ESPN got it wrong. Last week, the ubiquitous sports network revealed it’s list of the top-100 players for the 2020-21 season, and while it may have had two Lakers at the top, it embarrassingly picked the wrong two. Because let’s be real: How can LeBron James and Anthony Davis be the first and second best players in the league if they aren’t even better than Talen Horton-Tucker?
Oh, does that sound hyperbolic to you? Well, the numbers don’t lie, kids. Horton-Tucker has taken the league by storm in the first two NBA starts, setting career-highs in scoring in two consecutive games, and putting the league on notice that the Lakers are his team now in the process.
The second-year guard isn’t just tied for the league lead in scoring (26 points per game) with Nikola Jokic, but he’s also third in steals per game (3.5), first in the all-important “fantasy points per game” metric (51.4), third in rebounds per game amongst guards (9.5), according to NBA.com’s leaderboards. Most crucially, he has proven he can be counted on when it matters most: He ranks first in the league in total points in the clutch, with 7 so far. That’s the type of ice in his veins that D’Angelo Russell could only dream of.
What are LeBron James and Anthony Davis’ stats in those categories? That’s right, big fat zeroes across the board. Men lie, women lie, numbers don’t. Through two preseason games, Talen Horton-Tucker has been the hands-down best player in the league.
Sorry, LeBron and AD stans, you may not like it, but this is what a real NBA star looks like.
Can THT keep this up over the long haul? That remains to be seen. But the Lakers are 2-0 right now, and at this point, we have to ask the question: Are they better without LeBron and AD?
That may sound absurd, but again, the numbers don’t lie. In their first two games against the Kawhi Leonard and Paul George duo, James and Davis went 0-2, collapsing down the stretch in both to lose them by a total of 15 points. So far, the Horton-Tucker-led Lakers have won both of his first two games against the Clippers by a total of 31 points.
James and Davis of course later beat the Clippers, but the most they ever won by was 9 points, back in March before the season shut down. Horton-Tucker dropped 33 and beat the Clippers by 25 on Sunday night. It’s clear who the real Lakers star is, if you’re paying attention.
So where does this leave the Lakers? At this point, the answer is clear. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. They’re rolling, and if James and Davis are unwilling to come off the bench to allow THT to continue on his run as the most promising young player in the NBA today and keep this undefeated streak going, Rob Pelinka and the front office will have to consider looking to see if they can move these former stars for players that better fit around their new franchise face.
That’s right, the hype train has officially left the station. Get aboard Talen the Tank Engine or get out of the way, because Thicc Van Exel is here to stay.
The preceding column was, hopefully obviously, mostly satire (although THT has been great, which ideally these numbers still highlighted). For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.