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How gettable are those Jazz players Bogdanovic, Clarkson for the Suns

Can the Suns find good trades to acquire a pair of good role players from the rebuilding Jazz?

2021 NBA Playoffs - LA Clippers v Utah Jazz Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

We all want the Phoenix Suns to DO SOMETHING. As of now, the Suns will be trotting back out there with the same lineup that came up short in two straight playoff runs.

The Utah Jazz are tearing it down quickly, having traded their two primetime All-Stars for future draft capital and a chance to go from the league’s best regular season record to its worst in just two seasons. To get there, the Jazz will need to dump at least 2-3 more high level veterans from their rotation, likely onto playoff teams with championship aspirations.

Can’t the Suns and Jazz work together a little bit?

Things to know about the Utah Jazz salary cap

  1. The Jazz are still set to pay a LOT of money for a really bad team. They are less than $2 million under the luxury tax right now
  2. The two highest-paid players are Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic

Depth Chart

  • Ball Handlers: Mike Conley ($22.6 mil), Collin Sexton ($16.7), Jordan Clarkson ($13.3), Jared Butler ($1.5)
  • Shooting Guards / Wings: Malik Beasley ($15.4), Talen Horton-Tucker ($10.2), Nickeil Alexander-Walker ($5.0), Leandro Bolmaro ($2.4)
  • Forwards: Bojan Bogdanovic ($19.3), Lauri Markkanen ($16.4), Rudy Gay ($6.18), Jarred Vanderbilt ($4.3), Ochai Agabji ($3.9 - Rookie), Simone Fontecchio ($3.2), Stanley Johnson ($2.3)
  • Centers: Walker Kessler ($2.69 - Rookie), Udoka Azubuike ($2.1)

The Jazz are accumulating better draft picks than the Oklahoma City Thunder because they are wholly unprotected picks from historically worse franchises (Wolves, Cavs) than OKC dealt with (protected picks from Clippers, Rockets, Heat, Sixers).

But still, the best way to ensure drafting your next star is to do your own tanking, and the Jazz appear ready to do just that.

This summer, they traded away two in-their-prime All-Stars and the best player they got back is Collin Sexton, who probably profiles on the top end as a great sixth man.

Let’s rank the players acquired by the Jazz this summer:

  1. Collin Sexton — 23 years old, signed 4-year, $72 million contract
  2. Malik Beasley — 25 years old, one year guaranteed, team option next year
  3. Lauri Markkanen — 25 years old, two yrs guar., 3rd year partial
  4. Talen Horton-Tucker — 21 years old, one year guar., 2nd year player option
  5. Jarred Vanderbilt — 23 years old, two years guaranteed

Not one of these guys is a long term building block. None would even be a sure starter on a playoff team. The second-best player acquired (Beasley) has had off-court issues that caused him to miss playing time in recent years.

The Jazz are playing the rebuild game, which means at the very least the 2022-23 season is a tank year. Two prospects in the 2023 draft — Victor Wembanyama, Scoot Henderson — profile as franchise building blocks. Heck, ANYONE inside the Top 8 of the 2023 Draft would instantly become the Jazz’ best chance at a new cornerstone player. Yet the Jazz’ only lottery pick is likely their own.

2023 Draft picks owned by the Jazz:

  • their own
  • Wolves’ (very likely outside lottery)
  • less favorable of Brooklyn/Houston/Philadelphia (almost certainly outside lottery)

That means: tank.

And tanking means: trade Conley, Bojan, Clarkson and anyone else who’s contributing to winning AND/OR has no interest in losing 80% of their games next season.

The Jazz can try to rebuild quickly, but they have got to acquire at least one of their future stars through the draft because, as shown by the Nets this summer, you cannot acquire more than one really great young player from another team.

What will the Jazz want? More draft picks.

If you can’t get a long-term starter back in the Mitchell and Gobert trades, you’re not getting one for Conley/Bojan/Clarkson either. So that means draft picks and/or major salary relief.

Since the Jazz have fleeced the Wolves and Cavs for their draft picks this summer (six unprotected picks + one lightly protected + two swap rights), you can expect them to keep the asking price on draft picks pretty high.

Right now, I’d expect the Jazz are demanding a first round pick and salary savings for any of these guys, with protections being very light.

If the Suns want to acquire Bojan Bogdanovic or Jordan Clarkson, they are likely being asked to cough up a lottery protected pick (say, 2024?) and just enough salary to make it legal.

