Talen Horton-Tucker

Northwest Notes: Lillard, Hagans, Jazz, Snyder

Damian Lillard is staying focused on business as he waits to learn where he’ll be reporting to training camp in six weeks, writes Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. It’s been nearly two months since Lillard asked the Trail Blazers for a trade, preferably to Miami, but the market has remained quiet throughout the summer.

“Mentally, I’m strong,” Lillard said Friday at his Formula Zero elite basketball camp in Phoenix. “I think the last year and some change in my life overall, it’s not even just sports, it’s been a tough time, but right now, I’m in a strong place. Anytime I can come be in this environment. Like I said, it’s a lot of my loved ones that are here doing what we do at this camp, pouring into people, that brings me joy. That’s something that lifts me up so to be here is helpful.”

Lillard is coming off his best statistical year, averaging 32.2 PPG in 58 games before being shut down late in the season. He’s devoted much of the summer to traveling and family time, but he’s also preparing to help the Blazers, Heat or any other team he winds up with.

“I’ve had a great summer of training,” Lillard said. “I do a lot of things now to pour into myself and lift myself up and it’s been really helpful. So I would say I’m in a very strong place. My process has been the same going into the season that it’s been any other time except I’m just getting better as a man. I think that really helps me as far as my career goes. Anytime I can be improving myself as a man, it’s going to be positive for me.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Ashton Hagansagreement with the Trail Blazers will be an Exhibit 10 deal, tweets Chris Haynes of TNT and Bleacher Report. Haynes reported on Friday that the 24-year-old point guard is expected to join Portland for training camp.
  • The Jazz may not have a set rotation at point guard until well into the season, suggests Sarah Todd of The Deseret News. Kris Dunn, Collin Sexton, Talen Horton-Tucker and Keyonte George will all compete for time at the position, and Jordan Clarkson and Ochai Agbaji may run the offense occasionally as well. Todd suggests that Dunn may be the favorite to start if he plays as well as he did last season, but the trade market could factor into playing time decisions.
  • In a separate story, Todd looks at highlights of the Jazz schedule, including Hawks head coach Quin Snyder returning to Utah for the first time on March 15.

Jazz Notes: Point Guard, Streaming, Fontecchio

While most of the Jazz‘s starting five is known, there’s still a bit of mystery surrounding who will take the reins of the starting point spot. Tony Jones of The Athletic breaks down five options Utah has at the spot, including Kris Dunn, Talen Horton-Tucker, Jordan Clarkson (if he doesn’t start at shooting guard), Collin Sexton and Keyonte George.

There are pros and cons to every option. Horton-Tucker offers the physicality and athletic tools that Lauri Markkanen, Walker Kessler and John Collins do, but he’s still raw at playing the point. Clarkson allows Utah to play with its lineup options but gives the team just one ball-handler in its starting lineup and affects their point-of-attack defense. Jones believes that Dunn’s ability to defend and willingness to defer make him the most natural option to start at point guard.

I recommend reading the piece in full, as Jones provides in-depth insight for each option. Regardless of who ends up taking over the 2023/24 starting spot, Jones says that George could very well be the starting point guard of the future.

There’s more Utah:

  • The Jazz announced they have partnered with technology company Kiswe to begin a streaming service that will be available to fans as soon as this upcoming season, Sarah Todd of The Deseret News reports. According to Todd, the price point and release date will be revealed in late September, right around when the product goes on sale. This is the latest in a flurry of moves by Jazz owner Ryan Smith in making games more accessible to fans. For example, the team announced in June that Smith Entertainment Group, the parent company of the Jazz, was partnering with KJZZ to bring games to television again.
  • Jazz forward Simone Fontecchio is suiting up for Italy in the 2023 FIBA World Cup. Italy has gotten off to a hot start in their prep games, with Fontecchio scoring 17 points against Greece. In a recent interview with Eurohoops, Fontecchio spoke about his team’s current success. “We want to do our best and play well,” Fontecchio said, “You need to be lucky, to arrive in the perfect condition and play one game at a time. We have a good group.
  • In case you missed it, the Jazz are projected to have the third-most cap space in the 2024 offseason, with Spotrac contributor Keith Smith projecting Utah to have $41.6MM in space, behind the Spurs and Magic.

