BEN ANDERSON

Utah Jazz Mailbag: Will Jazz Be Better Next Year?

Feb 20, 2024, 3:27 PM | Updated: 3:28 pm

Keyonte-George-Utah-Jazz-NBA...

Utah Jazz guard Keyonte George (3) defends at inbound pass against the Sacramento Kings in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2023. (Courtesy of Deseret News)

(Courtesy of Deseret News)

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 ThreadsInstagramX, 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.

Jazz Mailbag: Will The Jazz Be Better Next Year?

Question: It feels like the team and organization have given up a bit on this season. Do you think the Jazz will be better this season or next season?

A: Jake, thank you for the question which is an important one for Jazz fans.

I do believe the Jazz will be better next year than they were this year, both for both strategic and natural reasons.

Strategically, as I detailed last week, there is real value in finishing with one of the 20 best records in the NBA next season and conveying their first-round draft pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

There is still a chance that they could convey that pick this year, but I suspect they’ll take steps to avoid that, and in the process give themselves one more top-ten draft selection this summer before really beginning to build the roster with wins in mind.

Beyond strategy, however, I’d expect the Jazz to take a step forward next season based on talent, and the current design of the roster.

Next year’s roster should prominently feature Lauri Markkanen (likely on a renegotiated and extended contract), plus a more experienced combination of Walker Kessler and Keyonte George, both of whom should be ready to contribute to a winning roster.

Mix in John Collins, Jordan Clarkson, and Collin Sexton either as featured roster players or trade pieces, plus additions through the draft and free agency, and the Jazz should be able to avoid the disastrous 7-16 start they had to open this season.

Furthermore, without a slew of expiring contracts, the Jazz shouldn’t face the same difficult trade deadline next year that they did earlier this month.

After choosing to trade Kelly Olynyk and Simone Fontecchio this season rather than risk losing them for nothing as free agents this summer, the Jazz don’t have those same expiring deals next year.

Though John Collins contract could become expiring if he opts out of his one-year, $26.5 million option for the 2025-26 season, both Clarkson and Sexton are under contract for the next two years.

That means the Jazz can make trades if they want to, or simply keep the players in Utah, but their hand won’t be forced like it was this season.

Regardless, I think the Jazz will start looking to add wins this summer, even if it’s just minor moves, rather than taking significant steps backward.

Q: If you could add a player who is not a current top 25 player to this team who would it be? So someone ranked between 26-and-100?

A: I will try to address this question with some true nuance, rather than just picking the guy who I think is in that ’26th best player in the NBA’ conversation and adding them to the Jazz roster because ultimately you just want as much talent as possible.

So, first, let’s use players ranked 26-100 in The Ringer’s most recent top 100 list that was released during the All-Star break.

Then, let’s eliminate players who can’t realistically be acquired (goodbye No. 38th ranked Victor Wembanyama), players who don’t fit the Jazz timeline, let’s aggressively put that at those age 28 and older, and players who don’t fit the roster’s current core pieces (Markkanen, George, Kessler).

Here is who remains, listed alongside their Ringer ranking.

26. Jaylen Brown*
30. Brandon Ingram*
31. Zion Williamson*
42. Desmond Bane*
47. Franz Wagner*
49. Mikal Bridges*
60. Cade Cunningham*
65. Anfernee Simons
67. Michael Porter Jr.*
72. Jaden McDaniels*
73. Jalen Johnson
74. Tyler Herro
75. Devin Vassell
76. Austin Reaves
77. Coby White
80. Jalen Suggs
82. Naz Reid*
84. RJ Barrett
85. Jonathan Kuminga*
86. Herb Jones
88. Nic Claxton
89. Isaiah Hartenstein
98. Cam Johnson

There are 23 names there who would fit the Jazz, all of whom are capable of improving the team’s roster.

Of those 23, there are likely 11 or so players who are unavailable in trades at the moment, but I could become available in the next 12-18 months depending on how things break for their teams. I will denote those players with an asterisk*.

Removing the asterisked players’ from the conversation and only 12 names remain, including some (Anfernee Simons, Nic Claxton) that likely won’t make a ton of sense with George and Kessler already in Utah.

Of the remaining ten, the Jazz would most readily benefit from the defense of Herb Jones, the hustle of Isaiah Hartenstein, or the additional floor spacing and shot-making from Cam Johnson.

Surprisingly, the player that might make the most sense is Johnson who is coincidentally the lowest rated by The Ringer, and a player whose name could be mentioned about a lot in trade circles over the next 12 months.

Want to ask questions in next week’s mailbag? Give us a follow @kslsports. If you submitted a question and it didn’t get answered here, listen to this week’s edition of the Jazz Notes podcast (located in the player above) where we answered more of your questions.

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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