Talen Horton-Tucker took the preseason by storm in his second season with the Lakers, turning his teammates into fanboys and seasoned basketball analysts into hype men. His playing time has tailed off a bit through three games of the regular season, but his play when he’s on the court — while still very raw — has also made the basketball version of an argument NBA Twitter legend Josiah Johnson did in a post on opening night:
How THT on the Lakers bench looking at Frank Vogel pic.twitter.com/J81nzPCZ1h— Josiah Johnson (@KingJosiah54) December 23, 2020
But it’s not just fans, teammates and basketball media that have caught THT-fever. It’s also people who are actually paid to give NBA teams their opinions, as Bill Oram of The Athletic revealed on his “The Forum Club” podcast (h/t Ralph Mason):
“I was on the phone with a scout the other day, kind of at the peak of THT hysteria, and this is not somebody who works for the Los Angeles Lakers, and they said ‘if you put Talen Horton-Tucker on one of these s---ty teams, like the Thunder or Charlotte, then he might average 20 points a game... This is somebody who does make money to watch (basketball). An NBA team pays for this person’s opinions, and that’s how highly people view him right now.”
20 points a game may sound like a lot for a player that currently isn’t averaging that many minutes (just 12.8 right now), but the Lakers are ridiculously deep, and Horton-Tucker has SKILLS, talents he shows tantalizing flashes of once or twice per game, like he did on these plays in the Lakers’ blowout win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday night.
LeBron has already taught him the chasedown too this kid is ridiculous pic.twitter.com/WwRd34dwF9— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) December 28, 2020
Horton-Tucker got his most minutes of the season in that game, finishing with 12 points on an inefficient 4-12 shooting, but he also added 3 assists, 2 rebounds, 2 steals and a block, and as much as what the scout said about him might sound like hyperbole, he is currently averaging 21.5 points per 36 minutes. It’s not insane to say that he would be putting up really, really impressive numbers for a second-rounder if he was getting opportunities on a bad team.
The Lakers are going to have to bring him along more slowly than that for obvious reasons, and while doing so might result in a bit less hype around his name, it may benefit him in the long run, forcing Horton-Tucker to learn winning habits if he wants to stay on the floor for a contender rather than just giving him an open invitation to go get buckets no matter the consequences as the losses pile up. Regardless of how much more fun the latter option might be to watch at times, the former may turn Horton-Tucker into a better player in the end, even if it gives us a few less fireworks in the interim.
For now, we’ll just have to settle for glimpses of the potential scouts are seeing in the sophomore guard, at least until the Lakers are ready to fully unleash him.