Given the Lakers’ depth concerns after the Anthony Davis trade, acquiring low-cost players who can produce immediately was obviously important for the front office. General manager Rob Pelinka elaborated why he felt confident about getting a good player in the second round in an interview with Spectrum after the draft:
“The draft room is always crazy and unpredictable, but we had a goal going in, and it was to acquire a second-round pick because we feel we’ve done a really good job drafting players late in the first round and the second round. We have a great development staff here, too, and we hit our goal. We’re excited.”
As for why Horton-Tucker was the right fit, the Iowa state product has said that he’ll model his game after LeBron James and Draymond Green and that he can bring versatility to the Lakers, so it’s easy to see why the team was interested.
Pelinka was drawn to that versatility, as well as Horton-Tucker’s grittiness.
“What we liked about Talen is he’s from Chicago, he’s got a grit and grind to him and he’s a really long and versatile, strong defender, playmaker. I think he’s going to a be a really versatile player. His wingspan is elite, like a 7-1 wingspan. We see him as a guy who switch, guard multiple players and he’s got a developing 3-point shot, too, and if he learns to do that he’s going to be a really, really strong guard in the league.”
The Lakers will arguably have more top-end talent than any team in the NBA next season, so the players who complete the roster won’t necessarily have to be the most skilled, but they will have to play hard and and be able to fill multiple roles. That’s the archetype that Pelinka is describing with Horton-Tucker, someone who can defend and switch, who will grow into a better shooter, and who gives maximum effort.
Last year, the Lakers had a number of veterans who didn’t play with the requisite force to win, so it seems like Pelinka is course-correcting with players who have a motor. There’s still a long way to go to build a title-level team around Davis and LeBron James, but this is the path that the Lakers need to pursue.