No. 2: Blazers get better, Utah continues its rebuild
The Utah Jazz were a pleasant surprise for most of the 2022-23 season, making a bigger impact than expected due to shrewd coaching and an overperforming roster.
Most of their surprising success came from Lauri Markkanen tearing up the old script to his career and rewriting himself as a top NBA scoring option who made the Western Conference All-Star Team and won the NBA Most Improved Player Award.
Despite his personal success, Markkanen only has a few years left on his deal and his timeline may not align with the developmental plan that the Jazz and front office leader Danny Ainge want.
If that’s the case, there are few better assets available for the Jazz to nab than a top three pick in a top-heavy draft.
While Nurkic would at best provide some spot minutes behind Walker Kessler, the real prize for Utah in this deal would be either Miller or Henderson. Both players would fill a massive hole for the team’s future, and either is capable of taking over the primary scoring load from day one.
For the Blazers, the move would give them a stupendous second option after Lillard. Markkanen wouldn’t help solve the defensive issues, but the front court pairing of him and Jerami Grant would give Portland one of the best forward combinations in the league due to their versatile offensive games.
Markkanen could be the first part of a Blazers plan to follow the blueprint of this year’s Sacramento Kings team, one that made the playoffs by being so good at offense that their poor defense didn’t matter.
It’s a risky proposition, but landing Markkanen would give Lillard the type of needle mover that he craves.