Despite being lauded as one of the biggest steals in the second round of the NBA Draft, nobody really knows just how good Talen Horton-Tucker can actually be. Not turning 19 until November 25th and possessing some of the most unique physical gifts in the league, Horton-Tucker is undoubtedly an intriguing prospect yet has some fundamental flaws that caused him to slip deep into the second round.
One of the Lakers’ biggest question marks heading into training camp, let’s take a look at what makes Talen Horton-Tucker such a mystery.
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Talen Horton-Tucker Offers Lakers a Training Camp Mystery
At 6’4″ and 235 pounds with a 7’1″ wingspan, Horton-Tucker has the physical frame to step in and bully opposing guards from day one. With good defensive instincts and a strong knowledge of how to use his strength to his advantage, Horton-Tucker has the makings of a versatile, multi-position defender in the NBA. While likely a bit too small to consistently guard opposing power forwards and centers, he has the size and strength to handle his own should he find himself switched onto a bigger man.
Offensively, he flashed excellent skills finishing around the basket at Iowa State and while he lacks traditional blow-by speed, he has a crafty arsenal of moves at his disposal that he uses to create open looks for himself. While his playmaking skills are still a bit raw, that’s to be expected of an 18-year-old. More importantly, Horton-Tucker shows at least a willingness to pass the ball and while his assist numbers at Iowa State weren’t eye-popping, they should trend upwards when surrounded with NBA-caliber scorers.
While Horton-Tucker’s weight has its advantages, his size also offers a wide range of question marks. Horton-Tucker wasn’t necessarily an elite athlete at Iowa State and his size raises conditioning concerns at the NBA level as well. Nearly as heavy as LeBron James despite being four inches shorter, Horton-Tucker is dragging a lot of man up and down the court. He could struggle a bit with quicker defenders at the NBA level, though his strength and improving defensive IQ should help to offset the lack of explosive speed as time goes on.
Arguably the biggest knock on Horton-Tucker is his inability to consistently shoot the basketball. While he is adept at creating his own looks from range, he hit just a shave over 30% from deep – which played a large factor in his overall field goal percentage coming in at a sub-par 40.6%.
Horton-Tucker was also a bit ball-dominant at Iowa and took his fair share of shots, something that he likely won’t be entrusted to do any time soon at the NBA level. Expected to serve more in an off-ball role, we also don’t have much of a sample size to go off of in terms of how he performs in that sort of role.
While Horton-Tucker likely won’t be asked to step into a regular role with the NBA squad this season, expect him to see a heavy dose of minutes with the South Bay squad. Still so young and raw, Horton-Tucker needs time to properly develop and while unlikely to ever break out as a superstar, has the potential to one day become a hugely impactful complementary piece.