A year ago, the Los Angeles Lakers prioritized re-signing Talen Horton-Tucker over Alex Caruso. The Lakers’ front office made a gamble on the former’s upside over the latter’s solid contributions in a move that was highly criticized from the moment that it was made.
Horton-Tucker had promising stretches, but there was hardly enough evidence that he would turn out to be any better than the fan favorite Caruso. He was given ample opportunity to prove himself this past season as he was given 25.2 minutes a night over his 60 appearances.
The result was an uninspiring 10 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game where the third-year guard hardly looked like the future star that Los Angeles and its fanbase perceived him to be.
A little over a year after they chose Horton-Tucker over Caruso, the Lakers have effectively cut their losses by dealing him away to the Utah Jazz for veteran guard Patrick Beverley. Los Angeles’ forward Stanley Johnson was included in the trade as well to match the salaries for both sides.
The 34-year-old Beverley remains a solid contributor, particularly on the defensive end of the floor. He averaged 9.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, 4.6 assists, and 1.2 steals per game last season with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Furthermore, he emerged as a vocal leader for Minnesota. His strong presence and ability to motivate is something that the Lakers, as seen in their many lethargic outings last year, will need from him to help hold them accountable in this upcoming campaign.
However, Beverley represents a meager return for general manager Rob Pelinka compared with what he could have gotten for Horton-Tucker a year ago. Requests for Horton Tucker’s inclusion in several deals turned out to be a sticking point for Los Angeles and hindered them from making any significant improvements to their roster during the season.
There is still a strong chance that the 21-year-old Horton-Tucker turns into the player that the Lakers thought he might become, especially if Utah trades away Donovan Mitchell and puts the former second round pick in the spotlight. Los Angeles has no room for patience though as their need to win now in the twilight of LeBron James’ career takes priority over everything else.
Beverley’s arrival can also be taken as a hint that a deal sending Russell Westbrook away is imminent. They have a colorful history that dates back to the 2013 NBA playoffs almost a decade ago and it is difficult to imagine these two strong personalities, whose animosity for one another seems to have never faded, coexisting in a locker room of a team that has ambitions of a title run.
Westbrook has been recently linked with the Indiana Pacers and it will be interesting to see if the Lakers can end up trading him for Buddy Hield, Myles Turner, or, optimistically, both.
Los Angeles still has a long way to go before they can be considered legitimate title contenders, yet this is a move in the right direction that helps them address their immediate need for better perimeter defense.
While it would not have hurt to wait a year or two more to see how Horton-Tucker would have developed under normal circumstances, this unique situation calls for all attention to shift to the present. After all, when a team is privileged enough to have the newly extended James on its roster, the future can certainly wait.