Zanik Discusses Jazz Trade Deadline, Markkanen Buy-In

Feb 10, 2024, 12:56 PM | Updated: Feb 12, 2024, 1:31 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah Jazz general manager Justin Zanik spoke about the team’s roster after making significant moves at the trade deadline.

The Jazz shipped Kelly Olynyk and Ochai Agbaji to the Toronto Raptors for Otto Porter, Kira Lewis, and a 2024 first-round draft pick.

They also sent forward Simone Fontecchio to the Detroit Pistons for Kevin Knox, who they later waived, and an early second-round pick.

Why Weren’t Jazz More Aggressive At Deadline?

The Jazz acted as sellers at this year’s trade deadline, sending out three players from the team’s 10-man rotation in return for expiring contracts and future draft capital.

“When you look at all the other various trades, there wasn’t an impact player available that moves the needle in our timeline,” Zanik explained. “And our timeline is one where we want to build around the core that we were able to keep intact, and so when you can’t [acquire a star] you also want to stay flexible.”

The Jazz now own 13 first-round picks over the next six seasons, plus three pick swaps, and three second-round picks.

“We were the only team that were able to get a first-round pick without having to take on money or give something,” Zanik added. “Ochai was the cost for that, but it wasn’t taking on a long contract to get a pick.”

In addition to the first-round pick the Jazz got from the Raptors, Zanik explained the value of the team’s 2024 second-rounder.

“The pick that we got for Simone, as you see the changing landscape in the league with these teams that are in the second apron and the first apron, they actually function as late first-round picks for them.”

While first-round picks have preset guaranteed values, second-round picks are non-guaranteed providing extra flexibility for teams deep in the luxury tax.

What’s Plan For Rest Of Season?

With the Jazz sitting at 26-27 and in the 10th seed in the Western Conference, the Jazz have multiple routes to finish the season.

They could continue to hover around .500 in hopes of making the play-in tournament, they could simply win enough games to convey their top-ten protected first-round pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder, or they could fall back in the standings in hopes of adding another lottery pick to the roster.

“The goal isn’t — make the play-in, don’t make a plan, keep your pick, don’t keep your pick — those aren’t the goals,” Zanik said.

Currently, two games separate the Jazz and the Houston Rockets who own the 10th-worst record in the NBA. If the Jazz fall back to 10th in the standings, they are likely to keep their selection this season.

If they finish better than the 10th-worst record, the pick will be conveyed to the Thunder, barring the low percentage odds they win the lottery and move up into the top four picks in the draft.

“We’re not trying to design an outcome, we’re trying to know more about our team, put them in a competitive environment, which Will [Hardy] has done an outstanding job of doing, and I want to continue that.”

Will Jazz Lose Buy-In From Markkanen?

For the second consecutive season, the Jazz were sellers at the trade deadline, making it more likely they move out of the playoff picture than into it.

For veteran players like Lauri Markkanen, repeatedly seeing the Jazz in the lottery, rather than in the postseason could be trying.

“I’ve had those conversations with Lauri, I’ve had them with [Jordan Clarkson], I’ve had them with Collin [Sexton], I know they want to win,” Zanik said. “You can see it every day with how they compete.”

While short-term winning may pacify those desires, the Jazz have higher aspirations.

“This is the second kind of calibration around our core, and sometimes that takes time,” Zanik said of the Jazz’s recent trades.

“I wish that it was quick and then all of a sudden we have a long and prosperous run right now — we’d do that in a second. It’s just not available, and I’m not going to compromise long-term joy and success because you want to avoid short-term pain and short-term disappointment.”

Will Hendricks, Sensabaugh Get Playing Time?

After trading Olynyk, Fontecchio, and Agbaji, the Jazz have cleared more than 60 minutes of playing time a night for younger players on the roster.

“We also have an opportunity to see about Taylor Hendricks to see about Brice Sensabaugh, guys that we think have a chance to be a part of our long-term core both in terms of age and development as we continue to build the team,” Zanik said.

Hendricks played 18 minutes against the Phoenix Suns after the trade deadline, while Sensabaugh was sidelined with a sore left hip.

“This is just the next stage of their development,” Zanik added. “Obviously, they were injured this summer, they missed out on an opportunity in the summer league, they were both very young.”

Hendricks has flashed his shooting touch and defensive potential in his brief stints with the Jazz, while Sensabaugh has recorded just 12 minutes in four appearances.

“We’re adding some new players to the rotation and figuring out who plays with who, and who can get the best out of each of them together while playing in games that matter here for these next 30 [games].”

Will Kira Lewis Or Otto Porter Play?

The Jazz brought back here players in their trades over the last week, but are left with only Lewis and Porter after waiving Knox on Friday.

Porter isn’t fully healthy, and likely won’t play much of a role for the remainder of the season.

Lewis is on an expiring contract, but at age 22, could conceivably match the Jazz’s long-term timeline.

“He’s healthy, [he] passed the physical, so he will practice today and we’ll continue to try to get to know him,” Zanik said. “Those opportunities may be with us, in minutes, it might be in the G league.”

Selected with the 13th pick of the 2021 NBA Draft, Lewis has career averages of 5.1 points, 1.3 rebounds, and 1.8 assists in 119 appearances.

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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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Zanik Discusses Jazz Trade Deadline, Markkanen Buy-In