Talen Horton-Tucker is an 18-year-old second round draftee out of Iowa State riding high on the heels of having made it not only to the NBA, but having been drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers, with a chance of playing alongside LeBron James, Anthony Davis and quite possibly a third superstar.
So you can’t quite blame him for feeling himself a little Thursday night when asked about his goals, and what he brings to the team. He offered up a couple, um, lofty comps for whose games he’s trying to replicate in the NBA (h/t: Lakers.com):
“I’ve watched guys do a lot of things: LeBron, Draymond. I watch a lot of basketball and I try to pick from anybody that I can watch.”
I don’t mean to sound dismissive. It’s a great idea to shoot for the moon early in your career, and the good news is no one is making these comps in their actual analysis and thus imparting those expectations. I would just wonder what his reaction might be when he actually sees James up close on a court for the first time, and whether he wonders if that comp is still realistic.
Horton-Tucker is a hugely unique player, though, with some legitimately exciting skills in his game that very few players drafted as late as he was boast. His shooting numbers in college were not all that inspiring (just 41 percent from the field, 31 percent from three and 63 percent from the free-throw line), but he says teams were telling him that there remains reason to be optimistic those stats might improve:
“It was the same thing, other teams were saying that I’m a better shooter than the numbers say. The key focus for me going into the pre-daft was shooting, and I feel I did that. “
What’s crazy about Horton-Tucker is that, despite his astronomical wingspan, his shot looks really natural.
Compare that release to Brandon Ingram and his weird slingshot thing and, well, there’s plenty to like. Also, that’s a deep three and he made that look ridiculously easy.
Here’s another look, this time from behind him. That’s a bad pass, but because he has his body set and ready to fire quickly, he recovers and fires off a clean look. I really like this stroke.
Now, it’s fair to wonder why those numbers (especially from the line) were so poor, and to that you’d point to poor shot choice during live play. Free throws can improve, though, and this shot form is a great place to start.
If those shooting numbers do improve, and Horton-Tuckeer takes full advantage of his physical gifts, defensively (and he gets his body mass under control), he can really turn himself into a legitimately valuable role player. The gifts are there. Maybe he won’t be some revolutionary talent in the way Green and James have been, but the point of all this is to lend your talents to a winning team, and Horton-Tucker seems extremely capable of this.