Among the many players that the Lakers nosed around on last NBA season as they sought a roster upgrade—offering a package of Kendrick Nunn and Talen Horton-Tucker.—was Raptors guard Gary Trent Jr., who is the kind of young two-way wing the team was sorely lacking last season.
As Michael Scotto of HoopsHype noted, “The Lakers had called and poked around on him last year when they were dangling their Kendrick Nunn, Talen Horton-Tucker and a first-round pick package throughout the league.”
Needless to say, the conversation did not get very far. Trent averaged a career-best 18.3 points last season, making 41.4% of his shots, mostly from the 3-point line, where he knocked down 38.3%. At 23 years old, Trent is showing he has a bright future.
Question is, can the Lakers make another run at him? Would the Nunn-THT-pick package have any more chance of working?
One Eastern Conference executive weighed in: “The pick is the key thing, if the Raptors think that pick is going to be valuable, and it might very well be, then it makes some sense. Horton-Tucker and Nunn, you assume he is going to play again and be a pretty good bargain. The Raptors like Horton-Tucker, remember they wanted him in the Kyle Lowry deal that fell through with the Lakers. It is hard to say what kind of future Trent is going to have there, if they’ll pay him. So if they can get assets back now, it is something to explore.”
Trent’s Contract Could Make Him Available
Still, it is a longshot, mostly because if the Raptors do put Trent on the market, there will be other teams who can likely come in with more impressive offers. He is a player who has increased his scoring average each year in the league, and while he is mostly a shooter on the offensive end, he is a good defensive player, too.
He had 237 total deflections last year, which ranked fifth in the NBA.
As Scotto referenced, though, Trent has a player option for 2023-24 at $18.5 million. If he keeps building on how he played last year, he could possibly do better on the free-agent market next summer. Blake Murphy of the Raptors’ radio station (590 in Toronto) said it was sure that Trent would opt out, which would give Toronto more incentive to consider offers for him.
“I think he’ll opt out, and you’re talking $20 million as a starting number for him as long as he has another solid season,” Murphy said.
Horton-Tucker’s Trade Value Uncertain
For the Lakers, the matter of Horton-Tucker’s value remains a mystery. There are teams that like him. There are teams who feel he was overhyped because of the Lakers media machine and that he is only a so-so prospect at this point.
Horton-Tucker, despite showing flashes of being a big-time scorer, is inconsistent and has not learned to fill a role well—he excels when he is running things. Last year, he had averages of just 10.0 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.7 assists in 25.2 minutes per game.
One Western Conference coach told Heavy.com, “I think, with Talen, obviously he did not get to where everyone wanted him to be that quickly. But he is 21 years old. He is playing for the Lakers and development is not the biggest thing there. Every season he has been in the league, there has been COVID and the bubble and something that has gotten in the way of him making steps. But I think most of us would take him on our team in a minute. He is big (6-foot-4) and long, he can handle the ball, he can initiate the offense, he will be a good defender even if he is not there yet. He has value.”