According to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, the Lakers, Toronto Raptors and New York Knicks discussed a three-team trade that would have sent Cam Reddish and Alec Burks to Los Angeles, Horton-Tucker and Nerlens Noel to Toronto and Goran Dragic plus the Raptors’ 2022 first-round pick to New York. However, the deal fell through.
The Lakers made a huge mistake at the 2021 trade deadline when they decided not to include Horton-Tucker in a deal that would have landed them Kyle Lowry from Toronto. Los Angeles was high on the Chicago native and thought he would take a huge step in 2021-22.
However, Horton-Tucker has struggled this season, so much so that one Western Conference executive who spoke to Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report believes the Lakers will have zero luck trading him.
“He may be great in four or five years, but he’s not right now,” a Western Conference executive said. “If we trade for him and he blows up, he’ll just opt out and hit free agency in 2023. We’d have no control over his contract.”
Horton-Tucker has appeared in 54 games for the Lakers this season. He’s averaging 9.4 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.6 assists while shooting 41.1% from the field, 26.8% from beyond the arc and 77.5% from the free-throw line.
Not only did the Lakers mess up by not trading Horton-Tucker in a package for Lowry last season, but they also mishandled his contract from the start, according to Pincus.
Pincus Explains How Lakers Mishandled Horton-Tucker’s Contract
The Orlando Magic drafted Horton-Tucker with the 46th overall pick in the 2019 draft. The Lakers saw enough in THT to buy him from the Magic for $2.2 million and a future second-round selection, but they didn’t sign the swingman to at least a three-year deal as a rookie.
“Of the first 20 second-round picks that were drafted and signed in 2019, Horton-Tucker was the only one to sign a two-year deal,” Pincus wrote. “Most (14) agreed for three or four seasons, three inked two-way contracts, and a pair didn’t immediately join the league. The Lakers, who were under the cap in 2019, needed to set aside under $1 million in cap space to ink Horton-Tucker to a three- or four-year contract. That could have come by shaving a combined total of $898,310 from free-agent signings Danny Green, JaVale McGee, Quinn Cook or DeMarcus Cousins.
“While that oversight may not have seemed significant at the time, it has had lasting repercussions. Horton-Tucker has since re-signed to a three-year, $30.8 million contract (starting at $9.5 million) while his contemporaries of the 2019 second round—including Terance Mann and Daniel Gafford—are earning $1.8 million this season. Both Mann (No. 48) and Gafford (No. 38) have been rewarded with extensions, but their salary jumps don’t kick in until 2023-24.”
Horton-Tucker has averaged 9.0 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 125 games with the Lakers. Los Angeles may try to trade him again this summer, but general manager Rob Pelinka may strike out once more.
Horton-Tucker Is Viewed by Other Teams as a Marginal Asset
In January, Pincus reported that Horton-Tucker is viewed by other teams as a marginal asset, which is probably why the Lakers weren’t able to move him at the 2022 trade deadline. Pelinka probably asked for too much in return for a player who is shooting 27.6% from beyond the arc since entering the NBA.
“Now that the Lakers are looking to improve their roster ahead of the trade deadline, Horton-Tucker is viewed by other teams as a marginal asset,” Pincus wrote in January. “He’s still a developing prospect, but he’s about $7.7 million more expensive this season than his contemporaries. But the bigger issue for the Lakers, above his salary, is the 21-year-old guard’s player option before the 2023-24 season.”
It will be interesting to see what moves the Lakers make this summer after this disastrous season is over. The purple and gold are in 11th place in the West.