The Los Angeles Lakers are high on Talen Horton-Tucker, but some believe the franchise could sacrifice their future for a potential “win-now” deal. Horton-Tucker is a restricted free agent this offseason giving the Lakers an opportunity to match any offer the swingman receives. The promising free agent will have no shortage of suitors, and The Athletic’s John Hollinger suggests the Lakers could explore a sign-and-trade instead of bringing back Horton-Tucker.
“Because Horton-Tucker was a rookie on a two-year deal, he is subject to the so-called ‘Gilbert Arenas’ rule — teams can only offer him the full MLE for the first two years of an offer sheet, which should be about $10 million a year,” Hollinger explained. “However, it can rise all the way up to the max in years 3 and 4; this has actually happened, with Miami matching a Brooklyn offer sheet on Tyler Johnson for the entire Arenas-rule max in 2016.
“Forking out that much for Horton-Tucker would likely be regrettable, but he’d be a good get at more reasonable price points. Given L.A.’s other constraints and the Lakers’ current timeline, it wouldn’t be shocking to see him as part of a sign-and-trade that brings back another win-now piece.”
Horton-Tucker averaged nine points, 2.8 assists, 2.6 rebounds and a steal in 20.1 minutes per game this season. At just 20 years old, there are plenty of reasons to think Horton-Tucker’s game can make a significant jump in the years to come.
Horton-Tucker Could Command $12 Million Annually: Report
According to Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer, Horton-Tucker and Alex Caruso could both command sizable deals averaging $12 million annually. The Lakers have Caruso’s bird rights which combined with Horton-Tucker’s restricted status give the L.A. front office ultimate control.
“Alex Caruso will also become an unrestricted free agent this summer,” Fischer reported on May 31. “League executives polled by B/R suggested the point guard could command upwards of $12 million in average annual value, a similar number that restricted free agent Talen Horton-Tucker may also command for an offer sheet. Although there is a sense among Lakers officials that Caruso has relished supporting James and has an interest in staying in Los Angeles to compete alongside the four-time MVP.”
We know the Lakers highly value Horton-Tucker as the Raptors’ insistence on his inclusion at the trade deadline prevented a deal for Kyle Lowry. The challenge for the Lakers is they face significant obstacles to making major moves this offseason, aside from re-signing key free agents. The Lakers could opt to make more drastic changes than expected given the team’s first-round exit in the postseason.
The Lakers Could Explore a Sign-and-Trade Deal for a Team THT Targets
Despite the team’s affinity for Horton-Tucker, the Lakers could get creative as Hollinger suggests by landing a veteran in a sign-and-trade. Horton-Tucker plans to lean on his agent, Klutch Sports’ Rich Paul, to make his free agency decision.
“I want to let my representation handle that,” Horton-Tucker said, per Silver Screen and Roll’s Harrison Faigen. “I feel like they’ll steer me in the right direction.”
ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported in March that Horton-Tucker could command a deal in the four-year, $60 million range. A backloaded contract would cause the Lakers to have a difficult decision on whether to match the offer.
“In this case, a team that wants to maximize pressure on the Lakers could offer Horton-Tucker a deal in the range of four years and $60 million — with the last two years coming in at $19.7 million and $20.7 million, respectively,” Windhorst explained on March 1.