Jazz Guard Horton-Tucker Opts In For Next Season

Jazz guard Talen Horton-Tucker is opting into his contract for next season, Brian Windhorst of ESPN tweets. Horton-Tucker’s player option will pay him a salary of $11,020,000 in 2023/24.

There’s been a lot of speculation whether the 22-year-old guard would exercise the option or test the free agent market and seek at least the non-taxpayer mid-level exception. He ultimately chose to take the guaranteed money and put off free agency for another year.

Horton-Tucker, who spent his first three seasons with the Lakers, averaged 10.7 points, 3.8 assists and 3.2 rebounds in 65 games (20 starts) last season in Utah.

He’s a subpar perimeter shooter (28% on 3-point attempts in his career), which may have held down his value if he had opted out. He’ll attempt to continue building his value in advance of unrestricted free agency in 2024.

Horton-Tucker slots in as a second-unit player, though that could change depending on how the offseason shakes out. Jordan Clarkson holds a $14.26MM option on his contract.

Clarkson and Horton-Tucker are two of four Jazz veterans who entered the offseason facing player option decisions, as our tracker shows. Rudy Gay and Damian Jones both picked up their options, though Gay is being traded to Atlanta as part of his opt-in.

Northwest Notes: Jazz, Prince, Malone, Murray

Four player option decisions will help shape the Jazz roster for next season, writes Trent Wood of The Deseret News. Jordan Clarkson, Rudy Gay, Talen Horton-Tucker and Damian Jones all have to determine soon if they will accept their salaries for 2023/24 or test the free agent market.

Jones is first in line, with a June 23 deadline to decide on his $2.6MM option. The 27-year-old center signed with the Lakers last summer and came to Utah in a three-team trade in February. He saw steady playing time as a back-up center with the Jazz, averaging 4.6 points and 3.5 rebounds in 19 games.

The other three players have until June 29, and Wood sees Gay as the most likely to opt in as the 36-year-old almost certainly won’t top his $6.5MM salary in free agency. The others face tougher decisions, especially if Utah takes a guard in the draft, Wood adds. Horton-Tucker had an up-and-down season, and the team may not try to re-sign him if he opts out. Clarkson is a fan favorite and just put together one of his best NBA seasons, but he may not be in the long-term plans if the Jazz decide to rebuild, according to Wood.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Timberwolves could look to trade Taurean Prince to help ease their salary crunch or possibly to acquire another ball-handler, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic states in a mailbag column. Prince has a $7.5MM salary for next season that becomes guaranteed on June 28.
  • Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe profiles the journey of Nuggets coach Michael Malone from being fired in Sacramento to building an NBA champion in Denver. The son of former NBA coach Brendan Malone spent 20 years in the league before winning his first title. “To get to this point, to win a championship is just, as you reflect upon all the people who helped you get here,” Malone said. “This is like a many, many years-long process, and you don’t do it by yourself.”
  • The Nuggets were thrilled to celebrate with their fans at Thursday’s victory parade as most of the players are first-time champions, per Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Jamal Murray was focused on enjoying the experience rather than recording it for posterity. “The best part of the day was just being present,” he said. “It wasn’t about taking videos. It was just about being in the moment, appreciating the fans. … They give me energy, they give me life during the game, so I can only thank them so much.”

And-Ones: Coach Contracts, Options, Star Trades, Glickman

Monty Williams‘ record-setting six-year, $78.5MM contract with the Pistons will have a major impact on some of the league’s top coaches, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN said on NBA Countdown (YouTube link).

It’s going to significantly impact the head coaching landscape for high-level coaches, including (the Heat‘s) Erik Spoelstra and (the Warriors‘) Steve Kerr,” said Wojnarowski (hat tip to RealGM). “Both of those coaches have one year left, next season, on their deals. Both, I’m told, in the $8 million annual range right now. Both coaches, when you talk to owners and executives around the league, if they were on the open market might be able to get what (Denver Broncos coach) Sean Payton got: in the neighborhood of $20 million per year.

It’s hard to imagine Erik Spoelstra leaving a Miami organization where he started 28 years ago as a video intern, where he’s spent 15 years as a head coach with two championships.

Steve Kerr is going to be a different situation. His president/GM Bob Myers announced last week that he’s leaving. This is an aging roster. The worldview for Steve Kerr may look different. Watch his negotiations this summer on an extension.

