Utah Jazz Mailbag: What’s The Latest With Lauri Markkanen?

Dec 7, 2023, 3:30 PM | Updated: 4:12 pm

Utah Jazz Memphis Grizzlies Lauri Markkanen Collin Sexton...

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - OCTOBER 28: Lauri Markkanen #23 of the Utah Jazz reacts to a three-point shot against the Phoenix Suns during the first half of the NBA game at Footprint Center on October 28, 2023 in Phoenix, Arizona. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – Welcome to the Utah Jazz mailbag where every week our NBA insiders answer your questions on social media about your favorite team.

Each week we will send out a prompt on KSL Sports Threads, Instagram, X, and Facebook pages asking for the questions you have about the Jazz.

Then, we’ll respond to as many as we can in that week’s mailbag.

Are you on Threads yet? Let’s connect, give us a follow @kslsports

Download the new & improved KSL Sports app from Utah’s sports leader. You can stream live radio, video and stay up to date on all of your favorite teams.

Jazz Mailbag: News On Lauri Markkanen?

Q: Any word on Lauri Markkanen’s hamstring? Once he is back do you see Taylor [Hendricks] continuing to be in the rotation or going back to the Stars for development?

A: Holly these are two major questions, and thank you for sending them in! Good news, it appears Lauri Markkanen is very near to making his return to the Jazz lineup, and even went through full practice Thursday afternoon.

I asked Markkanen if he expected to be cleared by Friday night against the Los Angeles Clippers, and this is what he told me.

“This is the first time I’ve ever had a hamstring [strain] so if it was a rolled ankle, I would know what I can play with and what pain I can tolerate and you expect it to hurt,” Markkanen said. “But hamstrings apparently are a little different and easier to [re-injure]”

The Jazz will have a full report on his availability late Thursday night, though they could easily list him as questionable, and we may not know whether he is ready to play until game time.

The same can be said of Kelly Olynyk and Jordan Clarkson, both of whom went through full practice Thursday, but we haven’t gotten a full update on their status.

That will likely impact how the Jazz use Taylor Hendricks going forward. I thought the rookie forward looked tremendous in an otherwise disastrous game in Dallas, and has shown that maybe he isn’t as far away from contributing in the NBA as we respected before the start of the regular season.

With that said, it’s clear he’s benefited immensely from getting 20-30 minutes a night in the G League with the Salt Lake City Stars, and I think those minutes would be more helpful to him over the next month or so instead of fighting for minutes in a crowded Jazz frontcourt.

I fully expect Hendricks to finish the regular season playing over 20 minutes a night with the main Jazz roster, but for now, the G League is paying dividends, and a return to the Stars would be beneficial.

Q: Do we want our draft pick this year or do we want to give it to the Thunder so that we can have more trade flexibility with our own picks in the future?

A: This is a fascinating rebuilding strategy question, and I don’t know if there is a “right answer.”

The Jazz owe the first-round draft pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder either this year or  next, as long as it falls outside of the top 10 selections in the draft, or in 2026 if it falls outside of the top eight.

If they select in the top 10 both this year and next year, and in the top eight in 2026, the pick turns into two second-rounders in 2027, and the Jazz debt will be paid off.

Now, if the Jazz select outside of the top 10 this year, the Thunder get the pick, and the Jazz own their own selections over the two next seasons regardless of where they fall.

Here’s the problem, this year’s draft is not expected to be amazing at the top, while next year’s draft has the potential to be quite special.

So, in an ideal world, the Jazz would have made the playoffs this season, sent the draft pick to Oklahoma City, and moved forward this summer with full control over all their future selections.

However, with it looking increasingly unlikely that the Jazz are going to be able to convey that pick this summer, they run the risk of losing a far more valuable first-rounder next season if they make reasonable improvements and don’t own one of the 10 worst records in the NBA.

Essentially, if they select inside of the top 10 this year, it might be wisest to plan on drafting inside of the top 10 next season as well. Then, hope that they’re on their way to the playoffs come the 2025-26 season with top 10 picks from the 2024 and 2025 drafts on their roster, and pay their debt to the Thunder in 2026 or later.

The nice thing about the 2025 draft is the Jazz also own picks from the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Minnesota Timberwolves, so they can be particularly aggressive in trying to move up to land a true difference-maker as they exit the tanking stage of their rebuild.

That does mean another season and a half of losing that fans would have to stomach, but it might be the right move.

We answered these questions and more on the latest Jazz Notes podcast, catch it every Tuesday wherever you download podcasts!

Are you on Threads yet? Let’s connect, give us a follow @kslsports

Download the new & improved KSL Sports app from Utah’s sports leader. You can stream live radio, video and stay up to date on all of your favorite teams.

Ben Anderson is the Utah Jazz insider for KSL Sports and the co-host of Jake and Ben from 10-12p with Jake Scott on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone. Find Ben on Twitter at @BensHoops or on Instagram @BensHoops.

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Utah Jazz Mailbag: What’s The Latest With Lauri Markkanen?