Winners and Losers from Lakers-Jazz Patrick Beverley Trade
The chaos of the first few days of the NBA's 2022 free-agency period made the following weeks feel like a marathon.
Kevin Durant's trade request (that he eventually rescinded) gave us some stuff to talk about for a few weeks, but the rumor mill has largely been dry since about the second week of July.
Then, out of nowhere, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski dropped one of his bombs on Wednesday night.
Shortly thereafter, The Athletic and Stadium's Shams Charania confirmed the news, and the takes began to flow all over Twitter.
Patrick Beverley is headed to the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for Stanley Johnson and 21-year-old Talen Horton-Tucker, and the biggest winners and losers from the deal are below.
Winner (and Kind of a Loser): The Lakers
It's hard to imagine THT helping the 2022-23 Lakers as much as Patrick Beverley will. A head-to-head comparison of each player's 2021-22 numbers, per 75 possessions, backs that up.
- Beverley: 12.9 points, 6.5 assists, 5.8 rebounds, 2.0 threes, 1.6 steals, 1.3 blocks, 53.9 true shooting percentage, 34.3 three-point percentage
- Horton-Tucker: 14.2 points, 3.8 assists, 4.6 rebounds, 1.2 threes, 1.4 steals, 0.7 blocks, 50.3 true shooting percentage, 26.9 three-point percentage
And beyond Beverley's edge in the basic numbers above, he'll just fit better alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
Throughout much of his career, he's played alongside ball-dominant stars like James Harden, Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Edwards. At each spot, he's been more than content to space the floor, hit catch-and-shoot three-point attempts and empty his individual gas tank on the defensive end every night.
And that kind of player is an ideal complement to LeBron and his point-forward game.
Having him on an expiring contract is a bonus, too, since THT had a player option for 2023-24. L.A. will now have a little extra flexibility next summer.
The only reason to hedge the take here is the route the Lakers traveled to land Beverley.
If Rob Pelinka could, as Cher said, turn back time, he surely would. Alex Caruso is nearly six years younger than Beverley. He was a fan favorite. And he already won a title with LeBron.
But a win-now move that cost the Lakers Horton-Tucker might actually be a sign of progress for the front office. Investing in him over Caruso may have been a mistake, but moving on shows that Pelinka isn't a casualty of the sunk-cost fallacy.
Beverley is more likely to help L.A. get back on track this season, and the short-term upgrade is likely worth the cost.
Loser: Russell Westbrook
There are different ways to frame the impact of this trade on Russell Westbrook.
For example, if Russ somehow survives the offseason and remains a Laker, he now has a backcourt mate who'll take the more difficult defensive assignments without demanding many touches on the other end.
Another perspective is that Westbrook may want out of L.A., and adding a smaller guard could signify that we're closer to seeing that happen.
But the one we'll settle into here is that this move does indeed forecast more potential trades. And the path it could put Westbrook on will only damage his legacy in the long run, even if it's mostly set.
When Russ and his longtime agent, Thad Foucher, parted ways last month, Foucher said, "Now, with a possibility of a fourth trade in four years, the marketplace is telling the Lakers they must add additional value with Russell in any trade scenario."
"And even then, such a trade may require Russell to immediately move on from the new team via buyout," he added. "My belief is that this type of transaction only serves to diminish Russell's value and his best option is to stay with the Lakers..."
It's easy to see where Foucher is coming from.
Westbrook's only way off one of the most storied franchises in sports could be alongside sweeteners for his new team, one which will immediately cut him.
At that point, what contender will be in the market to add him?
Sure, that could mean he plays 2022-23 on a veteran minimum deal. Any bona fide contender will be willing to pay that, but would any of them want to pay the real tax that comes in the form of Westbrook's usage and jump shot?
Perhaps, in the end, Russ will wind up in a better situation, but he could be in for some turbulence along the way.
Winner: The Jazz
The Jazz are working on one of the quickest and most efficient reboots we've ever seen.
