SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – Utah Jazz general manager Justin Zanik addressed the media Friday for the first time since the Jazz traded Mike Conley, Malik Beasley, Jarred Vanderbilt and Nickeil-Alexander Walker for a 2027 first round draft pick, two bench players and former NBA MVP Russell Westbrook.
While most NBA experts expect the Jazz to negotiate a buyout with the 34-year-old Westbrook, Zanik says nothing has been decided yet, and everything is still on the table, including the possibility of Westbrook playing for the Jazz this season.
“Russell Westbrook in my opinion is a Hall of Famer,” Zanik said. “He’s accomplished so much in his career and has shown that he can still play now and for years to come. We are open to all sorts of possibilities with him. He has been very positive on being here in Utah, and we’ve been very open to the possibility of him. It’s just ongoing discussions. There haven’t been any decisions made, there haven’t been any possibilities eliminated.”
In the three-team trade between the Jazz, L.A. Lakers and Minnesota Timberwolves, the Jazz set themselves up for financial flexibility in the future, with the ability to sign or trade for almost any player.
“The main part of this trade was the ability to acquire an asset that doesn’t come up very often that is available,” Zanik said. “And the cost of that was three veteran players. I would include Nickeil as well, who has been in the rotation. Four players who have really contributed to us this year. Any time you do a trade of that magnitude, there’s always going to be some stuff that is hard. We were acquiring something that is very available very often and allows us to add continued flexibility and endless possibilities of how we can build this roster.”
The asset they wanted was the Lakers first round draft pick in 2027, which is top-4 protected. The Jazz now have no less than 15 first round picks from 2023-2029, two of which are lightly protected, to help build around All-Star Lauri Markkanen, rookies Walker Kessler and Ochai Agbaji, and younger players like Collin Sexton.
But there is no question the Jazz are sacrificing their chance for a playoff run this season in order the strengthen the team’s foundation in the future.
“That’s why you do deals like this, to be flexible, to be in position if the opportunities arise,” Zanik said. “They don’t come up often, but sometimes they come up and you just don’t have the firepower to go do it, or you’re not in the right set of team building. There’s no transaction of that level that we’re not going to be involved in.”