On Wednesday night, the Utah Jazz and the Los Angeles Lakers agreed to a deal in principle, a deal that should be consummated on Thursday, barring any medical snags, according to league sources. The Jazz will send veteran guard Patrick Beverley to the Lakers in return for guard Talen Horton-Tucker and small forward Stanley Johnson, pending physicals.
The proverbial elephant in the room, a potential Donovan Mitchell trade, still very much looms over the Jazz and whatever their immediate future holds as a roster.
Utah and the New York Knicks have had ongoing discussions, but those talks have not yielded progress to the point of a trade being imminent. As those talks have lingered, the Jazz have begun fielding offers from other teams, league sources say The Athletic. As of Thursday morning, the Jazz have multiple offers on the table for Mitchell from teams other than the Knicks that they consider intriguing and worth pursuing, according to sources. They are offers, sources say, that the Jazz feel are worth pursuing, should talks between Utah and the Knicks stall.
Mitchell has not asked for a trade from the Jazz, according to sources. But, if he were to be traded, sources say, his preferred destination would be one of three places: the Knicks, the Brooklyn Nets, or the Miami Heat. Mitchell can’t be traded to the Nets as long as Ben Simmons is on the roster, which makes that destination unlikely, and now even more unlikely with Kevin Durant staying put. The Heat simply don’t have the assets that the Jazz are looking for, which makes that destination unlikely. The Knicks have the assets that the Jazz seek, which has made them a natural potential trade partner.
But, as of Thursday morning, the two sides aren’t close to a deal, according to sources.
The Jazz, sources say, remain steadfast on what they want in return if they were to trade Mitchell. They want a bushel of unprotected first-round picks. They want young players on manageable contracts that come with a significant amount of team control.
Trading Beverley, one of a number of veterans that are currently on the roster, for Horton-Tucker and Johnson, sends a clear signal that the Jazz are going young this upcoming season. But, the Jazz, sources say, are comfortable with going into the season with Mitchell on the roster, no matter who else is on the roster around him. If they are persuaded to trade Mitchell, they are committed to the lofty price they have set for themselves. If that price isn’t met, they are good with keeping him on the roster once training camp opens and into the season.
Why the hard line for Mitchell from the Jazz?
This is the simple part: They know Mitchell is one of the most dynamic offensive players in the league. They know that finding someone who can score 25 points a night, to go along with five assists and five rebounds is not easy. Mitchell will turn 26 years old in September but has not reached the prime of his career. They know that they received enough assets in trading Rudy Gobert to the Minnesota Timberwolves — four first-round picks with three completely unprotected — that they are in a position to retool around Mitchell on the fly. And maybe most importantly, Mitchell has three years remaining on his current deal. So, settling for a trade that they deem to be 90 cents on the dollar or lower, is something that the Jazz are determined not to do.
The Jazz traded Beverley to the Lakers because he doesn’t fit Utah’s timeline, at 34 years old. Utah’s previous front office regime, led by Dennis Lindsey, liked Horton-Tucker quite a bit in the predraft process when he was coming out of Iowa State. That regime included Justin Zanik, Utah’s current general manager.
It is unknown what role Horton-Tucker would play with the Jazz, because there are still so many moving parts to this roster. As of Thursday morning, Utah’s backcourt includes Mike Conley, Jordan Clarkson, Mitchell, Malik Beasley, Jared Butler, Leandro Bolmaro and Nickeil Alexander-Walker. So, as of now, it’s impossible to project what kind of minutes or role Horton-Tucker would play.
But he is still young at 21 years old. He’s skilled with the basketball. He’s athletic and crafty and has the mindset of a natural scorer. At the same time, he hasn’t been a natural ball mover. He has a long way to go defensively, and his jumper needs significant growth. He has a year remaining on his current contract, with a player option representing a second season. So, this year would very much be a let’s see if this marriage can work season for the Jazz and Horton-Tucker.
Johnson is a former lottery pick who has not played to that level in the NBA. But he is a decent wing defender. He’s a good athlete and he plays with a toughness that the Jazz roster didn’t play with last season.
(Photo: Melissa Majchrzak / NBAE via Getty Images)