Why Did Jazz Trade Conley, Beasley, Others For Westbrook?
SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz made a major shakeup Wednesday evening when they pulled off a blockbuster trade that shipped out Mike Conley, Malik Beasley, Jarred, Vanderbilt, and Nickeil Alexander-Walker in exchange for Russell Westbrook, Juan Toscano-Anderson, Damian Jones, and a lightly protected first-round pick.
In the deal, the Jazz will send Conley, Alexander-Walker, and two second-round picks to the Minnesota Timberwolves, while Beasley and Vanderbilt will go to the Lakers.
RELATED: What Are Jazz Getting In Westbrook, Toscano-Anderson, Jones?
Westbrook is likely to have his expiring contract bought out by the Jazz, while Toscano-Anderson and Jones offer the Jazz little in regard to production.
BREAKING: The @utahjazz are reportedly sending Mike Conley and Nickeil Alexander-Walker to the @Timberwolves, and Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt to the @Lakersfor Russell Westbrook, a 2027 first round pick, and two other players.#TakeNotehttps://t.co/BZmEHoVgez
— KSL Sports (@kslsports) February 9, 2023
Toscano-Anderson is a small expiring contract, while Jones has a $2.6 million player option next season.
So, with such little talent in coming, and so much talent going out, why would the Jazz make this trade?
Let’s take a look at what else the Jazz are getting back in the deal.
Jazz Get Another Pick
The prized piece in the Jazz trade is the 2027 pick from the Lakers that is top-4 protected.
With LeBron James entering the twilight of his career, the Jazz appear to be betting on the Lakers dropping deep into the lottery by 2027, potentially delivering a top-10.
Now, this draft pick is far from a sure thing.
For one, the Lakers are one of the few teams in the NBA that are regularly contenders to sign the league’s top free agents and can generally avoid the traditional rebuilding method that involves sinking to the bottom of the standings to land a top pick.
And, without owning the 2027 pick, they have no reason to sacrifice a year to improve their draft stock only to help the Jazz.
To make matters worse, the pick reportedly comes with a caveat.
An updated look at the @utahjazz draft pick tracker after tonight's blockbuster trade.
The Jazz own 15 first-round picks outright, and potentially a 16th depending on next year's finish.#TakeNote https://t.co/SrFJ3tjRTx
— KSL Sports (@kslsports) February 9, 2023
According to ESPN’s Zach Lowe, if the Lakers’ pick does land in the top four, they will hold onto the selection, and the Jazz compensation turns into a 2027 second-round pick.
That has the potential to be an enormous value for the Lakers and a terrible trade for the Jazz.
Regardless, the Jazz have another high-ceiling trade piece in the Lakers’ pick that they can use to acquire more talent, or pair with other picks to move up in the draft.
In total, the Jazz own 15 first-round picks outright after Wednesday’s trade, and a 16th depending on where they finish in the standings between 2024-2026 with the pick they owe to the Oklahoma City Thunder from the Derrick Favors trade.
That’s a nearly unrivaled package of picks that will allow the Jazz to acquire significant talent in the coming seasons.
Jazz Get More Flexibility
In addition to the draft picks, the Jazz have also freed up significant cap space this summer with the trade.
Conley was set to earn $24 million next season while Beasley and Vanderbilt would earn a combined $21 million.
In total, the Jazz cleared between $43-45 million from the books next season depending on whether or not Jones picks up his player option.
While this summer’s free agent list isn’t filled with marquee names, it does give the Jazz flexibility to make more trades, or sign players to better the franchise.
After the three-team trade with the Los Angeles Lakers and Minnesota Timberwolves, I now projected the Utah Jazz to have $61.1M in cap space this coming summer.
That's currently the most in the league, ahead of the Houston Rockets. I project the Rockets to have $59.1M in space.
— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) February 9, 2023
The Jazz now have the option to acquire players in a trade simply by taking them into their cap room, (see Portland Trail Blazers acquiring Jerami Grant) or by taking on other teams’ undesirable contracts along with additional draft capital.
Over the last several seasons, the Oklahoma City Thunder have built a treasure chest of draft picks that rivals the Jazz in part by taking back bad contracts.
According to Spotrac’s Keith Smith, the Jazz could have as much as $61 million in cap room to work with this summer.
That’s not an insignificant haul and will make the Jazz popular among willing trade partners.
Improving 2023, 2024 Draft Picks
With Conley, Beasley, Vanderbilt, and Alexander-Walker now on their way out, the Jazz should take a relatively steep dive in the Western Conference standings.
Prior to the trade, the Jazz sat in the 10th spot in the West, one game below .500.
If the draft lottery were to be held with their current record, they’d have a 4.7 percent chance of moving into the top four of the draft, and a 95.2 percent chance of drafting 13th or 14th.
Now, the Jazz have a chance to drop in the standings to better improve their lottery odds.
The Jazz have assembled a massive package of assets — including 15 unprotected or lightly protected first-round picks through 2029 and a young core of Lauri Markkanen, Walker Kesslier, Collin Sexton and Ochai Agbaji and $60M-plus in potential cap space.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 9, 2023
Currently, just 2.0 games and seven teams separate the Jazz from what would be the sixth-worst record in the NBA.
With 27 games left to play this season, there’s plenty of time for other teams to make up those 2.0 games, allowing the Jazz to climb dramatically in the lottery standings.
By comparison, the Jazz would have a 34.8 percent chance of drafting in the top four if they were to finish with the sixth-worst record in the league, and a 65.2 chance of drafting 6-10.
The Jazz may have also improved their odds significantly of holding onto next year’s first-round pick.
Currently, the Jazz owe their 2023 first-round pick to the Thunder after sending it to Oklahoma City in a deal including Derrick Favors.
That pick is top 10 protected, meaning it will remain with the Jazz if it falls in the first 10 picks of the draft next summer, or will go to Oklahoma City if it lands between 11-30.
While it’s too early to project what the roster will look like next season, it’s easy to imagine a scenario where the Jazz are once again in the bottom half of the league and wind up with back-to-back top 10 picks.
Did The Jazz Make A Good Trade?
Ultimately the question Jazz fans are asking is did the Jazz make a good trade?
Unfortunately, that answer won’t be fully known until we have a better understanding of what the Lakers’ 2027 first-round draft pick looks like, if the Jazz even hold onto long enough for it to convey.
However, it’s not solely dependent on that pick, as the Jazz have also added flexibility, and improved their own draft stock this season and next.
In the immediate aftermath of the trade, Jazz fans shouldn’t be devastated by the package they got in return for Conley, Beasley, Vanderbilt, and Alexander-Walker, but it’s no grand slam.
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