Editor’s Note: Welcome to our “2020 Lakers Season In Review” series, where we’ll be looking back at every member of this Lakers roster as the offseason commences, and answering some questions about what they contributed (or didn’t) to the team’s 17th championship, as well as discussing what their situation is moving forward. Today, let’s discuss Talen Horton-Tucker.
How did he play?
Horton-Tucker spent the majority of his rookie season in the G League — like most late second-round picks do — and by all accounts, he was fine. In 38 games for the South Bay Lakers, Horton-Tucker averaged 18.1 points per game on 42.5% shooting from the field, including 30.9% shooting from 3-point range, and averaged 6.2 rebounds, 4 assists and 1.4 steals per game.
His shooting percentages left a lot to be desired, especially when it came to his efficiency from anywhere outside of the restricted area, and he didn’t stand out as an athlete even at the G League level, but it wasn’t hard to see what the Lakers saw in him. His long arms moved like swinging gates in the passing lanes, and he had a knack for beating his defenders off of the dribble.
Still, the path for playing time on the senior team was a steep one for him because, at just 19 years old, he was a lot more raw than the other options on the roster like Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley and Alex Caruso. That was still true after the four-month hiatus that the NBA went on, but when Horton-Tucker reported to Orlando in June, he was in noticeably better shape. He also had Frank Vogel’s extended attention for the first time.
Those things led to Vogel feeling comfortable enough to give Horton-Tucker some run in the postseason, and not just garbage time minutes either.
In Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals, Vogel made the bold decision to sub Horton-Tucker in for Rajon Rondo when the Lakers were leading by just four points. Horton-Tucker missed his first shot attempt — a 3-point jump shot from about 23-feet out — but he looked comfortable otherwise. In fact, within his four minutes of playing time, he recorded two defensive rebounds, two steals and a basket. He helped the Lakers extend the lead.
Horton-Tucker followed that game with a promising 9-point outing in Game 5. Granted, those minutes did come in garbage time, but seeing Horton-Tucker look fluid against any NBA talent was exciting to see. Those were his only minutes of the postseason, but he made the most of everyone of them, and he’s an NBA champion because of it.
What is his contract situation moving forward?
Horton-Tucker is one of six players that the Lakers currently have under contract for next season. He will make $1.5 million during the 2020-21 season. Depending on how he does in his sophomore season, he could decline the qualifying offer from the Lakers in 2021 and enter restricted free agency, or accept it and enter unrestricted free agency in 2022.
Horton-Tucker is represented by Rich Paul of Klutch Sports.
Will he be back?
Most likely, but with how much cheap talent will be available at the point guard position in free agency, it would take a lot for Horton-Tucker to be more than just a sporadic rotation player next season. That’s a better role than he had with the Lakers last season, but it’s probably not the one fans are hoping for. Here’s to hoping Phil Handy and Mike Penberthy have plenty for Horton-Tucker to do in the offseason.