How Warriors could trade for their dream target
The star player that O'Keefe identified was Lauri Markkanen. The Utah Jazz forward rehabillitated his career over one season in Cleveland in 2021-22, then last season exploded into stardom in Utah, making his first All-Star Game and winning NBA Most Improved Player.
Markkanen is off to another strong start this season, even if the Jazz themselves are near the bottom of the standings. The seven-footer is averaging 23.7 points and 8.7 rebounds per game, hitting 3.3 triples on 38.3 percent shooting, and continues to operate as the focal point of the offense, a massive step forward from where he was a few seasons ago.
Why would the Jazz be willing to part with Markkanen? It comes down to time and money, as so many things do. Markkanen is playing like a max-player but is on a bargain contract he signed with the Cavaliers coming off of a rough end to his rookie contract. Markkanen makes so much less than a max deal, in fact, that the Jazz can't even offer a realistic extenson to the Finnish phenom.
They either have to carve out cap space next summer to renegotiate and extend Markkanen's deal, essentially giving him more money now to get close enough to the max line, or they have to go into unrestricted free agency in 2025 and hope he stays around.
Given that the Jazz are in the midst of a rebuild, Danny Ainge may decide it is best to move Markkanen for assets now rather than commit cap space to giving him a raise only for him to continue languishing on a bad team.
If the Jazz do get to the point where they will listen to offers for Markkanen, here is what a trade from the Warriors could look like, throwing in "all their chips" to add Markkanen to a veteran core:
There are other versions of this deal where the Warriors use Chris Paul or Andrew Wiggins as matching salary, but since Markkanen is making just $17.2 million this year they can get to the right number by moving all of their young guys.
That's likely what the Jazz would be interested anyway, building out their young rotation with four new players, all of whom seem ready for a rotation role and have future upside. This is the kind of move you make with both eyes on the future. The Jazz aren't winning anything with Markkanen right now; it's possible that they win a few years down the line with this collection of players involved.
If the Jazz were willing to bite, should the Warriors make this trade? Let's answer that question and grade this trade.