Lakers Could Trade Talen Horton-Tucker for ‘Bonkers’ Rockets Starter: NBA Exec

Christian Wood of the Rockets, left

Getty Christian Wood of the Rockets, left

One surprising thing to arise from recent conversations with league executives has been that the oft-discussed Lakers trade package of Talen Horton-Tucker and Kendrick Nunn still has managed to retain some value around the NBA.

In fact, one Western Conference coach told, “I think, with Talen, obviously he did not get to where everyone wanted him to be that quickly. But he is 21 years old. He is playing for the Lakers and development is not the biggest thing there. Every season he has been in the league, there has been COVID and the bubble and something that has gotten in the way of him making steps. But I think most of us would take him on our team in a minute. He is big (6-foot-4) and long, he can handle the ball, he can initiate the offense, he will be a good defender even if he is not there yet. He has value.”

And Nunn, with a contract slated to pay just $5.3 million for one year, after he exercises his player option, is a low-risk gamble despite missing all of last season with a mysterious knee injury.

So the Lakers can, in fact, get something for a trade package that they shopped, fruitlessly, last winter before the February trade deadline here in the spring. One executive who spoke with suggested a solid, if erratic, big man who could be had for L.A.: Rockets center Christian Wood.

Christian Wood: Good Numbers, Bad Teams

Wood averaged 17.9 points, 10.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists last season, while shooting 50.1% from the field and 39.0% from the 3-point line. But he’s never played for a winning team (except a short stint with the Bucks in 2018-19) and would have to be willing to sacrifice to become part of the Lakers.

He was Anthony Davis’ teammate in New Orleans briefly in 2019, but the two only appeared in one game together, so there’s not much to go on as far as interpreting their fit together. But he is 26 years old and still teachable. He is also in the final year of a three-year contract and is slated to earn a reasonable $14.3 million.

“He can do everything when he is locked in and focused,” the Eastern Conference executive said. “He had the breakout year in Detroit (in 2019-20) and if you got him into a culture that has LeBron James, it could really help bring him along to where he is not just a numbers guy on a bad team. At his best, you watch him, it is bonkers how athletic he is at his size. That would be the hope, at least. Horton-Tucker kind of fits right in with the Rockets and their development timeline. Houston is probably going to get a big guy from this draft so it makes sense.”

The deal, then, would go:

Lakers receive Christian Wood.

Rockets receive Talen Horton-Tucker and Kendrick Nunn.

Is Horton-Tucker Still in the Lakers’ Future Plans?

The big question, of course, is whether the Lakers are willing to give up on Horton-Tucker, who still is an exciting prospect despite averages of just 10.0 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.7 assists in 25.2 minutes per game. He has shown flashes of being able to dominate offensively, but only when he is the main centerpiece of the attack. He had a 40-point game in April, and five other games of 20-point scoring or more.

But he had 22 games in which he played at least 20 minutes and failed to crack double-digit scoring, and shot 30% from the field or lower in 20 of his 60 appearances. Overall, Horton-Tucker has not developed at all as a perimeter shooter, going from 30.8% 3-point shooting as a rookie, to 28.2% in 2020-21 down to 26.9% last season.

With Lakers star LeBron James heading toward his 38th birthday, the Lakers, clearly, need players who can help them win now, and Horton-Tucker still needs developing.

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Steve Bankston
Steve Bankston
2 months ago

Rocket’s don’t want the Lakers garbage.

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