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Would the San Antonio Spurs enter into a Lauri Markkanen deal with the Jazz?

SAN ANTONIO, Texas – It’s time to reflect.

The San Antonio Spurs are currently stuck in a valley. If it were a roller coaster, they would be looking up to the top and hoping to find a way to reach it one day. Now let me make this little scenario even sillier.

Suddenly, as their nearly ton-weight car sits idle – symbolizing their years-long absence from playoff success and major superstars – they see an alien spaceship block the sun. About as quickly as it appears, it disappears, and there stands Victor Wembanyama.

He'll hold breakfast tacos, wear a cowboy hat, and use a few too many curse words for national television. But don't worry, the Spurs will love him.

San Antonio general manager Brian Wright is sitting in the roller coaster car – we're almost done with that analogy – as Wembanyama begins to push him up the mountain. For the sake of argument, he hasn't taken him very far yet, but he has certainly filled the minds of everyone in it with hope.

After all, he is supposed to be a superhero.

Spurs owner Peter J. Holt spoke about his team's goal of building a contender in the coming years, and while it's not yet known what that will look like, it undoubtedly revolves around Wembanyama, something Wright would passionately agree with. Surrounding the incoming NBA sophomore with talent is a top priority for San Antonio, and luckily for the Spurs, that could look different.

One way is to improve through the NBA Draft. The Spurs benefited from the decline of the Toronto Raptors and picked up two top-10 picks in the June draft that could well turn into young talents with great potential. And Wright's take on that?

“Two lottery picks give us a great opportunity to add two young players to our young core, (but) also see what else is out there,” he said. “As with anything, we will explore all options.”

READ MORE: Spurs select 4th and 8th in 2024 NBA Draft

Wright then went on to describe his ideal Spurs team, explaining that it is important for the team not only to be competitive, but also to be able to grow together. In other words, youth is essential.

But that can also look different.

Seven seasons in the NBA does not make a player “young,” but considering that Utah Jazz power forward Lauri Markkanen is only 27 years old, it could well be that way.

The 7-foot-4 Makkanen, a native of Finland, spent last offseason fulfilling his military obligations. He is certainly in a unique position. He is big enough to move up front, quick enough to do so, but also athletic enough to aggressively protect the basket when needed.

Utah – which signed John Collins – didn't necessarily choose to use Markkanen as a traditional center because that's not his level, but it wasn't necessary. Despite dealing with an injury that limited him to just 55 appearances, Markkanen remained on par with his stats from last year, averaging 23.2 points and 8.2 rebounds on 48 percent shooting from the field and just under 40 percent from 3-point range.

The veteran posted the second-highest numbers of his career and was arguably not selected as an All-Star for the second year in a row, so his talent isn't exactly hidden. The Jazz weren't an impressive unit overall last season, putting Markkanen in the difficult position of admitting he's incapable of leading a team to the postseason as the No. 1 seed.

But that's not necessarily a bad thing. Markkanen has developed into the player he was at the start of his career since coming to Utah, and his backup is a dour, 6-foot-1 Collins. If he went to San Antonio, things would be very different.

November 4, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert (27) is defended by Utah Jazz forwards John Collins (20) and Lauri Markkanen (23) in the first quarter at Target Center.

November 4, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert (27) is defended by Utah Jazz forward John Collins (20) and forward Lauri Markkanen (23) during the first quarter at Target Center. / Matt Blewett-USA TODAY Sports

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Markkanen would complete the 2.13m tandem with Wembanyama and provide an explosive attack. He brings an impressive mix of youth and experience. The Finnish striker is only just hitting his best, so Spurs would benefit immediately, but would also gain a player who could grows along with his teammates as he develops.

And if Spurs wanted to see something else: He has a strong defensive mindset.

“It helps that we're playing solid basketball,” Markkanen said when asked about his ability to play at an All-NBA level. “It starts with the defensive end, and when we get stops, we can focus on getting in transition and getting easy balls. When the defense breaks down, it opens up opportunities for others.”

The Jazz forward has been compared to Dirk Nowitzki, which is a huge compliment, and he has certainly shown glimpses of a top-notch performance, meaning the Spurs would likely have to spend a lot of money on him if they want him for next season.

Markkanen only has one year left on his contract before he becomes an unrestricted free agent, so the Jazz would either wait to trade and negotiate an extension or want to get as much out of him as possible rather than let him go. For now, here's what they can expect:

Fake trade between Spurs and Jazz

SAS welcomes: Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn

UTA receives: Keldon Johnson, Malaki Branham, Sandro Mamukelashvili, 2024 first-round pick (via TOR), 2026 first-round pick, 2025 second-round pick in exchange

With Markkanen and Johnson, both teams would gain a valuable player, as both are relatively young but promising players. Additionally, the Jazz would get the Spurs' second lottery pick two spots higher – although they could ask for the fourth pick if they wanted. This could be seen as a worthwhile deal, but the question is whether either team would bite.

READ MORE: Keldon Johnson wants to stay in San Antonio

Utah has a much bigger reason to reject any deals involving Markkanen unless it senses growing interest from the forward in leaving. But even in a world where the Jazz would say yes, would the Spurs give up a player like Johnson or several core players for him?

The short answer is: it depends. Brian Wright and Peter J. Holt clearly have visions of a competitive team around Wembanyama. Markkanen would certainly be a strong tandem with the Frenchman and if the Spurs also get a point guard – whether in the lottery or elsewhere – San Antonio is suddenly a target.

That hasn't happened yet. There is no deal in the works for Markkanen (or any other veteran) and it looks like the Spurs are taking a patient approach. But two lottery picks aren't something to overlook either. Markkanen is more than worth one of those picks.

If Spurs are indeed interested in signing another 7'4″ player, there is arguably no-one better than the Finnish striker. He would spread the field, play well in defence and add to an already large squad.

The only question that remains now is how much they would be willing to give up in a possible deal.

It could be a lot or very little.

After all, “superpowers” ​​are difficult to measure.

Anna Harden

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