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Jazz to Go ‘Big Game Hunting,’ Preparing for Star Trade

Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson and Boston Celtics wing Jaylen Brown, offseason blockbuster star trade candidates

This offseason, the Utah Jazz are “ready to go big game hunting,” per Jazz CEO of basketball operations Danny Ainge.

“We’re going all in this summer to try to figure out what we can do to get better,” Ainge says, per The Salt Lake Tribune’s Andy Larsen. “That doesn’t mean that we’re going to throw all our chips in and it’s championship or bust — I’m saying our mindset is that we’re doing it only to try to win.”

Jazz to Go ‘Big Game Hunting,’ Preparing for Star Trade

In the 2023-24 season, the Jazz trying to figure themselves out.

The only certainty is their desire to build around 2023 All-Star, Lauri Markkanen. To be frank, that doesn’t guarantee that the Finnish forward will stay in Utah. However, the Jazz will only trade Markkanen if it’s an offer they can’t refuse.

As Ainge says, “The transformative players are hard to come by.”

Backcourt Decisions

Roster redundancies and player development have led to a backcourt logjam and power struggle between their guards. Jazz head coach Will Hardy is a huge fan of veteran Jordan Clarkson.

At 31, Clarkson is still plagued by poor shot-selection and a shoot-first mentality. His defensive effort and ability often leave a lot to be desired. However, he’s steadily improved as a playmaker, averaging a career-high 5.0 assists per game last season. He also posted a 1.85 assist-to-turnover ratio, the highest since his rookie season.

Nonetheless, he lost his starting spot to Collin Sexton during the six-year pro’s resurgence.

Demonstrating exponential improvement over the course of the season, Sexton averaged 18.7 points and a career-high 4.9 assists per game. Starting in at least 50 games for the first time since 2020-21, he averaged 21.1 points and 5.6 assists per game in the first unit. His ability off-the-dribble separated him from a low-usage floor general like Kris Dunn. His efficiency, 48.7 percent shooting from the field and 39.4 percent from 3, separated him from Clarkson and Keyonte George.

At 25, Sexton fits the Jazz’s timeline.

The Jazz are “not really interested in dinosaurs,” per Ainge. “We’re interested in good 6-7 year (players),” he says.

Due to Hardy’s fondness for Clarkson and George, he may be trade bait this offseason. However, the Jazz might even keep him unless the right deal comes along.

“We don’t want to get go from the 23rd-best team to the 18th-best by giving up a bunch of things, either,” Ainge says. “That’s not our objective.”

Notably, Ainge says that the Jazz believed they “were close (on a trade) once in this process that would have changed the dynamic of [the] team immediately.”

Jrue Holiday

Larsen speculates that Ainge was referencing Boston Celtics guard Jrue Holiday.

The Jazz were targeting Holiday after the Milwaukee Bucks shipped him to the Portland Trail Blazers last offseason. Holiday is 33 years old but one of the best two-way players in the NBA. A five-time All-Defensive selection, he averaged 12.5 points, 4.8 assists, 0.9 steals, and 0.8 blocks per game in the 2023-24 regular season. Holiday also shot a career-high 42.9 percent from long distance.

Dejounte Murray

The Jazz were linked to Atlanta Hawks guard Dejounte Murray before the trade deadline.

The 27-year-old is a seven-year veteran and appears to fit Ainge’s criteria better than Holiday. In the 2023-24 regular season, he averaged 22.5 points, 6.4 assists, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.4 steals per game. He also shot 45.9 percent from the field and 36.3 percent from 3. An all-around guard with extraordinary leadership qualities, Murray may have legitimately accelerated the Jazz’s timeline.

Miles Bridges

Utah was also linked to embattled Charlotte Hornets forward Miles Bridges.

Though Bridges comes with character concerns, he’s an excellent two-way player. Just as importantly, he would complement Markkanen well in the frontcourt. A 6-foot-7 combo forward who stretches the floor horizontally as well as vertically, Bridges averaged 21.0 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 0.9 steals per game in the 2023-24 season. While shooting 46.2 percent from the field, he made 38.2 percent of his catch-and-shoot 3s.

No Preconceived Notions

As the Jazz head into the offseason, it’s unclear of any of the aforementioned trio are still on their shortlist of trade targets.

After Holiday agreed to a contract extension with the Celtics, he almost certainly won’t be moved this summer. However, Murray and Bridges could still land in Utah. NBA drama could also lead to Celtics wing Jaylen Brown landing with the Jazz. It’s only been a month since Brown caused a stir with his MVP motivations.

“I wish basketball were that way,” Ainge says of heading into the offseason with a preconceived notion of how it will all play out.

“I wish we could just organize it, plan it: We’re going to draft this guy in the future. We’re going to trade with this guy in the future. But that’s not how basketball works.”


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