Despite being 18 years old and drafted in the second round, Talen Horton-Tucker doesn’t exactly face the same uphill battle other late draftees do in terms of making an NBA roster. The Lakers only have three rotation players entering free agency as things stand right now, and regardless of how the summer plays out, they will need warm bodies to fill their bench.
In a phone interview with the media after being drafted, the former Iowa State Cyclone emphasized that he wants to become a versatile player who can guard every position on the perimeter.
When asked how his game has grown in the last couple years, and how he projects himself at the NBA level, Horton-Tucker said:
“I feel just becoming better every day at everything. Actually, I’m working at my all-around game is one of the multiple things that I do. My shooting, my body has actually changed; I’m just doing everything to be in the best shape possible.”
It’s a good thing that he highlighted his body as one of the things he wants to improve, because several draft analysts had the same criticism of Horton-Tucker. ESPN’s Mike Schmitz wrote that Horton-Tucker “really needs to continue improving his body and decision making but the ability is there.” Jonathan Givony of ESPN reiterated that “question marks about his conditioning and approach took a toll on his stock” in the draft.
If Horton-Tucker is able to get NBA shape, though, he said he can play every position on offense and guard 1 through 4:
“Offensively, I feel I can play 1, 2, 3, even the 4 and 5. Defensively, I’m still working on (how) to guard a lot quicker guards, but probably around the 2, 3, I can play the 1, even. Just being able to do that will be good.”
The Lakers currently have three players who played the majority of their minutes at forward last year, so positional versatility will go a long way on this roster. It’s also the direction the NBA is heading, which Horton-Tucker seems to recognize.
Given that Horton-Tucker didn’t explicitly mention guarding centers, he was also asked if he felt comfortable getting switched onto bigs. The 6-foot-4 player seemed confident when he said, “Yeah, I think I will be able to do that.”
No one is expecting Horton-Tucker to fill all of the gaps on the Lakers’ perimeter, but he at least understands what those are, and it sounds like he’s working towards addressing those weaknesses.