For the first time in almost 10 years, the Utah Jazz are spearheading a massive roster, culture, and organization change. Call it a rebuild, call it a tank, call it whatever you want.
But with less than a month until the start of training camp, Utah has finally completed the long awaited trades of both Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell. With the final pages closing on arguably the second-most successful era in Jazz history, we are now entering a period filled with more questions than answers.
Many of those questions center around the young talent Utah received from their block-buster trades. Who will lead this next era of basketball? Do the Jazz have any organizational cornerstones on the roster? Or are they only fillers until they land a yet-to-be-named draft prospect?
Amongst those new players stands Talen Horton-Tucker. Coming to the Salt Lake Valley from Utah’s deal involving Patrick Beverley and the Los Angeles Lakers, Horton-Tucker is a bit of a basketball enigma. Having played under the bright lights of an LA roster that featured the greatest player in this generation’s history, Horton-Tucker’s career experienced quite the pendulum effect. Coming out of college, Horton-Tucker’s length, ball-in-hand capabilities, and defensive potential excited many scouts. Combined with the extreme levels of national media that come with playing in LA, Horton-Tucker grew significant expectations.
But at 22 years old and entering his fourth season in the NBA, Horton-Tucker has yet to fulfill the excitement he’s garnered. Whether you believe that excitement was justified or not (I tend to believe that he was the victim of NBA talent pump-and-dump), Horton-Tucker still holds the tools that made him an intriguing prospect in 2019. So, why don’t we take a balanced look at what Talen Horton-Tucker can really do for the Utah Jazz?
In my eyes, THT’s potential to turn into a defensive stopper is the key to his NBA success. Standing at 6’4” with a massive 7’1” wingspan, Horton-Tucker has the perfect physical tools to wreak havoc on the perimeter. While not the most explosive athlete, THT has quick enough foot speed to stay in front of most savvy ball handlers. His length gives him a considerable advantage over many guards in the league and allows him to contest shots and clog up passing lanes well. It even gives him the capability to do things like this:
These kinds of plays are exciting. The ability to reach in and pick someone’s pocket at mid-court isn’t afforded to everyone. On top of that, THT’s length allows him to recover well when he gambles, like on this block, here:
Like I mentioned earlier, his length gives him a sizable advantage over smaller guards. He can trail a ball handler and effectively block shots from behind, something the Jazz have sorely missed.
According to Bball-Index.com, THT is classified as a “wing stopper,” but we should recognize that his advanced statistics aren’t incredible. His D-LEBRON doesn’t jump off the page at -0.09, he only ranks in the 27th percentile as an isolation defender, and he comes in at the 60th percentile as a pick-and-roll defender. Those aren’t fantastic. With that said, I still think THT has strong potential as a defender. His physical tools and ability to force turnovers shouldn’t go unrecognized, especially since a new change of scenery might offer an opportunity for better development.
Here, things become really interesting with THT. Last season, Horton-Tucker posted moderate averages 10 points and 2.6 assists on 46.2/26.9/80.0 percent shooting splits.
Last year, THT’s role generally consisted of him playing off ball, something he proved his ineffectiveness at. His lack of shooting, both from midrange and three, hurt him significantly and nullified any of his positive offensive attributes. Yet when THT had the ball in his hands, things didn’t look much better.
According to Bball-Index.com, THT slotted in the 12th percentile as an isolation scorer, something that doesn’t bode well for his success. To make matters worse, when playing as a pick-and-roll ball handler, Horton-Tucker only scored 0.9 points per possession and his O-LEBRON fell at an ugly -1.06, placing him in the bottom third of the league.
In his fairness, I don’t think his role with the Lakers was conducive to his success. He just isn’t a good shooter and expecting him to succeed at doing so was setting him up for failure. Nonetheless, for THT to have any success with the Jazz, he must improve this aspect of his game. Even if he can become an average shooter, his ability to create off the dribble will become significantly easier. As it stands, most teams in the league are happy with ignoring him on the perimeter.
But next season, Talen Horton-Tucker should have every opportunity in the world to prove that he’s a valuable role player. At only 22 years old, I still believe that THT has the capability to grow into a player that positively impacts winning. But his time do so is slimming and watching his development will stand as a point of interest next year.