Jazz

The injuries and slightly larger sample size have sparked a bit of a trade chatter around the NBA, as the league’s calendar nears its Dec. 15 trigger date, when this offseason’s free agents become eligible to be treated.

We’ll start in Utah, where the standout Jazz has rivals wondering which direction Danny Ainge’s front office will take after a surprising 12-7 start that translated into a second-place finish in the Western Conference.

How much time Mike Conley is missing following a knee injury over the weekend could impact Utah’s decision-making should the Jazz’s competitiveness subsequently decline. Utah has so far signaled plans to keep forward Lauri Markkanen plus franchise favorite Jordan Clarkson, and set a high asking price for Jarred Vanderbilt, sources told Yahoo Sports, leaving Malik Beasley and Kelly Olynyk, along with Conley, as the obvious Jazz veterans could move before the Feb. 9 trade deadline. Olynyk is known to be a favorite of Ainge.

But what if Utah is no longer content to join the race for esteemed prospect Victor Wembanyama? The Jazz’s interest in Hawks forward John Collins is real, league sources said, and would seem to indicate Utah is considering adding to this winning unit rather than subtracting from it. Right now, however, the likelihood of Collins landing in Salt Lake City seems low. Atlanta has approached the Jazz to trade Collins for Markkanen, sources said, which hasn’t generated any traction.

Among Utah’s impact players, Conley’s salary would be a direct match for Collins, should Atlanta deem it beneficial to add another point guard behind Trae Young and Dejounte Murray. Though $22 million, with $14.3 million guaranteed for next season, is a lot for the tax-conscious Hawks to pay for an aging reserve with a recent history of injuries. Beasley would look like the best comeback for any theoretical deal that brought Collins to the Jazz, but that would also require adding an additional Utah contract to reach at least $18.5 million for an outbound package to accept the $23 million owed by Collins this season. Sources said the Jazz have been looking to move Rudy Gay, who will almost certainly pick up his $6.5 million player option for 2023-24.

Lauri Markkanen and Jordan Clarkson have helped the Jazz get off to an amazing start this season. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Finding a home for Collins becomes a tough task considering the Hawks have dangled the talented 25-year-old for several rounds of deals. There was real momentum in a deal with Sacramento during this summer’s draft window, sources said, but the Kings are gone with Kevin Heurter and appear quite happy to turn on the beam with this current iteration at the Golden 1 center. The Wizards showed a legitimate interest in Collins ahead of last year’s trade deadline, sources said, but have since paired Bradley Beal with Kristaps Porzingis, who has helped root a top-10 defense in Washington.

While Atlanta remains one of the teams in the mix for Phoenix swingman Jae Crowder, league sources said the Suns have shown no desire to take on the remaining four seasons of the $125 million five-year deal Collins signed following the rush. of the Hawks at the 2021 Eastern Conference Finals. This appears to be the consensus among rival executives. A good player with a heavy long-term contract only brings so much commercial interest when perceived to be above market value.

Elsewhere in Atlanta, keep an eye out for Justin Holiday this trade season as rookie forward AJ Griffin continues to make strides into Nate McMillan’s rotation, despite Holiday’s close bond with the coach since their shared days in Indiana .

Crowder’s other main suitor, according to Yahoo Sports sources, is Milwaukee. Last week, word spread among league personnel that a three-team structure with the Bucks eventually landing Crowder was gaining momentum, though clearly no deal has panned out. Rival front offices have been approached as part of various three-team frameworks that would send Crowder out, sources said. Atlanta has not found a direct agreement with Phoenix after months of talks. Milwaukee has tried using Grayson Allen to land the Suns veteran, sources said, but that direct deal has yet to develop over the months since Crowder’s resistance began. The Suns’ interest in KJ Martin has tied Houston to several three-team concepts, sources said.

Detroit may be ready to deal

In Detroit, the severity of Cade Cunningham’s shin injury prompted the Pistons to consider season-ending surgery, leaving opposing front offices to speculate that veteran sharpshooter Bojan Bogdanovic will indeed be available before the February buzzer. . The Suns and Lakers were two teams committed to Utah over Bogdanovic trades this summer.

Another player league personnel the Pistons are monitoring is third-year forward Saddiq Bey. The Villanova product was recently demoted from the starting lineup before bouncing right away into Dwane Casey’s opening unit. Bey will become eligible for extension this summer and has had a noticeable decline in production. Detroit has responded to initial calls to Bey from investigating teams, sources said, a change in behavior from recent trade windows. But it appears the Pistons are intent on evaluating Bey further before truly entertaining his commercial market.

Wait and see for the Lakers

The last week of November will be an integral part of the Lakers’ decision-making process ahead of this unofficial trade season. Los Angeles had a three-game hitting streak in Tuesday night’s loss to Phoenix, but Anthony Davis hit their fourth straight 30-point outing. LeBron James is nearing a comeback from his captor tension. The Lakers now have a couple games against San Antonio and then a home game against Indiana before closing out the month against Portland. That’s three meetings against teams with preseason expectations of chasing lottery balls instead of wins, plus a good litmus test against the proud Blazers. If the Lakers don’t show enough during that slate, it will be hard to see the Los Angeles brass deem a 2027 and/or 2029 first-round pick trade truly justifiable.

It has been said that the Lakers have an interest in restricted free agent Miles Bridges. The Hornets, however, will have the right to match any offer sheet for Michigan State product, and the teams are unable to facilitate signings and trades during the regular season. There’s also the expectation that Bridges will face a significant suspension upon his return to the NBA after pleading no contest to a felony domestic violence charge stemming from an incident in Los Angeles over the summer.

Across the arena, Clippers head coach Ty Lue and the front office are lined up in a search for frontcourt depth beyond Ivica Zubac, sources said. The top two centers on the trade market this year are Myles Turner and Jakob Poeltl, though the Clippers seem more likely to target a switchable center as an option for Lue to fill in for Zubac against faster lineups, instead of running a unit a complete small ball .

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