With the start of the regular season just around the corner, the Utah Jazz are still over the maximum amount of rostered players allowed to start the year.
It felt like getting down to the NBA requirements would be a walk in the park. The Jazz were a prime candidate to take on Russell Westbrook’s monster salary of $47 million and this unprecedented summer for Utah basketball would be complete.
…..but not so fast.
The Los Angeles Lakers are now reported to be on the path to keeping former MVP due to the offers that they perceive as being too low. ESPN's Brian Windhorst broke this development on his daily podcast last week.
“Based on the executives I’m talking to, they believe that the Lakers have come to the conclusion that they’re not going to trade Westbrook now, because they don’t like any of their offers and they’re going to try and make the best of it and see what happens,” Windhorst reported.
This report would be consistent with the news last week that the Jazz were content on rolling into the new year with vets Bojan Bogdanovic, Jordan Clarkson, and Mike Conley.
Ramona Shelburne of ESPN reported this last week as well.
"The sense around the league is the Jazz at least feel they have deals for [Bogdanovic, Conley, Clarkson] if and when they want them where they would return a first-round pick for each... The Jazz are not in any hurry to make decisions.
"If this group gets out there and plays well and starts off well, they're going to let them play," Shelburne said.
Perhaps the Jazz nor the Lakers are motivated to get a deal done before the start of the season. Or are these ploys being used as leverage to get the best deal possible?
The two draft picks that the Jazz covet are the Lakers' 2027 and 2029 unprotected draft picks. The trajectory of these picks would be in the lottery during a time where Lebron James would be long gone and L.A. feeling the effects of the haul that was sacrificed in the Anthony Davis trade.
The Lakers may want to put their championship aspirations on hold for one year and let Westbrook's $47 million contract run its course without sacrificing the future.
Also, L.A. may feel that the recent signing of Dennis Schroder keeps them competitive enough to compete in 2022-23 without a Westbrook trade.
Asking the Lakers to give up potentially one or two lottery picks for a one-year rental in Bogdanovic and a two-year on Clarkson would be a lot. The Jazz may have to sweeten the pot to get something done.
If a deal does get struck, a player to keep an eye on is Jarred Vanderbilt. Acquired in the Rudy Gobert trade, Utah's new power forward is owed about $9 million over the next two years and would fit perfectly in a Laker system. James, Davis, and Schroder all need the ball to make their impact, and the Lakers would welcome a player like Vanderbilt who's not ball-dominant and is also on a team-friendly deal.
The Jazz would rather not give up Vanderbilt, but there has to be give-and-take when you’re talking about acquiring coveted first-round picks. Also, Vanderbilt will become an unrestricted free agent in 2024 and there’s no guarantee the Jazz could keep him long-term.
Currently, the Jazz vets are blocking the newly acquired talent from getting the minutes on the court that are needed to develop. Getting closure on the matter before the season is the best-case scenario for Utah.
We’re only one month away from the start of the season and trading Vanderbilt wouldn't be ideal, but if the reward were to be landing Lakers draft picks in a post-James era, then Jazz executive Danny Ainge has to consider pulling the trigger.
Follow Patrick on Twitter @pbyrnesNBA.