Utah Jazz NBA Trade Deadline: Will ‘Trader Danny’ Strike Again?
- Utah Jazz decided to go into rebuild mode this past offseason, trading away Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert
- Even without their former stars, the Jazz are in contention to reach the NBA playoffs this season
- Danny Ainge and the Jazz front office have reportedly listed three players who they deem as off-limits ahead of the trade deadline
What will Danny Ainge do? That is the question on everybody’s minds as the Utah Jazz head into Thursday’s NBA trade deadline.
Before the start of the 2022-23 season, many expected the Jazz to be among the main participants in the Victor Wembanyama tank race.
A string of early playoff exits forced the Jazz brain trust to break up the team this past offseason and send Utah into a painstaking rebuild.
Ainge, with the backing of Jazz CEO Ryan Smith, immediately went to work in rebuilding the team in his image. “Trader Danny”, as he was fondly called in Boston during his time with the Celtics, traded four of Utah’s five starters before the 2022-23 training camp even started.
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Jazz trade Mitchell and Gobert
He shipped off franchise players Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert in separate deals, getting draft capital and rotation players in return, according to NBC Sports.
The Jazz exceeded expectations, though, storming to a 10-3 start with the players they got in those trades quickly forming one cohesive unit.
They are currently in 10th place in the Western Conference with a 27-28 record. The Jazz are right in the thick of the playoff race as the fourth and 13th spots in the standings are separated by just five games.
Ainge made it clear, however, that making the playoffs is not the primary goal for the Jazz. The main focus for the front office is for the team to become perennial contenders in the years ahead.
Who are Utah's untouchables?
With that in mind, the Jazz have reportedly informed teams that they are not interested in parting ways with forward Lauri Markkanen, rookie center Walker Kessler, and rookie shooting guard Ochai Agbaji before the trade deadline.
According to ESPN, the Jazz envision these three players as significant parts of the team’s future.
Markkanen’s rise has been a welcome surprise for the Jazz this season. The main prize for Utah in the trade with Cleveland at the time was the Cavs’ three first-round picks and two swap rights.
The 25-year-old has blossomed into a franchise cornerstone, averaging 24.9 points and 8.7 rebounds per game this season. His stellar play has been rewarded, with Markkanen earning an All-Star nod in his first year with the Jazz.
Kessler, who Utah got from Minnesota in the Gobert trade, has become an elite rim protector for the Jazz. He is fourth in the league in blocks, averaging 2.1 per game. That is impressive given that Kessler plays an average of just 20.4 minutes per contest.
He has shown his true potential since becoming the team’s full-time starter, averaging 11.2 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.7 blocks during that 12-game span.
Agbaji being part of the untouchables for the Jazz is more about projection than production at this stage. The 22-year-old has been a solid contributor on both ends of the floor since he cracked the team’s rotation, and the Jazz are expecting huge things from him in the future.
Jazz to make some moves?
The NBA's transfer market is heating up with Sports Brief recently reporting on Kyrie Irving's move to Dallas ahead of the trade deadline.
The Nets decided to deal Irving to the Mavs after the 30-year-old requested a trade last Friday.
It will be interesting to see if the Jazz will make some moves as well before the deadline closes on Thursday afternoon.
Source: Sports Brief News