The Los Angeles Lakers are once again the hottest team in the NBA. They are the defending champions, the team is home to two of the current top five players in the world, and the city is the biggest basketball market in the league. It also helps that they reloaded well in the offseason.
Then, just two games into preseason, with LeBron James and Anthony Davis both out of the picture, second-year guard Talen Horton-Tucker came out of nowhere to grab the headlines. He immediately made his mark, averaging 25.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 3.5 steals per game in the pair of contests. In the latter game, he posted 33 points on 11-for-17 shooting, against a complete LA Clippers, no less.
Check out his hustle on Kawhi Leonard.
With fans, critics, and the media jumping into the bandwagon, retired NBA veteran and renowned elite defender in his heyday, Tony Allen, let it be known that he’s in the bunch. Unlike the majority, however, his appreciation has been there before.
“I saw him the G-League one day. I’mma give you a story. So, I’m in the G-league, and he’s killing. He had like 29 [points] at halftime … He looked at me and said ‘I don’t even belong out here.’ He told me that .. ‘I don’t belong on no G-League.’ He hit a three on the next play down and looked dead at me, and I said ‘This boy is real.”Tony Allen on Talen Horton-Tucker
Allen’s not the first to say that Horton-Tucker is for real, though. LeBron is an early fan as well, and reports even came out that the Laker superstar had been watching from afar since the 20-year-old’s high school days.
“I saw him about three and half, four years ago … I was watching a high school basketball game and I happened to catch Simeon High School playing. And I told our agent at the time — it’s now Talen’s agent, Rich Paul — that he needs to take a look at this kid Talen Horton-Tucker that’s at Simeon. I think the kid is super talented. This was like four years ago.”LeBron James talks about Talen Horton-Tucker
So, is THT really the real deal?
Of course, we have to first realize that he’s playing under a preseason setting, where urgency is low since nothing’s really at stake for most players, and the other competition is below par. We should know that such factors have driven his overall effectiveness.
The other side of it all, though, tells an exciting note, particularly for Laker fans. While it’s an exhibition game, seeing that type of emergence is still something. Countless bench warmers and virtual unknowns play in the preseason every year, so if it’s really THAT easy, why is it rare to see such a performance? Also, what THT did is what’s asked from players in his position, as they are in a tough climb in the depth chart. They need to be productive, play with decisiveness and energy, and use all the basketball IQ they have. He was put to the test and checked the necessary boxes.
The key now is consistency, which is where most surprising youngsters fall short on and fizzle out – it’s also tougher than usual since he’s on a stacked Lakers squad. The point guard position has LeBron James and Dennis Schroder, while the wing slots have Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma, Alex Caruso, and Wesley Matthews. Then, you also have to mesh well with bigs Anthony Davis, Montrezl Harrell, and Marc Gasol, who have varying styles.
Ultimately, THT’s major chance at earning spot in the rotation is being as effective while James and Davis are also in the fold. He’ll have plenty of chance in the coming week as the two superstars are finally expected to play.