The Los Angeles Lakers have no shortage of talent. Aside from LeBron James and Anthony Davis, they have also plugged in two of the best bench players from last season: 2019-20 Sixth Man of the Year winner Montrezl Harrell and the voting runner-up, Dennis Schroder. Heck, the fifth leading scorer is Kyle Kuzma, who is able to chip in 20-plus points anytime and be a starter for other teams.
All that has translated well in the standings and the stat sheet, as the Lakers have a league-leading 11-4 record (7-0 on the road) and a top-rated defense.
Included in the team’s embarrassment of riches is second-year guard Talen Horton-Tucker. The 20-year-old rode the bench for much of his rookie year, but generated buzz during the recent preseason thanks to a string of solid performances. He notably averaged 20.5 points and 2.2 steals per game on 54.5% shooting in the four exhibition games, highlighted by posting 33 points and four steals against a healthy and available LA Clippers.
It’s great and all, but it also puts a lot of interested eyeballs on the youngster, which will very likely add pressure to the Lakers front office. According to Heavy.com, multiple teams have made their future chase be known now.
League sources told Heavy.com that Horton-Tucker can expect “multiple teams” to have an interest in pursuing him this summer. That would put pressure on the Lakers to match some offers that could, potentially, be very hefty. The Knicks, Cavaliers and Mavericks were listed as teams with potential interest.
Of course, the Lakers are well-aware of the promise and deserved hype, and they’re also letting opposing teams know that they’ll look to keep him. James himself admitted that he’s been admiring Horton-Tucker since the kid was a high-schooler.
“The way the rules are, I don’t see the Lakers letting him go,” one general manager told Heavy.com. “But teams can make this a more difficult decision for the Lakers than they’d like. Teams that have a lot of cap space and are looking to gamble on a young guy, why not put your money into him? The upside is obvious.”
The good news for the Lakers is that they are at an advantage in the potential tug-of-war. There’s a free agency rule that allows a free agent’s previous team to offer more money, which, in THT’s case, is starting at around $10.5 million, roughly $1.5 million more than the average amount that others can give.
Will the Lakers really keep THT at all costs?
Given that he’s only 20 years old, he’s a very intriguing prospect. He’s a guard with a 7’1 wingspan that can attack downhill and play the passing lanes well. That’s a lot of tools to pass on.
However, it’s tough to tell for now if he’s exactly developing in a pace that they wanted him to, or at least in a way that will give them confidence to throw in the said type of money. In 15.6 minutes per game this season, he’s tallying a modest 6 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 2 assists on 42.3% shooting – in per 36 minutes computations, that converts to 15.8, 5.3, and 4.6, respectively.
That’s on top of playing limited action alongside two ball-dominant stars, of course, but overall, we’ll probably need to wait and see his progression as the season rolls along.
To keep stirring the THT pot, I’ll leave with some conspiracy theory by Kendrick Perkins:
Maybe that’s why he’s getting fewer minutes than expected?
The Lakers take on the Bucks next at 8:00 AM on Friday, January 21.