One other coach who is going to benefit from Monty Williams changing the pay structure of NBA head coach is Clippers coach Tyronn Lue.”

Here’s more from around the basketball world:

  • Which players are likely to exercise their player options? Which teams will exercise their options on players’ contracts? Which players on partially guaranteed and non-guaranteed contracts will be waived before free agency? John Hollinger of The Athletic predicts all of those decisions. The former Grizzlies executive believes Jazz guard Talen Horton-Tucker ($11MM) will decline his option and test free agency, writing that his age (22) could help him get a new contract for the full mid-level exception or better. According to Hollinger, the Lakers will likely decline their $16.6MM team option on guard Malik Beasley, while the Magic will retain Gary Harris‘ $13MM deal, which is currently non-guaranteed (it will become guaranteed if he’s still on the roster July 1).
  • Mike Vorkunov, Fred Katz and James L. Edwards III of The Athletic draft the NBA teams they think have the top assets to offer in hypothetical trades for star players this offseason, with two caveats: The team’s best player cannot be included for the star, and the outgoing pieces will be both players and draft picks. The Thunder are selected No. 1 by Vorkunov, followed by the Magic at No. 2 (Katz), and surprisingly the Trail Blazers at No. 3 (Edwards).
  • Marshall Glickman, the acting CEO of the EuroLeague, announced he will step down from his post when his contract expires at the end of July, tweets Donatas Urbonas of BasketNews.com. As BasketNews relays, a previous report indicated that Glickman’s work relationship with EuroLeague president Dejan Bodiroga was strained, which made have contributed to the decision. Glickman has been acting CEO since last September.

Northwest Notes: Jazz Draft, THT, Iowa Wolves, Connelly

Armed with three first-round picks in 2023, CEO Danny Ainge says the the Jazz will have at least 10 members of the organization present at the NBA draft combine in a couple weeks, writes Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune.

Some. Yeah,” Ainge said when asked how much stock the team puts into the combine. “We’ll have 10 of us or more there anyway. We’ll spend a lot more time watching [the prospects] there collectively, with groups, and evaluating them. And we’ll have a lot of time at the combine and in draft workouts to get to know them up close and personal.”

The Jazz control their own first-rounder, currently projected to be No. 9 overall, though that draft slot could change when the lottery is conducted on May 16. They also control the Wolves’ (No. 16) and Sixers’ (No. 28) first-round picks from trades last summer. According to Walden, the team plans to bring in a horde of prospects to Utah for workouts, but it won’t be publicly disclosing those players “for competitive reasons.”

Here’s more from the Northwest:

  • Talen Horton-Tucker is a difficult player to evaluate and that was certainly true of his performance with the Jazz during the 2022/23 season, according to Sarah Todd of The Deseret News. Todd says she would be surprised if Horton-Tucker declines his $11MM player option for ’23/24 due to his inconsistency, but notes that he’s still only 22 years old despite the fact that he’s already played four seasons. Horton-Tucker will be extension-eligible if he picks up his option, but Todd thinks the Jazz should take a wait-and-see approach with the young guard next season.
  • The Timberwolves‘ G League affiliate, the Iowa Wolves, received a couple of NBAGL awards, per a press release. The franchise received the President’s Choice Award for demonstrating “excellence in business performance across key areas of focus.” The team set a franchise record for attendance in ’22/23. Iowa Wolves president Ryan Grant was also named G League Executive of the Year, as voted by his peers.
  • Tim Connelly is a Baltimore native and got his start with the Wizards, which is why speculation about him possibly re-joining the organization won’t go away. Still, Minnesota’s president of basketball operations plans to remain with the Timberwolves next season, he said in a radio interview with Chad Hartman of WCCO. “That’s certainly the plan,” Connelly said, per Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. “That’s why we came here, moved here. We had a lot of unfinished business. It’s been a really fun year, on and off the court, and we’re fully committed to being a Timberwolf.”

Jazz Notes: Markkanen, Olynyk, Sexton, THT

Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen recently sat down for an interview with Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. The Q&A session covered his self belief, his stints in Chicago and Cleveland, Utah’s future, and several other topics.

Markkanen, who plans to compete for Finland’s national team at the World Cup this summer, said he’d be thrilled if he’s named the NBA’s Most Improved Player in 2022/23, according to Scotto.

