The Los Angeles Lakers have a litany of free agents this offseason but Talen Horton-Tucker is perhaps the most interesting. The 20-year-old guard showed big-time potential this season but has a chance to test the market this summer. Fortunately, the Lakers will have an advantage if they hope to bring him back.
The team announced on Thursday that they are extending a qualifying offer to Horton-Tucker, which will make him a restricted free agent. The qualifying offer is worth $1.9 million, and though there is virtually no chance Horton-Tucker accepts it, the Lakers needed to make the move to maintain his rights.
Now that Horton-Tucker is a restricted free agent, the Lakers will have the chance to match any offer that another team extends to him this offseason. This was an obvious step for Los Angeles to take as they would like to keep the young guard. The Lakers sacrificed much of their youth when they traded for Anthony Davis in 2019 — THT was one of only two players in the Lakers rotation younger than 27.
They landed Horton-Tucker in the second round of the 2019 draft and he’s already exceeded expectations, averaging 9.0 points in 65 games, with 2.8 assists and 2.6 rebounds. He shot 45.8% from the field but only 28.2% from the 3-point line. He should only continue to get better from here but that will also appeal to many teams around the NBA.
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Lakers Will Likely Face Competition for THT
The Lakers do have an advantage with Horton-Tucker being a restricted free agent. However, it doesn’t guarantee that they’ll be able to bring him back. Teams all around the NBA are desperate to find the next young star. It’s far too early to suggest that Horton-Tucker is destined for stardom but he has the potential.
Cap-rich teams that aren’t in title contention could throw a pile of money at the young guard — more than $80 million over four years in a back-loaded deal, thanks to a quirk in the NBA’s collective-bargaining agreement.
Considering the Lakers are well over the salary cap and don’t have a ton of money to play with, they have to hope that nobody comes along and makes a big offer. Horton-Tucker is a Klutch Sports client so the Lakers have that working for them. He shares an agent with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. That said, Klutch isn’t going to get their client less money just to keep him in Los Angeles. Regardless, Horton-Tucker will be one of the most interesting players to watch in free agency.
Is Horton-Tucker a Future Star?
Horton-Tucker was a second-round draft pick so he’s already exceeded expectations. Now that he has a couple of seasons under his belt, the expectations are rising. There are those who believe he’s a star in the making, specially with the preseason numbers he put up (20.5 points, 8.0 rebounds in four games) when he was a featured player for the team. The Lakers have seen him more than anybody and they are very high on him.
It’s still too early to know for sure but Horton-Tucker very well could end up being a star in the NBA. He’s got a great work ethic and his long arms give him a unique advantage over most players. Last year, an NBA scout said that Horton-Tucker could average 20 points a game on a bad team, per Bill Oram. He may not be able to get there quite yet with the Lakers so it could be appealing for him to move on.
However, with the Lakers, Horton-Tucker gets to learn from arguably the greatest basketball player ever in LeBron. He also gets to compete for championships. Not a lot of 20-year-old second-round picks earn championship rings before their first contract is up. He could run it back for one more contract and then see what happens in the future.