They already secured four first-round picks and 21-year-old Walker Kessler for Rudy Gobert. And now, one of the veterans who came back from the Minnesota Timberwolves has been re-routed for another 21-year-old prospect.
The Athletic's Tony Jones reported that Utah liked THT "quite a bit" before he was drafted, and now it'll get a chance to develop him well before his prime.
If the summer yields several more picks and a promising player or two from the Knicks in exchange for Donovan Mitchell, the Jazz' summer should almost certainly get an A.
There's value in sticking it out and betting on continuity, but a full-fledged rebuild was a reasonable alternative. With a few weeks to go before training camp, it's clear which path the Jazz chose, and they're walking it boldly.
Loser: Any Jazz Fans Still Resisting the Rebuild
The company line in the immediate aftermath of the Gobert trade was that Utah was "retooling" around Mitchell.
Sure, Gobert was clearly the catalyst of the team's success during the Mitchell era. However, the Jazz wanted everyone to believe that Mitchell, a few holdovers and the incoming veterans from Minnesota were enough to keep the team competitive.
Anyone who's followed this team for the last couple of years had to have taken those overtures with piles of salt, though.
Mitchell has all but publicly broadcast his desire to get out of Utah as far back as early 2020. The Jazz starting to flip some of their other veterans should make it borderline impossible for fans to ignore the signs now.
Whether it's this summer or within the next couple of years, Mitchell will almost certainly wind up somewhere else. For the fans' sake, the front office should just rip the band-aid off now.
Winner: Talen Horton-Tucker (and to an Extent, Stanley Johnson)
You could certainly argue that THT is a loser here.
In theory, a team led by LeBron and AD is a title contender. At the very least, it's closer to contention than whatever will be left of Utah's roster on opening night.
Leaving the big city and a franchise as famous as L.A.'s could be a bummer for plenty of NBA players, but Horton-Tucker now has a significant opportunity to shine.
Assuming Mitchell's gone, THT could log 30-35 minutes a night and take 15-16 shots per game. There's a real chance he's on his way to on-court reps as the No. 1 option for an NBA team.
That kind of sink-or-swim opportunity has doomed some players in the past, but after three years of limited minutes in L.A., Horton-Tucker should welcome this new challenge.
If his well-rounded production proves scalable, a big year in Utah could earn him a lot of money going forward.
Andy Bailey @AndrewDBailey
Talen Horton-Tucker has played 2,896 MIN and averaged 15.2 PTS, 4.6 REB, 4.3 AST, 1.6 STL and 1.1 3P per 75 possessions.<br><br>The only players in NBA history to match or exceed all six of those marks through their age-21 season: Gilbert Arenas, LaMelo Ball (so far) and LeBron James <a href="https://t.co/NaSScf1IqY">pic.twitter.com/NaSScf1IqY</a>
Of course, Horton-Tucker isn't headed to Utah alone, either. Stanley Johnson, a 26-year-old wing who's shown hints of potential in L.A., will get a new lease on his NBA life, too.
It's a lot tougher to imagine him as a long-term staple on the new-look Jazz, but he could at least have the time and responsibility necessary to prove himself to future suitors.
Solid numbers for the rebuilding Jazz could earn Johnson another contract after this one expires in 2023.
Winner: Everyone Else Waiting for Trades
Within minutes of the Beverley news breaking, "Hield" was trending on Twitter. It's easy to see why L.A. would now throw its "Russ and picks" package at the Indiana Pacers for Buddy Hield and Myles Turner.
Getting that next piece of the Lakers' offseason saga over with would be a relief, and maybe this Beverley trade (or the Durant non-trade) is just the dam-breaker we needed to create some movement on that front and others.
Now that Utah's obviously in sell mode, is the Donovan Mitchell trade next? Who else might join the running for that Westbrook package?
There aren't many questions left to answer about this offseason, and with each one that drops, news on the others feels more likely.