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The Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Lakers are reportedly holding “ongoing talks,” according to The Athletic’s Tony Jones, though he added that the Jazz “don’t appear to be particularly close to a trade that could land them even more assets and consolidate the roster.”
The obvious conclusion to draw is that such talks would revolve around Lakers veteran point guard Russell Westbrook and the remaining veterans on Utah’s roster such as Bojan Bogdanovic, Mike Conley, Jordan Clarkson and Rudy Gay.
The Jazz could match Westbrook’s astronomical $47 million contract for the upcoming season by sending back Conley ($22.6 million), Bogdanovic ($19.3 million) and Gay ($6.1 million). Or they could take back Westbrook and Kendrick Nunn ($5.2 million) for Conley, Bogdanovic and Jordan Clarkson ($13.3 million).
The sticking point in the talks, more than likely, will be over the draft capital the Jazz get in return, since the Jazz would almost assuredly look to come to an agreement with Westbrook to waive him.
The Lakers currently have two future first-round picks they can trade in 2027 and 2029. To this point, the reporting around any possible Westbrook trade has indicated the team isn’t eager to part with both. But Utah would almost assuredly want at least one pick for its outgoing players and another one to take on Westbrook’s massive contract.
And Utah’s veteran role players would fit LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the rest of the Lakers far better than Westbrook currently does.
Conley has taken a step back, but he’s still a solid enough defender and could offer floor spacing off the ball when James ran the offense. Bogdanovic would provide a much needed catch-and-shoot option. Gay is a solid-enough two-way wing. Clarkson provides instant offense off the bench.
It’s easier to make an argument for any three of those players than it is for Westbrook, a ball-dominant point guard who doesn’t provide solid on-ball defense or any floor spacing. He was a bad fit from the jump and a big part of why the Lakers limped to a 33-49 record last season.
The Lakers, publicly, have supported Westbrook. It’s hard to imagine they believe, privately, that he’s the right fit for the team after last season’s debacle. A trade still feels likely, although the Lakers may have to accept that they have zero leverage and part with their two future first-rounders before a deal finally goes down.