Report: Utah Jazz Open to Trade Talks; Lauri Markkanen, Walker Kessler Off Limits

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIJanuary 21, 2023

Utah Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen (23) celebrates after making a 3-pointer against the Los Angeles Clippers during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

The Utah Jazz may be interested in hearing trade pitches on any player outside Lauri Markkanen and Walker Kessler, per longtime NBA reporter Marc Stein.

"With less than three weeks to go before the trade deadline, teams regarded as clear-cut sellers at the deadline remain in short supply," Stein wrote.

"Yet there is a rising belief leaguewide that Utah is open to listening to trade pitches for anyone on the roster not named Lauri Markkanen or Walker Kessler."

Utah entered this season in full rebuilding mode after trading All-Stars Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert and dealing starting wing Bojan Bogdanović as well.

The Jazz also began the year under new leadership with Danny Ainge as the basketball operations leader and Will Hardy coaching the team.

The Jazz understandably began the year with low expectations, but they now sit eighth in the Western Conference with a 24-25 record. They are just two games behind the Dallas Mavericks for fifth in what's turned out to be a tight league this year.

It's clear to see why Markkanen, who is in Utah after the Cleveland Cavaliers acquired Mitchell from the Jazz in a blockbuster trade, is off-limits.

The 25-year-old has emerged as a potential All-Star and a Most Improved Player of the Year candidate thanks to averaging 24.8 points on 52.0 percent shooting and 8.7 rebounds.

The same goes for Kessler, a rookie big man who landed with the Jazz after the Gobert trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves. With increased playing time, Kessler has dominated over his last seven games with 11.3 points, 11.6 rebounds and 3.0 blocks in 28.1 minutes per game, according to Basketball Reference.

Those two figure to be long-term pieces for a rebuilding Jazz team, which is managing to rebuild and compete at the same time. A treasure trove of future draft picks portend a bright future for the team, especially with the team already good enough to compete for playoff positioning right now thanks largely to Markkanen and Kessler.