I think it would be great,” Markkanen said. “With the regular season about to end and I start hearing that stuff, it would be a pretty cool trophy to have at home. I take a lot of pride in the hard work and, like becoming an All-Star, knowing what I’ve gone through and being able to bounce back from that would mean a lot for me. Hopefully, I get it done. It would be pretty cool.”

Here’s more on the Jazz:

  • Veteran big man Kelly Olynyk acknowledges he heard the trade rumor of the Celtics being interested in his services. However, he says he’s happy with the Jazz and he has no plans to ask out in the offseason, he tells Steve Bulpett of Heavy.com. “I mean, I love Boston,” said Olynyk, who spent his first four seasons with the Celtics. “I grew up in Boston basically, coming out of college and starting my professional career. I have nothing but great things to say about the city, the organization, everybody involved. It feels like home every time I come back. When you see those kind of rumors, it brings up great memories. It’s a city that has unbelievable people, fans, culture, all that. So you always think, ‘What if? Maybe it could happen.’ But you obviously have to focus on the now and what you’re doing. I’m definitely not trying to get out of anywhere. This is a great situation to be a part of with this team, but your mind can’t help but wander for a second when you hear about things.”
  • Collin Sexton had a solid showing in his first game back from a nagging hamstring injury, recording 15 points and three assists in 16 minutes in the Jazz’s loss to the Lakers on Tuesday. “It feels like he is just all competitiveness. He gives our team such a lift energy-wise. It is infectious, contagious, however you want to describe it,” head coach Will Hardy said, per Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune. “The guys love how he plays. … It’s the same Collin that we all know, and it’s the same Collin that we’ve missed for the last 18 games. So it was great to see him out there.”
  • Sarah Todd of The Deseret News examines the pros and cons of Talen Horton-Tucker‘s game and wonders if he’ll be in the team’s long-term plans. Still just 22 years old, the fourth-year guard continues to show flashes of intrigue, but he’s also inconsistent and doesn’t shoot well from behind the arc (28.6% on threes). Todd thinks it’s very likely that Horton-Tucker will pick up his $11MM player option for 2023/24.

Jazz Notes: Sexton, Clarkson, Smith, Hardy, Horton-Tucker

Neither Collin Sexton nor Jordan Clarkson has been shut down for the season, according to Jazz coach Will Hardy, Andy Larsen of the Salt Lake Tribune tweets.

Both played in a 3-on-3 scrimmage after the team’s shootaround on Friday. Sexton hasn’t played in a game since Feb. 15 due to a hamstring strain, while Clarkson has been sidelined since March 5 due to a finger injury.

We have more from the Jazz:

  • Owner Ryan Smith — who also has part ownership in MLS franchise Real Salt Lake — met with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman following an NBA Board of Governors meeting in New York, Walden relays via a report from Elliotte Friedman of Canada’s Sportsnet. Smith had been rumored as a potential purchaser of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ franchise when it was up for sale in 2021. Smith may look to bring an NHL franchise to Utah, though a new arena might be necessary. The NHL is unlikely to expand in the near future but the relocation of a current franchise in financial distress could be a possibility.
  • The team got a glimpse of what its future could be when it squared off on Friday against the Celtics, where Hardy was an assistant last season, Tony Jones of The Athletic writes. Hardy said the Jazz can carry lessons from how Boston has reemerged as one of the NBA’s elite teams. “Boston is hunting for a championship,” Hardy said. “They are a team that plays at a very high level on both ends of the floor. They are a team that’s very versatile. So, in that way, yeah, that’s the level that we want to be at. And that’s the level that we’re aiming for.”
  • Talen Horton-Tucker, who can become a free agent this summer if he declines an $11MM option, had mixed results in Boston after his 41-point explosion against San Antonio on Wednesday, Jones notes in the same story. He had impressive stats with 28 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. However, he also made four turnovers and took 21 shots in 31 minutes, with his shot selection questionable at times.

Northwest Notes: Thunder, Dort, Russell, Horton-Tucker

Following Wednesday’s win over Detroit, Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault was asked by Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman how important it is to the team to make the play-in. Daigneault’s response didn’t exactly make it sound as if Oklahoma City is going all-out to secure a top-10 spot in the Western Conference.

