UTAH JAZZ

Horton-Tucker Trade Made Jazz Younger, But Are They Talented?

Aug 25, 2022, 4:20 PM
Utah-Jazz-Talen-Horton-Tucker-Trade...
Utah Jazz recent trade acquisition Talen Horton-Tucker (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz completed their trade for Talen Horton-Tucker and Stanley Johnson Thursday, sending veteran Patrick Beverley to the Los Angeles Lakers in return.

With the trade, the Jazz roster got considerably younger, flipping the 34-year-old Beverley for the 21-year-old Horton-Tucker.

Horton-Tucker’s youth has been a common talking point for the guard entering his fourth season. The Iowa State prospect was the youngest player in the 2019 NBA Draft, is the second-youngest player ever to win an NBA title, and despite his now-veteran status, is still the third youngest player on the Jazz roster.

With the youth movement in full force, look at the eight players on the Jazz roster who are under the age of 24, and whether any of them can be viewed as long term pieces through the rebuild after the Horton-Tucker trade.

Nickeil Alexander-Walker – 23

Nickeil Alexander-Walker barely fits into the under-24 qualification as he will hit that milestone in September just before the 2022-23 season begins.

Entering his fourth year, Alexander-Walker has career averages of 9.3 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 2.2 assists, but struggled to find the floor behind a deep Jazz backcourt last season.

The Jazz backcourt is still loaded as long as Mike Conley, Jordan Clarkson, and Donovan Mitchell are on the roster, but that’s far from a certainty by opening night.

After he was acquired by the Jazz, the belief was that Alexander-Walker was going to find his way into the Jazz rotation. However, the lanky guard appeared in only 15 games, averaging fewer than 10 minutes per appearance, and saw the floor just once in the playoffs.

Alexander-Walker’s best season in the NBA came during his sophomore year when he averaged 11.0 points per game on 41 percent shooting from the field and 34 percent from the field.

Unfortunately, the guard’s number declined across the board last year, and there are more questions than answers about his future with the Jazz.

Jarred Vanderbilt – 23

Jarred Vanderbilt was one of three players under the age of 24 acquired in the Rudy Gobert trade and is by far the most proven of the bunch.

Vanderbilt is entering his fifth season in the NBA, and was a mainstay in the Minnesota Timberwolves rotation over each of the last two years.

The forward’s offensive game is solely reliant on hustle plays near the rim, and he has no perimeter game to speak of, but he’s an above-average rebounder for his size and has strong defensive versatility.

Vanderbilt signed a three-year contract extension in 2021 and has two years remaining on his deal. Considering his proven talent and the Jazz lack of depth at his position, the Kentucky prospect is one of the more intriguing youngsters on the team’s roster.

Udoka Azubuike – 22

One of the few first-round draft picks on this list, Udoka Azubuike has struggled to find the floor in Utah due to injury and depth at the center position.

The big man was selected by the Jazz with the 27th pick of the 2020 draft despite the team having Gobert on the roster and signing Derrick Favors later that summer.

To make life more difficult for the center, he’s suffered two serious ankle injuries in each of his first two seasons with the Jazz which limited to just 32 appearances in his career.

Surprisingly, Azubike is the only center currently on the roster who has appeared in an actual NBA game, so he may be the front runner to start on opening night. But due to his difficulties staying on the floor, it’s hard to count on him being a long-term part of the roster.

Jared Butler – 22

Jared Butler likely has the best college resume of any player under 24 on the Jazz roster, having won a title at Baylor while being named the NCAA Tournament Most Oustanding Player.

However, he struggled to find the floor as a rookie buried behind the Jazz talented guard rotation and averaged just 3.8 points, 1.5 assists, and 1.1 rebounds in 42 appearances last season.

Butler was tasked with playing point guard during summer league and showed mixed results but will get more playing time this season with the Jazz if Mitchell, Conley, or Clarkson are moved.

His play at Baylor is a reason for intrigue, but Butler will have to show significant development during the regular season if he hopes to sign a second contract with the Jazz next summer.

Leandro Bolmaro – 21

Like Vanderbilt, Leandro Bolmaro landed in Utah in the Gobert trade with a chance to prove he belongs on a rebuilding roster.

Unlike Vanderbilt, however, is his underdeveloped resume as he hopes to crack the Jazz rotation.

Bolmaro was selected with the 23rd overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft by the Timberwolves but remained in Spain for one season before joining the Minnesota roster.

The majority of Bolmaro’sopportunity as a rookie came in November and December when he made 21 appearances, including two starts, but averaged just 1.2 points, 1.6 rebounds, and 0.5 assists in 8.4 minutes per game.

The Argentine forward had stretches of brilliance at the Las Vegas Summer League but had just as many stretches where he struggled badly.  If Bolmaro can find consistency in his game, he has the talent to be the best player in this under-24 group, if he can’t, his NBA career will be short-lived.

Talen Horton-Tucker – 21

As mentioned, Talen Horton-Tucker’s age is almost shocking considering he’s entering his fourth year in the NBA. And the fact that he’s been a mainstay in the Lakers rotation each of the last two seasons is a promising sign of his potential.

But, there is a lot left to prove.

The newest Jazzman has a unique ability to finish near the rim on layups, but his ballhandling skills are only so-so, and his career 27 percent three-point success rate leaves a lot to be desired.

Again, at just 21 there is a lot of time for Horton-Tucker to develop offensively, and he was a stellar defender at Iowa State, but that hasn’t translated seamlessly to the NBA.

Horton-Tucker will get a much bigger opportunity to show off his skills after his trade to the Jazz, but his future is far from certain.

Johnny Juzang – 21

Johnny Juzang has perhaps the most difficult future to project among Jazz players under the age of 24 due solely to his contractual status as a two-way player.

That alone will likely limit his opportunity on the floor compared to players with more solidified spots on the roster.

To his credit, Juzang had some strong showings at the Las Vegas Summer League where he flashed his ability to get hot from the three-point line, but overall, his performance was a mixed bag.

If the Jazz were more confident in his ability to perform on the roster he would have signed a guaranteed contract right out of college, but for now, he’s got a ways to go to prove he belongs.

Walker Kessler – 21

The youngest piece acquired in the Gobert trade, Walker Kessler was on the move to Utah before he even stepped on an NBA court.

Like any late first-round pick, the odds aren’t in Kessler’s favor to develop into a high-level rotation player, but his sophomore season at Auburn was something to behold.

Kessler averaged 11.4 points, 8.4 rebounds, and a staggering 4.6 blocks while shooting 60 percent from the floor in just 25 minutes per game for the Tigers.

At 7-foot-1, Kessler has legit NBA size for a center to go along with a 9-foot-5 standing reach, which he used to earn Defensive Player of the Year in his final year of college.

With the lack of depth at center, Kessler should get ample opportunity to prove himself, but whether his traditional style of play will fit in the modern NBA game is a mystery.

There’s a lot to like with Kessler, but plenty of unknowns remain.

Ultimately, the Horton-Tucker trade marks  a transition to a younger roster that will serve two purposes. First, it will allow them to lose games to improve their draft odds to find the next premiere talent to build around.

Second, it allows them to test out some of the existing young players on the roster to see who might be worth investing in the long term.

For now, the Jazz have the youth, but they’ve yet to prove they have the talent worth building around.

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