Surprising Lakers Player Could Command Max Deal, Says NBA Exec: Report

Talen Horton-Tucker

Getty Talen Horton-Tucker is due for a massive raise.

The Los Angeles Lakers may be forced to pay more than the team would like to retain Talen Horton-Tucker. Bleacher Report’s Eric Pincus reported there are some NBA executives that believe Horton-Tucker will command a max deal in free agency.

“I’d max him out,” an Eastern Conference executive told Bleacher Report.

Horton-Tucker is a restricted free agent which means the Lakers will have an opportunity to match any offer the swingman receives this summer. What is the maximum Horton-Tucker could receive in free agency? It is complicated with the potential contract structure, but Horton-Tucker could land an $83 million deal.

“Horton-Tucker can earn up to roughly $83 million over the next four years, but only if a team has the cap room to give him an Arenas rule offer sheet as a restricted free agent,” Pincus added. “(The cited executive does not have the necessary cap space to make that max offer.)”

The Lakers Can Match Any Offer Horton-Tucker Receives

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported in March that Horton-Tucker could find something similar to a four-year, $60 million offer. Horton-Tucker’s free agency is complicated as teams could try to structure his contract in such a way that the Lakers would be faced a difficult decision.

“Horton-Tucker’s salary for next season can’t be higher than the full midlevel exception, which is that $9.5 million number,” Windhorst explained. “But opposing teams have the option of backloading a deal — known as a poison pill contract — to make it difficult for teams to match. Players like Jeremy Lin and Tyler Johnson have been included in such deals in the past.

“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.”

These are lucrative projections for a player who averaged nine points, 2.8 assists and 2.6 rebounds while averaging 20.1 minutes in 65 contests. Horton-Tucker has also not proven to be a long-range threat as the swingman is a career 28.5% three-point shooter. Despite the minimal track record, there appears to be no shortage of suitors for Horton-Tucker.

“He’s a gifted defender with great length and great upside who’s just 20 years old,” an NBA executive told Windhorst. “In this market, that’s exactly the type of player you want to chase. There could be a few teams who put them to the test and give [Horton-Tucker] an offer sheet thinking they could pry him away.”

Pelinka: ‘The Goal Is to Try to Keep That Core Group Together

Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer projects Horton-Tucker will earn $12 million annually this offseason. The challenge for the Lakers is the team has a number of additional key free agents including Dennis Schroder, Alex Caruso and Andre Drummond.

“Alex Caruso will also become an unrestricted free agent this summer,” Fischer explained. “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.”

All indications are the Lakers want to keep their core group together. Doing so will cost the Lakers a hefty luxury tax bill, and it will be interesting to see if there is any sticker shock given the team’s recent first-round exit with the same roster.

“So the goal is to try to keep that core group together and of course with players like Talen Horton-Tucker and Alex Caruso and Kyle Kuzma, players that you draft or bring into your two-way system and groom and develop, there’s a level of pride in that and what the Lakers have been able to do with those players and to grow them,” Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka explained, per Lakers Nation. “So of course our intentions would be to keep our core together and to have a championship team. So that would be the answer there.”

Whatever deal Horton-Tucker signs, it will be a massive raise from his rookie contract as a second-round selection. Horton-Tucker had a $1.5 million salary with the Lakers last season, per Spotrac.

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