“I think if it is an outcome that’s downstream of our process and the way that we’re trying to do things, it would be great, because it would be a marker along the way,” Daigneault said, per Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman (Twitter links). “Not so important that it’s gonna distract us from our way of doing things. We need to bet on that day over day over day. We’ve done that for two or three years. That’s what’s put us in a position to compete for the play-in, so for us to abandon that at this point would be hasty.”

The Thunder were projected to finish at or near the bottom of the NBA standings coming into training camp, especially given that No. 2 overall pick Chet Holmgren had been sidelined with a season-ending injury. As a result, player development rather than short-term success has been the primary goal in OKC this year

Daigneault’s comments suggest player development is still the top priority, but some of the Thunder’s young players – including breakout rookie Jalen Williams – have been so good that the club may still find itself in a play-in game. With five contests left in their season, the Thunder hold the No. 10 seed in the West and hold a one-game lead over the 11th-place Mavericks.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Within a profile on Luguentz Dort, who is in the first season of a five-year contract with Oklahoma City, Jason Quick of The Athletic notes that the Thunder forward drew high praise from Damian Lillard. The Trail Blazers star referred to Dort as the NBA’s best defender. “I think he has the perfect balance of strength, quickness, speed and desire to do it,” Lillard said. “And he’s young. So I just think he is the best at it.” Thunder All-Star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander also raved about his teammate, telling Quick that “every team needs a Lu Dort.”
  • As his Lakers prepare for a big game in Minnesota on Friday night, point guard D’Angelo Russell had nothing but praise for his former team and his former city, as Chris Hine of The Star Tribune details. Russell was traded from the Timberwolves to L.A. at last month’s deadline. “Fans here were amazing. I have nothing bad to say about Minnesota,” Russell said. “If you’re not here or you haven’t lived here or anything like that, then you’re not aware of how good of a city (Minneapolis) is and a sports town, how committed fans are to their sports, things like that. So the city has a lot to offer. They treated me with great respect.”
  • Talen Horton-Tucker is still learning the ropes at point guard for the Jazz, but he has shown some “undeniable talent” in the process, including on Wednesday when he scored 41 points in 30 minutes in San Antonio, writes Tony Jones of The Athletic. “There aren’t that many pure point guards left in the league,” head coach Will Hardy said of Horton-Tucker, who holds an $11MM player option for 2023/24. “Talen is dynamic. He knows how to run pick and roll. He has to know how to react when teams play him differently. He has to know to get off the ball when teams give him a lot of attention. But he’s very talented.”

Jazz Notes: Markkanen, Clarkson, THT

First-time All-Star Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen is thinking beyond the Most Improved Player award, for which he is a clear frontrunner, writes Nick Friedell of ESPN.

Per Friedell, Markkanen’s main priority this year is helping Utah qualify for the play-in tournament. At 33-35, the Jazz currently occupy the Western Conference’s tenth seed.

“I talked about the responsibility, and I’m enjoying the challenge, and if those individual goals happen, if we keep winning games and I keep doing my thing [that would be ideal],” Markkanen said. “I go every single day to keep working, and I hope that happens, but we’ll see. Just try to get these wins together and keep going from there, but obviously it would be a cool trophy to have at home, but that’s not the main goal right now.”

There’s more out of Utah:

  • Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson sat out Saturday’s game against the Hornets with a right thumb sprain, per Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune (Twitter link). It marked his fifth absence in Utah’s past six games.
  • The Jazz still aren’t sure whether or not Talen Horton-Tucker is a point guard, but when he has games like he did on Saturday – when he scored 37 points, dished out 10 assists, and pulled down eight boards in leading Utah to victory over Charlotte – his designation doesn’t much matter, writes Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune. As Walden notes, Horton-Tucker may be finding his niche as a play-maker during what has been an uneven first season with the Jazz. “I am incredibly hard on Talen, I have been all season; he knows that that is because I believe in him, in his talent, his ability,” first-year Jazz head coach Will Hardy said. “He’s still young — he just turned 22 — and he has some real physical gifts that were on display tonight.”
  • The recent performances of a revitalized Horton-Tucker could help set him up nicely for the rest of his NBA career, Sarah Todd of The Deseret News opines. Horton-Tucker has an $11MM player option for 2023/24, and is still hoping to prove his value beyond the end of his current deal.