. He’s also proven to be at least an adept wing defender.
The Celtics need frontcourt depth, and Fontecchio would be a good fit there. He’s a shooter with size and length, which will allow him to play in lineups with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. He’s fearless on the floor. The same logic fits with Phoenix, a team that needs a guy who can shoot and defend like Fontecchio, to take some pressure off Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal.
The question is: What would the Jazz potentially receive in compensation? The Suns only have second-round picks to deal. The Celtics are in a better spot and have a few firsts at their disposal. If Fontecchio is dealt, he will be a restricted free agent this summer, which would give team control to whoever trades for him. That also makes him attractive on the market.
As for the remainder of the roster, the Jazz have had conversations as names have come up in talks, but not as seriously as the three at the head of the line. But that doesn’t mean any of those names can’t be traded individually or included in a trade that requires aggregation.
The Jazz are in the second season of a rebuild, which is a big reason the roster is so fluid. And for the second consecutive season, the roster could look a bit different on the other side of the deadline.
(Photo of Kelly Olynyk: Melissa Majchrzak / NBAE via Getty Images)