A certain Utah Jazz guard long-rumored to be traded is finally on the move.
Patrick Beverley will be missed.
While the Donovan Mitchell situation lingers on, the Jazz are at least turning one veteran disinclined to play for a young, rebuilding, and apparently tanking team into a young if imperfect prospect, agreeing to send Beverley to the Los Angeles Lakers for 21-year-old shooting guard Talen Horton-Tucker.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski was the first to report the trade Wednesday night.
The deal was formally announced Thursday and included veteran forward Stanley Johnson coming to the Jazz. No picks were included in the deal.
Beverley departs the Jazz without ever playing a single game for them, arriving this summer as part of Utah’s return haul from the Timberwolves in the Rudy Gobert trade.
The Jazz now take on “THT,” who enticed the team enough to give him a three-year deal worth approximately $30.78 million just last year, but who quickly fell out of favor with the LeBron James-led, veteran-oriented Lakers this past season, due to a campaign that saw him shoot just 41.6% from the floor and 26.9% on 3s, while generally failing to make progress in other key areas of his development.
Horton-Tucker was an intriguing prospect after playing a single season at Iowa State, and was the youngest player in the 2019 NBA draft. He is 6-foot-4, with a 7-1 wingspan, and was thought to have combo guard capabilities with the potential to become a force on the defensive end.
He was selected No. 46 overall, technically by the Orlando Magic, but in a prearranged deal with the Lakers, who were seeking to add some young, developmental-type prospects to their roster.
Because the Lakers were, as usual, in a tight situation up against the cap, they initially could only sign THT to a two-year deal. He barely played in his rookie season — appearing in just six NBA games. However, the progress he showed as a sophomore — averaging 9.0 points, 2.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.0 steals per game — put the Lakers in a tough spot, as they risked letting him leave for nothing after the season, as a former second-round pick.
Instead, they gambled on his continued development, with the idea that he might enter the 2021-22 season as their long-term starting shooting guard. It didn’t work out that way.
He did start 19 of the 60 games he appeared in, but the Lakers came to regret paying him at the expense of re-signing 3-and-D stalwart Alex Caruso, who instead joined the Bulls. Horton-Tucker, meanwhile, increasingly found himself supplanted in the rotation by the likes of low-cost free-agent signee Malik Monk, and even undrafted rookie Austin Reaves.
He did average 10.0 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 1.0 steals, last season, but suffered per-36 declines in each of those categories from the year before. That, in combination with his abysmal shooting, to say nothing of a general lack of impact on the defensive end, wound up making him expendable.
Heading into the coming training camp, Horton-Tucker found himself firmly behind the likes of Reaves, Russell Westbrook, Kendrick Nunn, Lonnie Walker, and perhaps even Troy Brown among L.A.’s guard and wing options.
Now, first-year Jazz coach Will Hardy will get at least one season to see what he can do with Horton-Tucker — the third season of the guard’s contract is a player option.
In the meantime, the Jazz never did get to see Beverley suit up for them.
While the 34-year-old defensive nuisance publicly expressed a willingness to report to Utah and play for the Jazz, he also made it clear that his preference was only to do so if the team retained Mitchell and remained committed to being a playoff-caliber squad competing for a championship.
The Jazz, clearly, are not on that trajectory at the moment.
And so, they did him a solid and sent him to a team desirous of his services — and one where he had expressed an interest in playing, as well.
During a brief stint as an analyst with ESPN earlier this year, while he was still under contract to the Wolves, Beverley said that if, theoretically, he was a free agent, he “wouldn’t even hesitate” to team up with James.
Then, when Shams Charania of The Athletic leaked the news that the first Lakers vs. Clippers game of the 2022-23 NBA season take place on Oct. 20, Beverley quote-tweeted it with a praying hands emoji.
He wound up getting his wish.
Meanwhile, if the 6-6 Johnson is indeed included in the deal, he could help balance out a roster that remains backcourt-heavy for now.
The former lottery pick was selected No. 8 overall by the Pistons out of Arizona in the 2015 draft, but never quite lived up to the hype.
Indeed, by this past season, he was barely hanging on in the league, signing a 10-day deal with Bulls as a COVID replacement player, then doing the same with the Lakers two weeks later.
However, his defensive toughness and versatility soon endeared him to the Lakers coaching staff, and after fulfilling three separate 10-day contracts with the team, he was signed for the remainder of the season — a deal that included a team option for 2022-23, which the Lakers picked up ahead of free agency.
He has not ever been much of a threat from the 3-point line — his 31.4% mark this past season actually represents an upgrade over his career figure — but he greatly improved his efficiency inside the arc with the Lakers, hitting 57.5% there as opposed to the 44.7% he’s had on two-point attempts for his career.
Johnson wound up averaging 6.7 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 1.7 assists in 22.8 minutes per game.
The 26-year-old is under contract for $2.35 million this season.