The Los Angeles Lakers had a horrid 2021-22 season. They missed the playoffs after having the second-best preseason odds to win the title and the team was booed at home games multiple times for displaying atrocious basketball.
Russell Westbrook was the poster boy for the Lakers’ disastrous season since he was the highest-paid player on the team and the franchise’s major acquisition last summer. The one-time MVP was second in the NBA in turnovers and finished the year with a brutal plus-minus of -211.
According to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, the Lakers and Westbrook have mutual interest in parting ways this offseason. Most experts expect Los Angeles general manager Rob Pelinka to move on from Russ.
However, Robbie Stratakos of Sportscasting believes the Lakers should also part ways with small forward Talen Horton-Tucker.
“It doesn’t make sense for the Lakers to have Horton-Tucker on a $10 million average annual salary if he’s not going to produce at a considerable and effective level,” Stratakos wrote. “All that said, the Lakers should be able to get teams to inquire about a trade for the young wing. Why? Horton-Tucker has exhibited an ability to score off the dribble, create his own shot, and is still 21. Maybe another team can tap into his potential? LA should be able to get a young player on a rookie deal and a second-rounder or perhaps a future first-rounder on its own for Horton-Tucker.”
Horton-Tucker was one of the many players who struggled for the Lakers this season. He appeared in 60 games and averaged just 10.0 points while shooting 41.6% from the field and 26.9% from beyond the arc.
Lakers’ Investment in Horton-Tucker Didn’t Pay Off
The Lakers signed Horton-Tucker to a three-year, $30.9 million contract in August 2021. They valued him so much that they decided not to include the Chicago native in a deal that would have landed them Kyle Lowry from Toronto at the 2021 trade deadline.
That wound up being a massive mistake by the Lakers, who lost in the first round of the 2021 playoffs and missed the postseason altogether this season. Horton-Tucker was a shell of himself in 2021-22, so much so that one Western Conference executive who spoke to Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report believes the Lakers will have zero luck in trading him.
“He may be great in four or five years, but he’s not right now,” a Western Conference executive told Pincus. “If we trade for him and he blows up, he’ll just opt out and hit free agency in 2023. We’d have no control over his contract.”
According to Fischer, the Lakers, Toronto Raptors and New York Knicks discussed a three-team trade that would have sent Cam Reddish and Alec Burks to Los Angeles, Horton-Tucker and Nerlens Noel to Toronto and Goran Dragic plus the Raptors’ 2022 first-round pick to New York at the 2022 trade deadline. However, the deal fell through.
The Lakers may try to trade Horton-Tucker again this summer, but Pelinka may not get much in return for the youngster.
Horton-Tucker Is Viewed by Other Teams as a Marginal Asset
In January, Pincus reported that Horton-Tucker is viewed by other teams as a “marginal asset.” The Lakers may be able to find a taker for the one-time champion, but they probably won’t get a substantial return.
“Now that the Lakers are looking to improve their roster ahead of the trade deadline, Horton-Tucker is viewed by other teams as a marginal asset,” Pincus wrote in January. “He’s still a developing prospect, but he’s about $7.7 million more expensive this season than his contemporaries. But the bigger issue for the Lakers, above his salary, is the 21-year-old guard’s player option before the 2023-24 season.”
The Orlando Magic drafted Horton-Tucker with the 46th overall pick in the 2019 draft. The Lakers saw enough in THT to buy him from the Magic for $2.2 million and a future second-round selection. However, Horton-Tucker took a major step back this season.