Ah, remember the good old days for the Lakers? It was November 14 and the team was finally breaking through its injury logjam, one of the worst in the NBA, ready to welcome back wing Talen Horton-Tucker for the first time this season. Horton-Tucker had thumb surgery in the preseason, and the Lakers tossed him right into the starting five.
The results: 17 points, 7-for-14 shooting, four rebounds and a win.
Horton-Tucker scored 53 points over his next two games. And then—well, and then things took a bad turn. Since those first three games in which Tucker averaged 23.3 points, he has fallen off a proverbial cliff. He had 70 points in those three outings and has scored a total of 47 points in his next eight games, an average of just 5.9 per game.
His shooting has been abysmal, making just 29.7% from the field in that span and 10.5% from the 3-point line. His confidence appears to be shot, which, for a team struggling with offensive consistency, is just something that cannot be afforded.
AD on Horton-Tucker: ‘He’s Going to Find His Way’
But, according to Lakers big man Anthony Davis, the team still has the young guy’s back. THT just turned 21, on November 25, and is still making adjustments. As Davis pointed out, it is no surprise that he came out on a scoring run, having had more than a month of pent-up energy. He needs time, though.
Here’s what Davis said after the Lakers lost to the Clippers on Friday night:
Talen, he’s been struggling a little bit right now, but he’s going to find his way. He’s still doing things that helps us that don’t show up on the stat sheet. He had a matchup tonight, guarding Paul George some of the possessions. He’s going to have to be able to the little things until he is able to find a rhythm on the offensive end. That’ll come with time.
We’ve kind of been telling him, your first game, you come back with a lot of energy. But you haven’t played in two months. So, it’s going to take time for you to get back into a rhythm, game shape and all that stuff. So, we’re just staying positive with him. But the lineup looked good and we’ll just see how we move forward.
Is THT More Valuable as Trade Bait?
In the bigger picture, though, this remains a concern with Horton-Tucker. While the Lakers are a veteran-laced team designed to win a championship here in the short term, Horton-Tucker is a young guy in need of developmental time. Considering that star LeBron James is 36 and turns 37 this month, the Lakers don’t have a lot of time to wait on his development.
When it comes to the trade market, THT is really the only valuable chip the team has to cash in. If the Lakers were interested in altering the roster in any significant way, Horton-Tucker is the only player other teams really covet.
The Lakers love having his young legs around, especially on a team with 10 players in their 30s. But for a roster badly in need of consistency, is it worth it for the Lakers to wait on THT’s development?