After a scorching hot start to the 2022-23 NBA season, the Utah Jazz have come crashing back down to earth. After leading the Western Conference for a point in time, the Jazz have fallen all the way down to tenth with a 27-27 record. This is more in line with their expectations after they traded away Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert during the previous offseason.
The Jazz are rebuilding, but it’s pretty obvious that they are ahead of schedule, even if they have stopped winning at the rate they were early on in the season. However, in an effort to aid their rebuild, the Jazz are expected to be sellers ahead of the deadline as they look to accrue more assets to help them build a champion in the future.
Pretty much everyone in Utah has seen their name pop up in rumors, and for good reason. There’s one player though that hasn’t been nearly involved in these rumors as the others and for good reason. While it’s not nearly as likely to happen as it once was, let’s take a look at the trade deadline move the Jazz would regret if they ended up deciding to have a full-on fire sale.
Trade the Jazz would regret: Moving Lauri Markkanen
The biggest reason the Jazz are still relevant this season is because of the play of Lauri Markkanen. After struggling to find his fit with the Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers, Markkanen has taken complete control of the Jazz’s offense, and parlayed that into the first All-Star selection of his career.
Markkanen has taken a massive step forward with Utah this season (24.9 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 1.7 APG, 51.8 FG%, 42.7 3P%) and has quickly established himself as a leading candidate for the league’s Most Improved Player award. Without Markkanen, the Jazz would likely be one of the worst teams in the league like they were expected to be entering the season.
While every Jazz player has been mentioned in trade rumors, Markkanen’s name hasn’t been on the rumor mill nearly as much, and for good reason. He’s become a star for Utah, and he could end up becoming the leader of their next great team. Trading Markkanen in the middle of a career year would make little to no sense.
Trading Markkanen isn’t particularly likely to happen at this stage of the game, but hey, we have seen crazier things happen in the NBA before. If the Jazz decided to move on from Markkanen, it would likely be a deal they would regret, regardless of the massive haul they could likely get in return for him based on what we have seen this season.
For starters, Markkanen’s numbers on the season are superb. A seven-foot forward, Markkanen can do a little bit of everything on offense, and he’s proven as much this season. His 42.7 three-point percentage is also incredibly high, especially when you consider that he’s never shot higher than 40.2 percent in a season, and the fact that he’s taking a career-high 7.3 threes per game right now.
Markkanen isn’t the greatest defender, but he can hold his own, and he’s made a much bigger effort to help out on the glass than he did last season with the Cavs. Markkanen can stick around at the perimeter if needed, while also being tall enough to make life difficult for his opponent in the paint. Right now, there isn’t a glaring weakness in Markkanen’s game.
Trading Markkanen at his peak sounds good in concept, but the Jazz have inadvertently stumbled upon a star player in a season where they were expected to be competing for the top overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. You always take actual production over projected production, and in Markkanen’s case, the actual production has been superb.
It would be a different story, however, if Markkanen wasn’t only 25 years old. He’s still relatively young, and has a lot of good years ahead of him. Markkanen is a piece Utah should be building around, not dealing away simply because he has finally found a role for himself on the court with the Jazz.
Luckily, the Jazz seem to realize this as they approach the deadline. Markkanen’s name has largely disappeared from trade rumors, and while that doesn’t automatically mean he’s staying put, it’s certainly a good sign. The Jazz will likely make some moves as the deadline rolls around, but as long as Markkanen’s name isn’t involved in any of those deals, Utah will walk away from the deadline as a winner. The more pieces they can get to build around Markkanen, the better.