The Talen Horton-Tucker paradox the Utah Jazz must deal with

The situation with Taylon Horton-Tucker is a mess. How did we get here, and what can the Jazz do from this point?

Utah Jazz v Sacramento Kings
Utah Jazz v Sacramento Kings / Lachlan Cunningham/GettyImages

In Tim Burton's Coraline, the titular Coraline finds herself in an alternate dimension where her world becomes about not what is but what could be. In the "other world", though it may seem that anything is possible, Coraline finds herself trapped. Despite whatever endless possibilities once appeared, she kept finding herself right back where she started. Though all may seem to be the same, her situation grows worse as the other world's potential shrinks by the day.

Talen Horton-Tucker has found himself in a parallel situation in Salt Lake City, where the time is running out on his potential to improve, and now he and his team alike feel trapped. Unable to progress and unable to escape, Utah's relationship with the player they obtained from Los Angeles is feeling uneasier by the day.

The marriage between Talen Horton-Tucker and the Utah Jazz has been turbulent this season. Horton-Tucker is still a young player who has had his moments since the dawn of his NBA career, but his minutes have been steadily dropping as this season progresses. With his inexpensive contract and young age, you might think that a tanking team like Utah would be happy to let him make mistakes on the floor. But now, Horto-Tucker is playing in his 5th season and is still prone to poor decision-making and even worse shooting percentages. The former Laker is now finding his playing time drop to under 10 minutes if he's even featured at all.

So where does Utah go from here? From my perspective, I can see a few different directions the Jazz can take from this junction.

Talen Horton-Tucker
Horton-Tucker leads a fast break against the Celtics / Maddie Meyer/GettyImages

Option 1: Let nature take its course

In the NBA, like in nature, it's the strong who survive. At times, a player's success can be dependent on the circumstances surrounding their formative years in the NBA. I often shudder at the thought of what would happen if he didn't end up on a Warriors team that believed in him despite the ankle injuries.

Of course, Horton-Tucker is not Stephen Curry. Having now played for two teams that believed in his potential, he still has yet to show significant growth. Horton-Tucker's contract expires at the end of this season, and he'll be an unrestricted free agent. If Utah wants to keep him around, they'll make an offer. But a deteriorating role on this team despite his young age suggests that Horton-Tucker likely won't be in Utah's future plans. They can let him walk at the end of the season--no problem.

Talen Horton-Tucker
Talen Horton-Tucker in a game against the Golden State Warriors / Alex Goodlett/GettyImages

Option 2: Retain the asset

Utah made it clear in this past deadline that they weren't in any hurry to improve this team at the expense of asset accumulation. By trading players for draft capital, Utah made a statement to the league: we aren't winning any time soon. While Horton-Tucker doesn't have much value for the Jazz now, he could be valuable to someone in the future.

As Horton-Tucker's contract expires this offseason, Utah could elect to offer him an affordable contract extension with the hope that he can become a productive player and draw some interest from other teams on the trade market. At this point, I honestly believe Danny Ainge would give Horton-Tucker up for a 2nd round pick.

Sometimes, simply having the player on your roster increases the potential for future trade value.

Eric Gordon, Talen Horton-Tucker
Horton-Tucker drives against the Suns / Alex Goodlett/GettyImages

Option 3: Abort the mission

This one is the simplest option, but also the most drastic and therefore least likely. In this scenario, Utah just concedes that the Horton Tucker experience isn't worth further exploration and they pull the plug. If they waived Horton-Tucker, Utah would lose him for nothing. No return, nothing back from the time invested, but they would also be able to fill that spot with a player who could be worth the investment. I'd be interested to see how Utah's player development programs could improve players like Aleksej Pokusevski or Killian Hayes, young players who have disappointed so far but could improve if given more patience and opportunity. but I know that the Jazz found Kris Dunn out of nowhere.

As I mentioned earlier, though, Utah is all about gathering assets to use in future deals. Young players, draft picks, and expiring contracts are what the Jazz are looking for, so just cutting Horton Tucker would be a short-sighted decision for a team still figuring out how the pieces fit together. I don't think Horton-Tucker will be with the Jazz for the long haul, but he could still provide some value off the court.

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