While all indications are the Los Angeles Lakers hope to retain Talen Horton-Tucker, there appears to be a sizable trade market for the promising young player. ESPN’s Zach Lowe suggests the Lakers could look to dangle Horton-Tucker in a trade package.
“The Lakers could get themselves into some pretty interesting trade conversations if they combined Talen Horton-Tucker and their 2027 first-round pick; Horton-Tucker will be a restricted free agent this summer, with the Lakers facing a big tax bill if they bring back Dennis Schroder,” Lowe detailed. “(Alex Caruso will be an unrestricted free agent, and Montrezl Harrell can join him by declining a $9.7 million option.)”
Why would the Lakers want to trade one of their core players? Los Angeles is facing a mounting luxury tax bill heading into next season, and Horton-Tucker is set to be a restricted free agent this offseason. The Lakers also have Alex Caruso and Dennis Schroder who will also be among the team’s free agents, unless the team is able to sign their starting point guard to an extension.
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Horton-Tucker Is Likely to Have a ‘Significant Market’ in Free Agency
Los Angeles finds itself in a bind as Horton-Tucker is expected to be one of the chief beneficiaries with LeBron James’ sidelined with a high-ankle sprain. Yet, Horton-Tucker’s play as he receives extended minutes could also increase his free-agent value this offseason.
The Lakers will be able to match any offer but could face as much as a $100 million tax bill to keep their core group together, per ESPN’s Brian Windhorst. The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported teams around the league are “monitoring” how Horton-Tucker plays, but this appears more related to free agency than a potential trade.
“In the meantime, this is a major opportunity for a young talent on these Lakers: Talen Horton-Tucker,” Charania explained. “He has increased his production in more minutes as the season has gone on, averaging 12.3 points, 3.6 assists and 3.4 rebounds in eight games in March. Rival teams are monitoring Horton-Tucker’s situation, and he is expected to command a significant market in the offseason after signing a two-year rookie contract in 2019.”
Horton-Tucker’s $1.5 Million Salary Makes It Challenging to Find a Fair Deal
The issue is not Horton-Tucker’s value, but his $1.5 million salary makes it nearly impossible for the Lakers to find a fair deal under the salary cap rules. The Lakers would have to include the promising wing as part of a larger package to get anything meaningful in return. As Lowe detailed, this means we are likely to see the Lakers hang on to Horton-Tucker.
“But good veteran trade candidates tend to make eight figures,” Lowe continued. “Horton-Tucker is earning $1.5 million. The Lakers are also just $1.7 million below the hard cap, meaning they would have to match incoming and outgoing salaries almost exactly in any trade. They don’t really have any high-salaried players who are also expendable. The only exception is in theory Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, but he was essential in the Lakers’ title run and shares an agency with both James and Davis. Also: THT is a big part of the Lakers now.”
James’ injury gives the Lakers an opportunity to see what they have with Horton-Tucker likely to receive additional playing time. While his value may rise, the Lakers would still be wise to match any offer in free agency. Los Angeles could look to trade Horton-Tucker after he is on a more lucrative deal which would allow the team to potentially take on more valuable players in the future.
For now, the Lakers appear pleased with their second-year player, and we can expect interest from NBA teams to be high in free agency leaving the Lakers with a high price to pay to retain Horton-Tucker. Barring an unbelievable trade offer, the only way we see the Lakers trading Horton-Tucker is if they have already decided that his price tag will be too much to pay this offseason.