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LeBron James loves Lauri Markkanen. Should the Utah Jazz consider a deal with the Lakers?

On the latest Mind the Game podcast, LeBron James and JJ Redick discussed various players in the league, and JJ Redick brought up Lauri Markkanen. LeBron immediately emphasized to Redick how much he loves Markkanen.

LeBron says, “One of my favorites… he's been a LeBron fan for a long time, I love that guy, he's so good.”

It's an interesting mention of the league's most influential player early in the Lakers' offseason. Considering things are changing in LA, it begs the question: Should the Utah Jazz consider trading Lauri Markkanen to the Lakers?

The initial reaction from fans is no, but here are some reasons why this could not only be a good idea, but entirely possible.

The Utah Jazz need to decide on a direction for the franchise

We've all heard the comments from Danny Ainge about going big game hunting this offseason. The question is, what happens when the Jazz go hunting and there are no game? Yes, the Jazz are a team with a ton of assets, but it takes two to make a trade and convincing a team with a superstar to make that trade won't be easy. If the Jazz try to acquire these players and come up empty, they will have to take the franchise in a different direction, and that is toward a top pick in the draft. There is no way the Jazz can go into another season playing around .500 or worse basketball and then tank after the trade deadline to get a pick in the 8-9 range. That would be an incredible waste of an opportunity in a great design. It would also mean that you wouldn't be able to trade Lauri Markkanen when his value is at its highest.

A trade with the Lakers would allow them to finish in the top five in the upcoming Cooper-Flagg sweepstakes and receive another load of picks.

The Lakers have the potential to make Utah a great offer

Utah already owns the Lakers' 2027 pick (Top 4 Protected), but the Lakers also have a good selection of picks to trade now as we enter this new offseason.

It looks like the Lakers will lose their 2025 pick to the Pelicans, who had the choice between the Lakers' 2024 and 2025 picks. That means the Lakers could offer the Jazz a package that would include 2024, 2029 and 2031 first-round picks. Danny Ainge would probably want these picks unprotected. In this scenario, the Jazz could also demand pick swaps in 2026 and 2028. If the Lakers really want Markkanen and the Jazz want more, they could also ask to remove protections on the 2027 pick.

So here's what it would look like: The Jazz could get 3 first-round picks and 2 pick swaps, leaving the 2027 pick completely unprotected, and the Lakers could get Lauri Markkanen.

Lauri Markkanen's deal is extremely trade-friendly

Lauri Markkanen's contract is worth around $18 million for the coming season. Since it's lower, the Lakers could string together contracts to make it work, and the Jazz can then enter the season with more picks that can give them a chance at a star while also not being stacked with veterans who need minutes their young newcomers. Don't forget, Utah has Keyonte George, Taylor Hendricks and Brice Sensabaugh to develop, and they may also add three more players in this draft. They need more development with their sophomores and a chance to play with the players they sign in 2024.

Aside from the salaries being easy to match, the Jazz might want a young player like Jalen Hood-Schifino who could have a chance to develop alongside George.

Given the Lakers' track record, it's likely this will work out for Utah

Here is the list of the Lakers' first-round picks since 2014

2014 – 7th – Julius Randle

2015 – 2nd, 27th – D'Angelo Russell, Larry Nance Jr.

2016 – 2nd – Brandon Ingram

2017 – 2nd – Lonzo Ball

2018 – 25th – Moe Wagner

2019 – 4th – This pick was part of the Pelicans trade that sent Anthony Davis to LA. The Pelicans traded this to Atlanta and it became De'Andre Hunter

2020 – 28th – Jaden McDaniels This was part of a trade with OKC for Dennis Schroder, OKC traded this to Minnesota.

2021 – 22nd – Isaiah Jackson – this pick was traded to Indiana as part of the Russell Westbrook deal

2023 – 17th – Jalen Hood-Schifino

Before LeBron James, the Lakers consistently made it into the top ten and four times into the top five. Chances are the 2029 and 2031 picks go after LeBron James and could represent an incredible haul for the Jazz. In a deal like this, it's important that Utah ensures these picks are unprotected. If that happens, Utah could potentially get the best trade they've made in years, including what they got for Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell.

LeBron James might push for it

LeBron hasn't said what he plans to do after this season and is already playing the leverage game with the Lakers.

It's very likely that the Lakers give LeBron James the maximum he's probably looking for, but that could be with an agreement to make the moves he wants from them. Since he loves Lauri Markkanen, could this give Jazz the influence he wants? And if Lauri Markkanen is a LeBron fan, as LeBron says, then perhaps he would be up for the chance to play with one of the greatest players of all time?

All in all, this isn't something to ignore and don't be surprised if we see Lakers/Jazz rumors this summer. And remember: The Jazz and Lakers have already made several moves over the last two seasons, the relationship is there to do even more.

Anna Harden

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