Lakers ‘Need to Chase’ Key Free Agent, per Analyst

rob pelinka

Getty Los Angeles Lakers GM Rob Pelinka.

The Los Angeles Lakers are in the midst of a potential championship run but the front office should have a lot more on their mind right now. A number of key players are on expiring contracts and the team is going to have a hard time keeping all of them. One player to watch will be Talen Horton-Tucker.

The 20-year-old guard is the Lakers’ breakout player this year and he did it just in time. He’s set to be a restricted free agent this offseason and there figures to be many suitors for his services. Los Angeles has invested a lot into veteran talent in recent years but it would be wise to have some strong young pieces on the roster. Grant Hughes of Bleacher Report believes that Horton-Tucker is the one free agent the Lakers “need to chase” this offseason:

That leaves Talen Horton-Tucker, a 20-year-old two-way wing with serious length and emerging playmaking chops. THT is already a handful on defense—quick, hard to lose off the ball and sturdy enough to body up against larger wings. He might only be a three-point shot away from commanding $20 million per season.

That’s why the Lakers have to keep him. Horton-Tucker’s growth in two seasons indicates he’ll be ready for major minutes next year, and rotation-caliber two-way wings are far harder to find than inefficient, score-first point guards or undersized, offense-only centers. Whether the Lakers view THT as a key piece of the future or a useful asset to use in trade for a star, he projects to have much more value than either Schroder or Harrell.

Offer sheets will be plentiful for a player with Horton-Tucker’s combination of youth, position and promise. The Lakers need to be prepared to match a big one.

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Will THT Be Expensive?

There’s no doubt the Lakers would love to keep Horton-Tucker but it’s hard to know how much he’ll command on the open market. He’s certainly going to get offers that Los Angeles will have to match or exceed. He only averaged nine points a game this season but the potential is there for him to develop into a star.

A bad team with plenty of money to spend could hand Horton-Tucker a fat contract if they believe he will be a star eventually. The Lakers likely can’t push him past $10 million a year and should aim to pay him less than that. The decision might come down to if Horton-Tucker would prefer to stay in Los Angeles and win a bunch of games while learning from the best players in the NBA, or take the money and try to lead a lesser team on his own.

Lakers Have Other Free Agents They Need to Retain

Horton-Tucker isn’t the only guy the Lakers need to keep. There will be a lot of talk surrounding Dennis Schroder but Alex Caruso also deserves to get paid. Similar to Horton-Tucker, he doesn’t put up big numbers. However, he’s one of the team’s best defenders and shot 40.1% from three this season. He’s respected around the NBA so he’ll have a lot of suitors, as well.

Andre Drummond is also on an expiring contract. His Lakers tenure has been uneven but if can be an impact player in the playoffs, he could be in for a solid payday. If Los Angeles loses Schroder, they could use some of that money to keep Drummond.

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