When the Jazz shocked the NBA to open the season 10-3, there was no talk of trades anymore, the focus was on the playoffs and the job coach Will Hardy had done bringing an odd-fitting, grab-bag of players together. But since then the team has gone 12-21 and fallen back to 10th in the West, trying to hang on to a play-in spot.
Which means the trade rumors are back, or at least other teams are hopeful the Jazz will be deadline sellers. The Clippers are hoping that Mike Conley will be available, reports Marc Stein in his latest newsletter.
Sources say they also have trade interest in Utah’s Mike Conley Jr. amid a rising belief leaguewide that the Jazz — who have tumbled to No. 9 in the West at 22-24 after their great start — could become a much-needed seller at this deadline. The Clippers’ backcourt depth just took a hit with the news that John Wall is out for at least two weeks with an abdominal strain.
The trade is not hard to construct, Conley makes $22.7 million this season and the Clippers have a host of players making between $10-$16 million. For example, Robert Covington and Reggie Jackson to Utah works, although the Jazz would want one of the Clippers’ more promising young players — Terrance Mann, Brandon Boston — and picks thrown in any deal. Conley has a partially guaranteed $24.4 million contract for next season (only $14.3 million is guaranteed).
Los Angeles has not gotten enough production out of the point guard spot this season, although that was expected to be less of an issue on a roster where Paul George and Kawhi Leonard were supposed to do the bulk of the playmaking. Except, the wing duo has not been healthy enough, which has shifted more shot creation and the need for defense to the point. Tyronn Lue recently — and finally — shifted Mann into the starting lineup over Jackson, with Wall having a lot of responsibility when healthy. In year four of the Leonard/George era, the Clippers have not looked like anything close to a contender and are looking around at the trade deadline for a roster upgrade and a jolt to their postseason efforts.
Conley is averaging 10.2 points (his lowest point per game total since his rookie season) and is shooting 38% overall, although he is dishing out 7.5 assists per game. Once a plus defender, he is not that guy anymore. Still, he is a stable floor general and veteran Tyronn Lue could trust in big postseason minutes.
The question becomes, will the Jazz be sellers? Will they give up Conley for picks (and what about Malik Beasley and other Jazz players teams covet)? It’s a seller’s market right now, and Danny Ainge does like to sell high.
Conley to the Clippers is something worth watching.