The Lakers are currently 7-6 and are already in the mix of trade rumors surrounding the Chicago Bulls. However, fans have pointed to another potential “win-now” move involving a franchise that’s currently rebuilding: the Utah Jazz and, specifically, Lauri Markkannen.
The Utah Jazz are currently 4-8 and have a couple more seasons to go before they’re back in postseason contention. Markkanen—the 2023 Most Improved Player—is currently averaging 23.7 points per game on .477/.419/.867 splits. It’s also worth noting that he’s in the final year of a four-year, $67 million contract signed in 2021 (2024-25 is partially guaranteed). With all of that in mind, a recent hypothetical scenario has Laker fans debating whether the Finnish forward can join LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
The Jazz are 4-8
He’s shooting 42% from 3
He’s the archetype that Lebron turns into NBA champion
He has 1 non-gtd yr left on an 18M contract
— 🏆LakersGuru🏆 (@GuruLakers) November 18, 2023
Lakers Rumors: Fans Want Team to Trade for Former All-Star
Benefits of Lauri Markkanen Joining the Lakers
As outlined above, Markkanen would bring plenty of positives to the Lakers. He has broken out as a 26-year-old combo forward, being the current face of a struggling Jazz team. Last season, he averaged 25.6 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game while shooting nearly 50% from the field. Markkanen would also provide tremendous flexibility and versatility for LA’s frontcourt. He’s able to play all three positions while spacing the floor and protecting the paint—two areas of dire improvement for the Lakers.
Markkanen coming to the Lakers would also signal some more relief for James and Davis, who currently have to rely on their guards for most of the scoring. Cam Reddish has played well as a backup wing, and Taurean Prince had his moments as a starter. However, most of these opportunities have fallen on Russell or Austin Reaves, who has recently taken charge of the second unit. Markkanen would solve that problem by giving LA a reliable forward, which would be critical in stretches without LA’s superstar duo.
Is a Lakers-Jazz Trade Feasible?
As much as some Laker fans may prefer Markkanen to Zach LaVine or DeMar DeRozan, it’s worth pumping the brakes on the idea for several reasons. Aside from the Jazz not being open to trading their star forward, the Lakers would not be able to compete with rival offers. It’s especially true for teams that could offer multiple young players with All-Star potential and a plethora of first-round draft picks.
All hope is not lost, however. There are ways to match Markkanen’s $17 million salary without the inclusion of Russell or Reaves—both of whom would take a backseat if Lauri joined the Lakers.
One method would be as follows:
Lauri would be a perfect fit as second big for Lakers. Not sure Utah would bite but I would offer the unprotected 2029 and 2027 if picks 1-4 plus Vincent, Prince, and Christie for a 12/15 trade. Doubt Utah would bite but I'd love to try and get Lauri or even Olynyk from them. https://t.co/2IJubj2KbC pic.twitter.com/BDg1WFzOO5
— LakerTom (@LakerTom) November 19, 2023
It may be the best route to get Markkanen to LA without giving up key players. However, a package of role players and one protected pick will not satisfy Utah’s front office.
Another possibility would have to involve one of Russell or Rui Hachimura. Both of them are vital parts of the team and re-signed with the Lakers to major multi-year deals. Again, it’s doubtful that the Lakers will move on from those two for less than a year of Lauri Markkanen.
CBS Sports reporter Sam Quinn weighed in on the possibility of a Markkanen trade to the Lakers (or a trade at all, for that matter):
If the Jazz really were to consider trades for Lauri Markkanen (which I don’t think is as crazy as some might, but still absolutely don’t think they will), he’d get more back than the Lakers could give. He’s like a 2-3 firsts plus a good young player type of haul. https://t.co/NOuc8vLgP0
— Sam Quinn (@SamQuinnCBS) November 18, 2023
Based on that speculation, the odds of the Lakers landing Markkanen—if he becomes available—are very low.
The Last Word
It’s reasonable as to why Laker fans would want Markkanen: he’s having an excellent season, would fit like a glove next to James and Davis, and would end up in a far better situation than the one he’s currently in. For now, though, Markannen joining the Lakers is a longer shot than LeBron’s logo threes. Instead, Lakers fans should keep their eyes on current rumors surrounding the Bulls—particularly Alex Caruso—instead of worrying about whether the Jazz will put their lone All-Star on the trading block after a year and change in Utah.