The Los Angeles Lakers drafted Talen Horton-Tucker with the 46th pick in the summer of 2019. At the age of 19, Horton-Tucker is the second youngest player in the NBA. He’s got a lot of potential, but as seen by the amount of time he’s spent in the G League, he’s not quite ready yet to play on the big stage yet.
He is, however, very capable of dominating in the G League. Horton-Tucker dropped a season-high 37 points last night, going 13-27 from the field in South Bay’s loss to the Memphis Hustle.
There’s certain players you watch in the G League and can say, ‘yeah that guy shouldn’t be in the G League.’ Last year, it was obvious with Svi Mykhailiuk. Horton-Tucker isn’t to that exact level yet, but as a guard with a 6’4, 234 pound frame and wingspan of 7’1 who has flashed unique skill as a ballhandler, passer and scorer at times, the 19-year-old clearly got all the tools to get there soon.
Let’s take a closer look at what he’s done well, and where he needs to improve:
Horton-Tucker has an incredibly smooth game, aestheticallly speaking. He can create space with his ballhandling abilities, and he loves to attack the rim early into the possession, which is part of why he’s averaging 16.8 points per game.
It hasn’t always looked seamless, however. Horton-Tucker is shooting just 39.9% from the field this season. Like I said, he’s able to attack the rim, but he struggles to finish times. He does however shoot 53.2% from less than eight feet, and the way he finishes around the rim is beautiful. He’s not exactly the most explosive player, but with a wingspan of 7’1, he’s able to stretch his long arms around defenders to finish in the lane.
Horton-Tucker is also only shooting 28.1% on his three-point attempts. He’s not a big fan of shooting corner threes, only attempting 18 all season. This is something that may take some patience. We’ve seen it from countless number of players where they just need to tweak their shot a bit, or just need more reps. With Brandon Ingram, he averaged 29.4% shooting from three his rookie season. Four years later, he’s now shooting 40.6% from there. Patience and the Lakers’ player development staff will be key with Horton-Tucker here.
As far as Horton-Tucker’s playmaking ability goes, he does a good job of finding cutters and spot-up shooters whether he’s attacking the rim or coming off of a screen. He’s averaging 4.6 assists per game this season, but again, it hasn’t been all good in that department. Horton-Tucker is also averaging a team-high 3.7 turnovers per game, and part of that is due to throwing some dangerous passes, but that’s what’s going to happen with a rookie guard who handles the ball as much as he does.
With the roster and type of season the Lakers are currently having, it’s highly unlikely that Horton-Tucker sees playing time this year unless they are end-of-game, garbage-time minutes. It’s also important to remember that Horton-Tucker was hurt all summer and wasn’t able to play during Summer League, which is where a lot of rookies start to learn how different the pace of the game is in the NBA compared to in college.
With a few games under his belt, Horton-Tucker has already started to improve. In his last five games for South Bay, he’s averaging 21.2 points on 46.3% shooting to go along with 2.6 steals per game. With a healthy summer of 2020, Horton-Tucker can possibly not only dominate in Summer League and grasp the MVP trophy that Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart were able to collect, but also play a role with the team during the regular season next year. For a roster without many draft picks coming down the pipeline and few young players to speak of, his development as both a player and an asset will be key, and worth monitoring as this team tries to extend it’s window of contention over the next few years.