The Utah Jazz started Talen Horton-Tucker against the LA Clippers, but why?
The Utah Jazz have seemingly thrown everyone for a loop when the rumored lineup of Jordan Clarkson, Walker Kessler, Lauri Markkanen, and John Collins, playing around Collin Sexton or Kris Dunn was upended for Talen Horton-Tucker replacing Clarkson and Sexton starting next to Horton-Tucker.
Why? Spoiler, we don’t know. It was one of the more perplexing calls and a decision that honestly doesn’t make a lot of sense. Unless, of course, the idea is to make Horton-Tucker look as good as possible for a future trade. But if that’s not the reason, there’s no reasonable one that makes sense.
Horton-Tucker shot just 42% from the floor, 29% from three, and 75% from the free-throw line, while also finishing 15th on the team in BPM with a -1.6. Before being discontinued, his RAPTOR wasn’t great either, finishing the 2022-2023 season with just a -1.1 grade on offense and a -0.1 grade on defense.
Horton-Tucker is terrible on offense, and this isn’t new, he’s been bad on offense for his entire career. In his four years in the league, he’s never finished with a positive note on RAPTOR, or via his OBPM. His defense, is not much better, outside of his first six games in the league, he’s had a negative DBPM for his career.
And if the argument was; “Oh, he’s playing because of his size/passing/defense”, one would argue; is he? Yes, he’s 6’4, but Kris Dunn is 6’3, so height has nothing to do with it.
If it’s his passing, Horton-Tucker averaged just under four assists a game, with nearly two turnovers to match. Dunn had 5.6 assists per game to only 1.6 turnovers. So Horton-Tucker isn’t starting due to his passing.
If it’s the defense, again, Dunn was first on the team in DBPM, just ahead of Walker Kessler and Jarred Vanderbilt, two defensive-minded players. Horton-Tucker? 14th. Dunn had a BPM of +1.7, while Horton Tucker had a BPM of -0.5. A difference of 2.2 is a pretty massive difference.
If you want a more offensive-minded player, Clarkson and Sexton make so much more sense. If you want a more defensive-minded option, Dunn makes more sense. And while Horton-Tucker is a better defensive option over Sexton and Clarkson by a mile, his defense isn’t so good that putting him in the starting lineup makes you better without Sexton and or Clarkson.
So why is Horton-Tucker starting against the Clippers and probably for at least the foreseeable future? Who knows, because it makes no sense.