We are just weeks away from the start of NBA training camp but, still, there is a sense that there are big deals yet to come across the league. The epicenter of those deals, even after completing four significant trades this offseason, is Utah. And make no mistake, the Lakers are trying to keep the Jazz engaged in talks going forward.
Utah has already dealt away Royce O’Neale to the Nets in a minor move before the start of free agency, then sent away Rudy Gobert in a blockbuster before sending Patrick Beverley to L.A. in another trade. Last week, the Jazz shocked the NBA by sending All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell to the Cavaliers after months of speculation that Mitchell would go to New York.
But the Jazz have plenty of remaining veteran pieces that are on the auction block. First among them is scoring forward Bojan Bogdanovic, as well as veteran point guard Mike Conley, neither of whom fits into the Jazz’s future plans. Guards Malik Beasley and Jordan Clarkson are likely to be shipped out as well, and smaller-salaried guys like Rudy Gay and Jarred Vanderbilt are on the trade block, too, according to league sources.
The Lakers, with the $47 million expiring salary of Russell Westbrook and two sought-after first-round picks in 2027 and 2029, are candidates to swipe some combination of the above players. L.A. currently has 13 rostered players, leaving two open slots.
Conley Could Start as Lakers Point Guard
Any deal sending out Westbrook would leave the Lakers with a hole at starting point guard. Beverley could fill the role, but a steadier veteran like Conley might be the ideal fit. His contract runs through this season ($22.7 million) and is partially guaranteed for next year, at $14 million.
Conley played 72 games last season and averaged 13.7 points and 5.3 assists in 28.6 minutes. He shot 40.8% from the 3-point line, the second straight year of topping the 40% mark from the arc.
In addition to trading for Conley, the Lakers could also bring on bench scorer Jordan Clarkson, the former Laker and Sixth Man of the Year in 2020-21. He averaged 16.0 points per game off the bench for the Jazz last season and topped the NBA with 1,244 points scored as a reserve last year.
Throw in useful 23-year-old defensive wing Jarred Vanderbilt (Utah might want to keep him) and the Lakers have a potential 3-for-1 that looks like this:
Lakers receive Conley, Clarkson and Vanderbilt
Jazz receive Westbrook, 2027 first-rounder
Lakers’ 2 Picks of Great Interest Around the NBA
Among executives in the NBA, the Lakers’ next move remains of great interest. Their 2027 and 2029 picks are still in the distant future, but with Anthony Davis struggling to stay healthy each year and LeBron James heading toward retirement, the feeling around the league is that the Lakers’ 27 and 29 picks are the most valuable on the market.
The two Lakers’ picks are the most powerful thing as far as picks go in the league right now. Everyone expects them to be top picks and if you can get them unprotected, everybody wants those. The Lakers only want to give up one and now you have to be thinking, if you’re the Lakers, OK, (Malik) Beasley and Bogdanovic and Jarred Vanderbilt for one of these picks and Russ? Or, you know, Clarkson or Conley in there? You’re going to want three of those five players, give up Westbrook and only deal off one of the picks. Danny might get more picks if he sells those off individually but he is not going to get better picks, and that is the thing the Lakers have as an advantage.
The Lakers have been hard-pressed to give up one of the picks, let alone both. The sense around the NBA is that the Lakers would deal one in a major deal now and deal the other later in the season. But L.A. has found that most teams that would be willing to take on Westbrook’s salary (with a presumed buyout thereafter) want one pick just for taking on Westbrook, and want the second pick to compensate for any players moved to L.A.
The Lakers have no interest in giving up both picks without a major return, however.