Here are some options:

  • Option 1: Suns acquire Bojan Bogdanovic for Jae Crowder, Torrey Craig and lottery-protected 2024 first round pick.

This saves the Jazz $4 million in salary, all expiring next summer.

This trade could work for both sides. No, Crowder won’t want to lose a bunch of games so they would have to buy him out. Heck, the same could be true for Craig. Buy-outs would save the Jazz even more money.

That leaves the draft pick as the only carrot for the Jazz coming from the Suns. I’m sure the Jazz are shopping the league for the best possible first round pick in return for Bojan, who is a proven starter, long-range bomber and good playoff performer. He’d fit well on any playoff team, really.

The key here is whether the Suns see Bojan being worth their 2024 pick? I’m saying 2024 because I assume the Jazz don’t want a fourth, certainly low, 2023 pick. They are loaded in the odd years now (2023, 2025, 2027, 2029), but don’t currently have any extra picks in 2024, 2026 or 2028.

We know James Jones doesn’t like the draft, but by trading his 2024 pick right now he won’t be able to trade any picks to anyone else earlier than 2026. That means if a great player becomes available (Durant, SGA, etc.) this season, the most he could offer in clean draft picks is 2026 and 2028. Sure, he could also offer swap rights in 2023, 2025, 2027 and 2029 but any team would see the Suns near-to-medium picks as very low (meaning, not swap-worthy).

Do you acquire a very good rotation player now — 18 points in 31 minutes per game (69 starts) in 2021-22 for a playoff team — that could marginally help your playoff chances in 2023 but unlikely beyond that (he’s a free agent and will be 34 next summer), at the expense of emptying your draft coffers for a bigger trade down the road?

Now you can see the Suns’ hesitation.

  • Option 2: Suns acquire Jordan Clarkson for Cameron Payne, Torrey Craig and lottery-protected 2024 first round pick.

This saves the Jazz $3 million in salary this year, and relieves them of Clarkson’s $14 million player option in 2023-24.

This trade’s even worse for the Suns. For now, let’s assume the Jazz want some kind of future first round pick for Clarkson. I just can’t see the Suns sacrificing a potential future acquisition of a star (ie. trading the 2024 pick away) for the right to pay Clarkson — 16 points in 27 minutes per game (1 start) — to come off the bench. Yes, he’s more aggressive than Landry Shamet, but is he that much better?

Why did I include Payne instead of Shamet going back to the Jazz? Because Shamet is guaranteed $20 million over the next two years and the Jazz already have — as I showed above — a handful of 6’4-6’5” shooting guards on the roster. The Jazz don’t have room to make Shamet worth the acquisition and financial commitment.

And frankly, is Clarkson that much better than Cameron Payne? Both are inefficient scorers, though Payne’s had better efficiency in 2020 and 2021 and could return to form while Clarkson has probably already shown his best work.

Again, bad mix for the Suns. I just don’t see this happening.

  • Option 3: Suns acquire Bojan Bogdanovic AND Jordan Clarkson for Jae Crowder, Landry Shamet, Torrey Craig, Jock Landale and lottery-protected 2024 first round pick.

Would acquiring both of these rotation players make it worth the Suns 2024 pick, thus tying up picks until 2026 and ending any godfather offer for a disgruntled superstar in the next couple of years?

To make the money work, the Suns would have to convince the Jazz to take Landry Shamet, who they likely don’t want because of the presence of Sexton/Beasley/THT/NAW/Bolmaro already on the roster as well as Shamet’s two years of guaranteed money coming.

To make the Jazz want to do the deal, the Suns would have to include that 2024 pick. Although that might not even be enough — the Jazz are certainly trying for multiple picks for their high end talent. Don’t you think the Lakers would consider trading their ‘vaunted’ 2027 and 2029 picks for a pair of high end rotation players?

Does replacing Crowder and Shamet (17.7 points per game combined) with Bojan and Clarkson (34 per game combined) make the Suns a better title contender? Does it make them even more dangerous in the playoffs? Likely yes.

But is that worth sacrificing any real chance at Kevin Durant, or Shai Gilgeous-Alexander or even, say, De’Aaron Fox?


Weigh in, Suns fans.

Poll

Should the Suns do the deal?

This poll is closed

  • 51%
    Trade the 2024 pick for Bojan, Clarkson or both
    (353 votes)
  • 48%
    Naw. Hold onto that 2024 pick for a better deal down the line
    (339 votes)
692 votes total Vote Now