Key Lakers Player Could be Used as ‘Trade Bait,’ Says Analyst

Rob Pelinka, Lakers

Getty Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka faces some difficult decisions as the NBA trade deadline approaches.

If the Los Angeles Lakers’ struggles continue, the team may be confronted with a difficult decision regarding Talen Horton-Tucker’s future with the team. Bleacher Report’s Greg Swartz labeled Horton-Tucker as the Lakers’ “most tradable player,” which is a correct assessment given the team is not going to deal LeBron James or Anthony Davis.

So far, Horton-Tucker has proved to be a deal breaker in potential trades as he is one of the few young assets the Lakers have on their veteran roster. Last year, the team’s reluctance to trade Horton-Tucker appeared to be the main reason why Kyle Lowry was not dealt to the Lakers at the deadline. Swartz expects the Lakers to keep Horton-Tucker but admits the team may be forced to use the swingman as “trade bait.”

“[The Lakers should] keep Horton-Tucker and see how he fits with the Big Three; use as trade bait later if necessary,” Swartz detailed.

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T.H.T. Is Off to a Hot Start to the Season

Horton-Tucker missed the start of the season as he recovered from a thumb injury. The guard has not disappointed since he returned, but it is admittedly a small sample size. Horton-Tucker is averaging 16 points, six rebounds and 2.4 assists while shooting 34.8% from the three-point line in his first five games. The Lakers are going to need to see more of Horton-Tucker with the team’s three stars before they push the panic button with a deal.

“Talen Horton-Tucker is the brightest young star on the Los Angeles Lakers, but his future in L.A. depends on how well he meshes with the franchise cornerstones,” Swartz noted. “…Given his previous woes as a floor spacer (28.5 percent from three in 71 career games entering this season), Horton-Tucker projects better as a sixth man instead of trying to be forced into a starting lineup that shouldn’t need his scoring ability.

“This is still a ‘get-to-know-everyone’ period for the Lakers as Russell Westbrook integrates himself and James tries to get healthy following an abdomen setback, so there’s no reason to make any panic trades. If we get to February and the Lakers still look like they have issues, Horton-Tucker is the best trade chip and salary matcher ($10.3 million) this team has.”

Hoops Hype Labeled Horton-Tucker & Nunn as the Lakers’ Top Trade Candidates

The Lakers have until the NBA trade deadline on February 10th to make a decision on whether to deal Horton-Tucker or any of their other players this season. Hoops Hype’s Michael Scotto views Kendrick Nunn as the Lakers player most likely to be dealt but admitted that Horton-Tucker could also be in consideration.

“The Lakers have 10 players on minimum contracts, so either Talen Horton-Tucker or Kendrick Nunn is the top trade piece,” Scotto noted. “…He’s eligible to be traded after December 15.”

The Athletic’s Jovan Buha and Bill Oram reported that the Raptors insistence on the Lakers including Horton-Tucker proved to be the deal breaker in the team’s attempt to add Lowry for their playoff push last season.

“Multiple sources told The Athletic that the Lakers and Raptors discussed a trade that would have sent both members of Los Angeles’ starting backcourt, Dennis Schröder and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and likely some draft compensation to Toronto for Lowry,” Buha and Oram explained on March 25, 2021. “Throughout Thursday morning, sources said, the sticking point was the inclusion of Talen Horton-Tucker. The same sources said that, Rob Pelinka, the Lakers’ vice president of basketball operations, insisted that price was too high for the 35-year-old Lowry, and that he was not willing to trade Horton-Tucker, the 20-year-old combo guard who has emerged as a valuable rotation player for the Lakers in his second season.”

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