The Los Angeles Lakers are in win-now mode, so shopping a key piece of their future in Talen Horton-Tucker might be among the moves the team weighs as the trade deadline approaches.
Horton-Tucker was a sensation in the preseason and has worked himself into a nice role in the Lakers rotation. He’s averaging 16.5 minutes per game, scoring 6.8 points while registering 2.4 rebounds and 1.8 assists. However, his minutes have seen a dip of late, playing in just 6 minutes in two of the last three games.
Bleacher Report recently listed Horton-Tucker among the players the team should look to shop, understanding that he has some major upside, but could be the piece that pushes a trade over the edge.
“Horton-Tucker’s youth and upside arguably make him the best trade chip in L.A.’s collection, since the club can’t trade any first-round picks,” Bleacher Report’s Zach Buckley wrote. “If the Lakers pursue even a mid-tier target, Horton-Tucker might have to be included to get the deal done.”
Horton-Tucker has had some good role models to look up and said that watching tape of LeBron James and Rajon Rondo helped him improve.
“I used to watch film with Rondo in the Bubble, after certain games, back at the hotel,” Horton-Tucker told Mike Trudell of Lakers.com. “Having someone like that around, and also ‘Bron who would always be there to let you know what you’re doing wrong so you can fix it. Having those two guys was already crazy, but then to have other guys on the team just to help you too, was really helpful.
Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell Also Mentioned in Trade Rumors
Other players mentioned in the article were Montrezl Harrell and Kyle Kuzma. Harrell has lived up to the Sixth Man of the Year award he won last season, playing a key role off the bench for the Lakers with production and energy.
Kuzma has been a frequent topic of trade rumors in Los Angeles, but it’s very unlikely that the 25-year-old forward is dealt. Because the Lakers signed Kuzma to an extension while he was still on his rookie deal, the team would have to thread a thin needle to make a deal work. As ESPN’s Bobby Marks broke down with the deal was signed, Kuzma’s extension has a “poison pill” restriction.
For trade purposes, the current contract of $3.6 million will count as outgoing salary. For the incoming salary of the acquiring team, the average of the last year of his contract and extension is used — $10.9 million.
Kuzma admitted he was once bothered by the trade rumors, but has come to peace with the noise that comes with wearing purple and gold.
“Kob’ always told me, if they’re not talking about you, then you should be worried,” Kuzma said last season. “I’m the talk of the town.
“I’ve been in trade talks for three years, so every year that I’m here, I’m going to be in them. That’s just how I see it. That’s how media on this side of town is. I’ve dealt with it.”
Lakers Don’t Have Many Needs if Healthy
The Lakers do not have many needs when the roster in healthy, with Frank Vogel already having to play a balancing act with minutes thanks to the team’s incredible depth. Talented veterans like Markieff Morris and Wes Matthews are scraping for minutes in the regular rotation, but have proven that they can respond when called upon.
The worry currently for the Lakers is the health of superstar Anthony Davis, who is dealing with a calf strain and Achilles issue. He’s expected to be out through the All-Star break, but the team has shared that they feel very optimistic about his recovery.
While the LA likely won’t be looking at a blockbuster at the trade deadline — regardless of Davis’ health — there are some key players expected to be available on the buyout market that the Lakers will “poking around” on.
“I think for the Lakers now, you mentioned the buyout market later, I know they’ve been poking around the league a little bit to see if some role players may become available elsewhere,” Wojnarowski said, via Silver Screen & Roll. “But I think the Lakers and the Nets, the Clippers, those teams have shown that they’re going to compete for the top buyout market players. For the L.A. players, a chance to go be in L.A., a chance to compete for a title, and obviously, Brooklyn has needs.”