The Whiteboard: Why Utah could make or break the NBA Trade Deadline

Today on The Whiteboard, early returns on the OG Anunoby trade and how the surging Jazz could shape the NBA Trade Deadline.

Jan 1, 2024; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson (00) reacts after recovering
Jan 1, 2024; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson (00) reacts after recovering / Christopher Creveling-USA TODAY Sports
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Just a few weeks ago, it looked like the Utah Jazz could be the key to the NBA Trade Deadline with their willingness to sell off myriad pieces. At one point, they were 7-16 and rumors had begun to circle that they were open to offers on Lauri Markkanen as well as complementary pieces like Kelly Olynyk, Jordan Clarkson and Collin Sexton.

If that shook out, Markkanen would be arguably the best player available and the roster of role players they had to offer could swing the fortunes of multiple contenders. But those rumors have cooled significantly as the Jazz have gone 8-3 in their last 11 games outscoring opponents by an average of 5.2 points per 100 possessions.

Will the Utah Jazz be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline?

The Jazz are still just 12th in the Western Conference but they're only two games out of 10th and a spot in the Play-In Tournament and only 4.5 games behind the Pelicans for the No. 6 seed and a chance at avoiding the Play-In altogether. If the Jazz are in the mix for the postseason, it's far less likely they're willing to trade some of the productive veterans. And there's even an outside chance they become sellers and look to add talent.

Someone like Kelly Olynyk — with his combination of shooting, size and offensive versatility — is both gettable and a potential game-changer for teams like the Warriors, Suns or Lakers. Collin Sexton could be a huge offensive upgrade for the Magic, Mavs or Nets. Lauri Markkanen could put a team like the Kings or Thunder over the top. And in each case, the Jazz would likely have multiple bidders and a chance to drive up the price, squeezing as much future value as possible. But that only happens if they decide to emphasize the future over the present.

Over this 8-3 run, the Jazz have held opponents to 113.4 points per 100 possessions, a mark that would border on the top 10 across the entire season. Their offensive efficiency has jumped to 118.6, which would be a top-seven number stretched across the entire season. Markkanen has found his legs, Collin Sexton has been fantastic and even John Collins seems to be turning the corner.

They have the depth and contracts to swoop in and steal someone like Gordon Hayward or Buddy Hield, potentially even getting involved in negotiations for stars like Zach LaVine or Pascal Siakam, driving up the price for whoever else is pursuing him even if the Jazz can't land them outright.

Luckily for the rest of the NBA, the Jazz may be forced in one direction or another very soon. They play the Pistons on Wednesday, as close as there is to a guaranteed win in the NBA right now. After that, they have a three-game road trip against the Celtics, 76ers and Bucks. The six-game homestand after that has the Nuggets, Raptors, Lakers, Pacers, Warriors and Thunder coming to town.

Over their next 10 games, the Jazz will play the three best teams in the Eastern Conference, two Western Conference contenders and two Western Conference teams immediately above them in the standings. If they can survive, pick up some signature wins and gain some ground in the standings, it seems more likely they keep pushing for the postseason. For teams like the Warriors and Lakers, they may need to beat the Jazz just to make sure the have a chance to help themselves at the trade deadline.


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Jan 1, 2024; New York, New York, USA;  New York Knicks forward OG Anunoby (8) dunks past Minnesota
Jan 1, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks forward OG Anunoby (8) dunks past Minnesota / Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Raptors and Knicks kick off trade season

The Raptors seemed to be up against the wall with Pascal Siakam but zagged by trading OG Anunoby first, in a Sunday deal with the Knicks. The Raptors ended up with Immanuel Quickley, R.J. Barrett, and the No. 31 pick, in exchange for Anunoby, Precious Achiuwa and Malachi Flynn.

The trade was a big swing for both teams but on paper looked like it could be a clear win-win. Both teams also picked up wins in their first games with their new pieces — the Knicks beat the Timberwolves, 112-106, getting 17 points, 6 rebounds and some stout wing defense from Anunoby. The Raptors beat the Cavs, 124-121, with a combined 33 points and 15 rebounds from Barrett and Quickley.

Both teams could also have another trade in the works before the deadline rolls around so don't consider either roster a finished product.

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