2. Lauri Markkanen, Utah Jazz
The Utah Jazz hit the jackpot when they traded Donovan Mitchell to the Cleveland Cavaliers last summer. Lauri Markkanen had rehabilitated his value in Cleveland but was mostly thought of as a low-end starter, included in the deal as much to match Mitchell’s salary than to be a building block for the Jazz.
Then Markkanen had a career year, making the All-Star Game and winning the Most Improved Player award. It was no fluke, either, as he is having a strong start to this season and looks the part of an offensive star. The Jazz will most likely keep him in the fold and look to build around him moving forward.
With that being said, Danny Ainge is Utah’s CEO of basketball operations and is always looking for the best deal out there. Markkanen is on such a bargain contract that he can’t realistically sign an extension unless the Jazz were to use cap space next summer for a renegotiation and extension. Markkanen didn’t choose to be in Utah, so he could very well leave in free agency in two summers.
It’s very possible that Ainge decides he doesn’t want to waste his cap space next summer by giving Markkanen a raise and instead looks to maximize him at the peak of his value. The Jazz aren’t close to contending, so moving him now for assets to continue building the future in Utah may be the best move.
In that scenario, then, Andrew Wiggins would make sense as a player who can fit in a wide variety of lineups for a Jazz team still being formed, and who can be flipped in a subsequent deal by the Jazz. The Warriors would have to really make it worth Utah’s while, including multiple first-round picks and perhaps one of their young players as well.
In return, they get a player who can play either forward position, is an absolute sharpshooter, and has improved on both defense and as a rebounder. Actions involving Markkanen, Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry would be nearly impossible to stop. His decreased salary over the next few years would help the Warriors’ tax bill, and then in 2025 they can offer him a max deal to stay with a winning team.
It would be expensive, but the offensive upside is also tremendous.