Lakers: Top 5 Trade Prospects On The Jazz

Let’s take a look at tonight’s competition from a scouting perspective.

Your Los Angeles Lakers will get one more home stand prior to a mini-road jaunt. The 6-3 Utah Jazz will head to Arena to face off against the 2-5 Lakers tonight at 7:30 p.m. PT.

From a longer-term perspective, the Jazz are still most likely hoping to tank their season for maximal draft odds. The Lakers, again thinking long-term, are probably hoping to offload the $47.1 million contract of sixth man Russell Westbrook. This game should give Rob Pelinka and co. a close-up opportunity to assess potential Utah trade assets.

Let’s take a look at five players the Los Angeles front office could/should be targeting. Most crucially, please take note of their three-point shooting.

5. Talen Horton-Tucker

Just kidding. Let’s move on.

5. Kelly Olynyk

Anthony Davis does not actually want to play center, despite Darvin Ham’s apparent commitment to using him almost exclusively as a five. Olynyk, who’s looked better than this writer expected in Utah (although you could kind of say that for the whole roster this year, outside of THT and Collin Sexton) is quick enough to work in Ham’s fast-paced offense, but can also help spread the floor as a career 36.8% three-point shooter on 3.3 looks a night. He’s nailing a totally-unsustainable 55.2% of his 3.2 treys a night so far this year.

Through nine starts with Utah, the 31-year-old (owed a pretty reasonable $25 million through 2024) is averaging 12.1 points, 4.1 boards, 3.4 assists, 1.6 steals and 0.7 blocks a night. Point being, Olynyk would serve as a significant upgrade over Damian Jones, who has fallen out of Ham’s rotation, and Thomas Bryant, who is still recovering from a thumb surgery but seems likely to go the way of Jones. He would be a solid consolation prize if L.A. opts to not make a move for 3-and-D Pacers big man Myles Turner, a better defender who may still have some untapped upside at just 26 years old. Olynyk is what he is at this point, but that would be a big improvement over what L.A.’s got and could help The Brow’s oft-injured body avoid some punishment in the paint.

4. Malik Beasley

A 3-and-D wing for a team that could certainly use another one of those sounds pretty good. Beasley, like Olynyk, has two years remaining on his deal, though his $16.5 million salary in 2023-24 is a team option. Word on the street is that L.A. would like to keep its cap sheet relatively open for free agency in 2023, so Beasley may hold some appeal in that respect.

The 6’4″ shooting guard has come off the bench thus far with Utah, and would be competing for minutes along the wing against breakout Laker Lonnie Walker IV, Troy Brown Jr., and Austin Reaves. Unlike any of those players, however, Beasley is a proven three-point threat over the course of his eight-year career (Reaves is shooting well this season, but was sub-par as a rookie). Beasley has connected on 38.6% of his 5.2 looks overall, and is knocking down 39.6% of his 5.9 triples this year with the Jazz. 

Honestly, the biggest red flag with Beasley is his penchant for off-court chicanery. In 2021, he was sentenced to spend 120 days in jail after being convicted of a felony charge for threatening violence.

3. Jordan Clarkson

Adding Clarkson back into the fold represents the homecoming deal that a lot of Laker fans are probably already pencilling in. The 6’4″ shooting guard was the Sixth Man of the Year for a top-seeded Jazz club in 2021, but has been promoted to a starting role with this year’s accidentally-good team. Though he can occasionally hold onto the ball too long, Clarkson has been better this year about moving the rock in Hardy’s pass-happy offensive system. 

The 30-year-old, who was a Laker from 2014-2018 (when he joined current Laker LeBron James’s Cavaliers mid-season), is averaging 17.1 points, 5.6 assists and 4.6 rebounds. He’s nailing 37% of his 8.1 triples a game.

2. Mike Conley

The 35-year-old, a 2021 All-Star, used to be one of the league’s best defensive point guards, but age-related decline and injuries have sapped him of that skillset. Conley has proven to have way more pep in his step than we could have reasonably expected this season. 

Though he’s averaging a modest 11.5 points in 30.8 minutes, the 6’1″ vet is also dishing out 7.1 dimes, pulling down 2.1 boards, and swiping 1.3 steals a night.

1. Lauri Markkanen

Markkanen, the No. 7 pick out of Arizona in 2017, never fully blossomed while with the Chicago Bulls, though he showed plenty of promise as an athletic stretch four. Health issues, middling defense, and a minimized role under head coach Billy Donovan led to an eventual sign-and-trade deal during the 2021 offseason that saw the seven-foot sharpshooter move to a small forward gig with the super-sized Cleveland Cavaliers, who finished with a 44-38 record on the year and the East’s eight seed, but were ultimately eliminated during the play-in tournament with Jarrett Allen ailing. This summer, Utah shipped out All-Star shooting guard Donovan Mitchell to Cleveland for a trade package sent around future picks, Markkanen’s contract, and a sign-and-trade deal with Collin Sexton. Astoundingly, that deal has looked pretty good for both sides.

With the ball in his hands more this year under Will Hardy, Markkanen has been able to show off his handle a bit more. No longer just the recipient of slash-and-kick looks, the 25-year-old has been doing plenty of slashing himself. 

The big problem with Markkanen, of course, is that he might be a little too good for Utah to want to surrender right now, even if he may cost them some lottery balls with some unwanted wins this year.

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