Finally there was movement. The Utah Jazz made a trade.
No, it wasn’t the one that we’ve all been waiting on and it wasn’t something that at first glance moves the needle significantly, but on closer inspection, this move looks to be the precursor of many more things to come.
On Wednesday night the Jazz finalized a deal to send Patrick Beverley to the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for Talen Horton-Tucker and Stanley Johnson.
Beverley’s tenure in Utah didn’t last long enough for him to even don a Jazz jersey. But if I’m being honest, that’s what I expected when the veteran guard was added to the Jazz roster in the deal that sent Rudy Gobert to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Jazz seem to moving in the direction of a rebuild, so they aren’t trying to stock up on veteran players who want to win now. Beverley, who turned 34 last month, has been openly lobbying to play on a contending team and especially in L.A., even tweeting about a Lakers vs. Clippers matchup when it was reported earlier this month that the Clippers would open the regular season against their L.A. rivals.
From the Jazz’s perspective, they send Beverley somewhere that he’ll be happy and they take on a couple of younger players that could turn into legitimate role players in the future.
Horton-Tucker is a 21-year-old shooting guard who was underdeveloped and utilized incorrectly in Los Angeles while being overvalued. A lot of that was just due to who the Lakers had on their roster, but the bottom line is that the Lakers mismanaged what they had with Horton-Tucker and made bad decisions at every step with him.
Johnson, 26, was drafted No. 8 overall in 2015 and hasn’t really lived up to his lottery billing. But — and this is a big “but” — Johnson has proven to be an above average defender, especially on-ball, on the perimeter, and has really started to look like someone who should be considered for real NBA bench minutes.
So, the Jazz traded away a player whose age doesn’t really fit with their timeline for a young guard who could flourish in a new system and a defensive forward who looks like he’s just about to enter his prime.
From the Lakers’ perspective, as they try to get back to winning while they have LeBron James locked in for two more years, they shed a player who wasn’t a good fit and one of their more fringe players to get Beverley, who brings a defensive, win-now, energetic attitude that they were severely lacking.
Now, what could this move be foreshadowing?
First of all, the Lakers have been looking for a way to get off Westbrook’s contract and they’ve had some suitors sniffing around, with Indiana looking like the most realistic trade partner. While there are many that have believed Westbrook is definitely on the trade block, there are just as many who have wondered if Westbrook would still be on the Lakers roster when the season starts.
Beverley makes things interesting because Westbrook and Beverley do not like each other. I don’t say that in a funny, ha-ha, fake way that other NBA players have had beef. This isn’t like Gobert and Hassan Whiteside who trash talked each other a few times and had some social media sparring only to then brush it all aside and become teammates. Westbrook and Beverley publicly, brashly, truly do not like one another. At all.
So for those who thought there was a chance Westbrook would be on this Lakers team when the 2022-23 season starts, adding Beverley to the roster has really made them believe that Westbrook is all but out the door.
For those who were hoping that the Jazz were just going to retool and continue to try to be a contender, the team just traded away a player who is more of a win-now guy, and brought in younger players who look like longer term investments and do not address the fact that the Jazz are still lacking two starters after trading Royce O’Neale and Gobert.
This move looks like it’s the first big domino to fall for the Jazz’s rebuilding plan. They’ve already sent away Gobert and O’Neale. Now that Beverley is gone, it feels a lot like the Donovan Mitchell trade is bound to be around the corner.