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Who's Next in Utah Jazz Fire Sale? Insiders Dish on Conley, Clarkson, Bogdanovic

Eric Pincus@@EricPincusFeatured Columnist ISeptember 9, 2022

Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

After six straight years of playoff appearances, the Utah Jazz appear to be all-in on rebuilding. This offseason, they traded All-Stars Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert for a haul of draft picks that would make Oklahoma City Thunder executive Sam Presti blush.

But are the Jazz done? What teams may still benefit from the Utah fire sale?

With 17 players on guaranteed standard contracts (plus a pair of two-ways), the franchise must get down to 15 regular contracts before the regular season. The team is also under the NBA's $150.3 million luxury tax threshold by roughly $2 million—but would be over if Mike Conley, Collin Sexton and Jared Vanderbilt all hit their incentives.

Since teams under the tax last season got a $10.5 million kickback from those who were over, trimming salary may be good business for the Jazz.

Who Are the Keepers?

The players from the Cleveland Cavaliers for Mitchell (Ochai Agbaji, Lauri Markkanen and Sexton) appear to be keepers. Patrick Beverley, part of the return for Gobert from the Minnesota Timberwolves, was already shipped off to the Los Angeles Lakers for Talen Horton-Tucker and Stanley Johnson.

Horton-Tucker and a few younger returning players (Jared Butler, Udoka Azubuike and Nickeil Alexander-Walker) will likely get an opportunity to prove themselves with the Cleveland newcomers.

The team also picked up Malik Beasley, Leandro Bolmaro, Walker Kessler and Jarred Vanderbilt from Minnesota. Of the four, Kessler is the key prospect from the Gobert trade. Finally, rookie wing Simone Fontecchio got a solid, fully guaranteed $6.3 million two-year deal.

Pencil the following nine on the opening night roster: Agbaji, Alexander-Walker, Azubuike, Butler, Fontecchio, Horton-Tucker, Kessler, Markkanen and Sexton.

Bogdanovic Stands Out

Bojan Bogdanovic may hold the most appeal of the veterans the Jazz seem willing to part with.

"I could see a lot of teams wanting Bojan. He can really shoot it," one agent said. "[Just] contenders, though. He's older now [at 33]."

While the Jazz may have suitors, the challenge could be matching Bogdanovic's $19.6 million expiring salary. For instance, if Boston wanted to add a wing after losing Danilo Gallinari to a knee injury, the Celtics probably need to include Derrick White. Utah may have no interest in a three-year, $54.3 million investment in White.

Similarly, the Dallas Mavericks might be able to get out of Davis Bertans for Bogdanovic. The Jazz would undoubtedly demand a first to take on his $49 million owed over three seasons. That's more expensive (and over a much longer period) than Russell Westbrook's $47.1 million expiring salary. The Lakers may be open to taking Bogdanovic and other pieces from the Jazz for the veteran guard but aren't eager to give up a first-round pick.

Others looking at Bogdanovic could include teams like the Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat and Sacramento Kings.

Weak Market for Conley, Gay

While Conley was relatively solid last season (72 games played, 40.8 percent shooting from three-point range), the Jazz may struggle to find a team willing to take on his contract.

"He's over the hill," one executive said. "His production is not worth [his salary]."

Conley fell off significantly in the playoffs against the Mavericks (20 percent from three). That's a big question mark for a contender: Will the (nearly) 35-year-old point guard have the legs for a playoff run? That risk may be too much for most at $22.7 million and $24.4 million over the next two seasons (the final year is only $14.3 million guaranteed).

Would the Phoenix Suns gamble that Conley has more to offer as a backup to Chris Paul? Getting the math to work would be highly complicated (but not impossible).

Gay, 36, is like Conley on a much smaller scale at $6.2 million and $6.5 million (player option) over the next two seasons. Utah may be able to work him into a more significant deal, but Gay isn't likely to spark any suitors.

Unless there's a massive deal for Westbrook's salary, the Jazz may be better off holding onto both players until they're in the final years of their deals.

Potential for Clarkson, Beasley

The Jazz may have more luck moving out of Jordan Clarkson ($13.3 million for 2022-23) and Beasley ($15.6 million). Clarkson has another year at $14.3 million (player option), but Beasley may be viewed as an expiring contract with a $16.5 million team option for 2023-24.

Both are capable bench scorers, particularly Clarkson, who won the Sixth Man of the Year award in 2020-21. His production dipped this past season (notably from three-point range at just 31.8 percent), but he can certainly help a second unit get points on the board.

As the Minnesota Timberwolves changed directions (with Anthony Edwards continuing to emerge), Beasley averaged just 12.1 points a game last year after averaging 19.6 in 2020-21 and 20.7 in 14 games with Minnesota in 2019-20.

The Charlotte Hornets may be looking for overall depth, especially if the Jazz are willing to part with Vanderbilt. Or perhaps the New Orleans Pelicans with Devonte' Graham and Jaxson Hayes as bait?

What About Vanderbilt, Bolmaro, Johnson?

"Vanderbilt would have plenty of suitors, but [the Jazz] don't need to decide on him right away. He's cheap next year," an agent said.

The physical, defensive-minded forward can earn up to $4.5 million this season and 4.8 million (with just $300,000 guaranteed) for 2023-24. Represented by Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, could Vanderbilt be on the Lakers' wish list?

He could be a keeper in Utah, or the Jazz could look to trade him for a draft asset if he's not a part of their plans.

Meanwhile, Bolmaro, the No. 23 pick in 2020, has yet to prove himself.

"The bloom is off the rose [on Bolmaro]," one former executive said. "He hasn't done much in two years."

Utah must decide on Bolmaro's $2.6 million 2023-24 team option before the end of October. If the Jazz aren't ready to make that commitment, he's either the player they waive to get down to 15 or trade fodder in a larger deal. The Jazz could even try to send him with cash to a team with cap room or a trade exception.

Johnson, the No. 8 pick in 2015, has struggled to find a long-term home. He's still young (26) and works hard defensively. One of his best games of the 2021-22 season with the Lakers was against the Jazz, with Johnson scoring 15 (specifically attacking Gobert) to help close out a win for L.A.

If Utah doesn't find a viable trade for its older players, Bolmaro and Johnson could become the victims of a roster crunch.

Email Eric Pincus at eric.pincus@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.

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