The Talen Horton-Tucker hype train has slowed down a bit. After lighting up the preseason, the Los Angeles Lakers guard was one of the hottest talking points in the NBA. Now that the regular season is in full swing, he hasn’t had much chance to make an impact.
Horton-Tucker is only averaging 15.6 minutes and 6.8 points a game. Obviously, the Lakers are loaded with talent so it’s not a surprise the young guard hasn’t broken through quite yet. However, he’s only 20-years-old and has plenty of time to grow. Sacramento Kings guard Tyrese Haliburton played college ball with Horton-Tucker at Iowa State and he thinks his former teammate is just scratching the surface.
“It’s not surprising by any means, what he does on a nightly basis because that’s just literally who he’s been for as long as I’ve known him,” Haliburton said on The Old Man and the Three podcast with JJ Redick. “So it’s like, what I see is not a surprise, but there are some people who are, like, going nuts about what he does and I see it and I’m just like ‘there’s even more that we have yet to see.’
“I think what people don’t realize is Talen is the same age as the rookies. Because we’re the class of 2018, but he’s a year younger, so really he should have been a freshman last year and this should have been his first year. People don’t understand how young he really is and what he really can bring to L.A. I think obviously they’re obviously a championship team, coming off of a ring so they have a lot of pieces, but Talen’s a guy that’s ready for his opportunity and what we see: trust me, there’s a lot more to it.”
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Horton-Tucker Will Find a Role Eventually
It’s still early in the regular season for the Lakers and there are a lot of games left to play. Head coach Frank Vogel will likely keep playing around with the lineup and Horton-Tucker will get his chances. The fact that he’s even getting playing time is an upgrade over last season as he only got a chance to play in six.
Injuries happen and players will need to rest. When those things happen, Horton-Tucker will likely see the floor more often. If he strings together some strong performances, Vogel is going to have to find a way to get him more playing time.
Lakers Don’t Have Much Time
Unfortunately for the Lakers, they don’t have that much time to figure out what they want to do with Horton-Tucker. He’s on a rookie contract and will be a restricted free agent when the season ends. Los Angeles will have leverage but some teams could make it hard for them to keep the guard. According to Sean Deveney of Heavy, “multiple teams” are expected to show interest in Horton-Tucker.
The Lakers aren’t exactly flush with cap space and still have to give Dennis Schroder a new contract. If there’s a team that wants to take a chance on Horton-Tucker and make him a big offer in free agency, it’s highly unlikely the Lakers will be able to match.