Last season, Talen Horton-Tucker appeared in just six games, four of which came in the NBA’s bubble restart in Orlando, after the Lakers had already sealed the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. He hit double figures in three of those four bubble games, averaging 8.5 points and shooting 48.3% from the field. Throughout last summer, word kept bubbling up from Lakers camp that Horton-Tucker was improving rapidly and was one of the most impressive Lakers in Florida.
On Friday, making his preseason debut, Tucker was not exactly efficient but showed why he has the potential to be a two-way threat—he scored 19 points on 6-for-17 shooting from the field, adding nine rebounds and three steals.
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Horton-Tucker made a prophet out of coach Frank Vogel, who had been saying there was a chance Horton-Tucker would be in the rotation.
“I would say he continues to impress,” Vogel said this week. “The young man has a great attitude, a great spirit, comes to work every day with humility. He just goes out there and kicks peoples’ butts, quite frankly. He’s a heckuva talent.
“He’s had a great two days here, I’m coaching him harder than a lot of the veterans because I think he’s got a chance to be really good for us immediately. I couldn’t be happier with the start that he’s off to.”
Talen Horton-Tucker Was a 2019 Second-Round Pick
The Lakers grabbed Horton-Tucker, who turned 20 last month, in the second round of the 2019 draft, selected with the 46th pick. The Lakers bought the pick from the Orlando Magic, who officially drafted THT. He signed a two-year minimum contract last season, and is slated to make $890,000 this season.
It was something of a surprise that Horton-Tucker was available for the Lakers because he was projected as a first-rounder. He left Iowa State after one season in which he averaged 11.8 points and 4.9 rebounds. He is known as a defensive stopper but needs to improve his 3-point shot to ensure he has a role—he made just 30.8% of his threes with the Cyclones.
That was the same last year with the Lakers when he made only four of his 13 3-point attempts. Oddly enough, it was also the percentage he made in 38 G-League games—72-for-234 on 3s, 30.8%.
Jared Dudley Sees Big Things for Talen Horton-Tucker
The perimeter shot might be the only thing holding Horton-Tucker back. If he gets that sorted out, he will have a role with this team.
Another guy who said he expects big things from Horton-Tucker is teammate Jared Dudley. As he said last month:
Talen will be huge. The rookie Talen will be huge. He’ll play next year. He was destroying in the bubble in practices, he has the energy, he provides something we don’t have. Look for Talen to play 15-20 minutes per game at spots. He might even get a couple of starts when (LeBron James) misses games. The coaching staff loves him, the players believe in him and he really has that ‘it’ factor you’re looking for.
It’s early, obviously. But for Horton-Tucker, so far, so good.