Over the past few years, the Los Angeles Lakers have made the most of their late first-round and second-round draft picks, picking up players such as Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., Ivica Zubac, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart, Thomas Bryant. Last year, they purchased the No. 46 pick in the draft from the Orlando Magic and used it to select Talen Horton-Tucker, one of the youngest players in the draft.
If the Lakers were still in rebuilding mode, Horton-Tucker probably would have played meaningful minutes in the NBA before his 19th birthday. However, because the Lakers are a veteran-heavy team with title aspirations, Horton-Tucker has spent all but five minutes of his rookie season in the G League with the South Bay Lakers.
It’s difficult to determine how much a player’s success in the G League will translate to the NBA, but it’s even more difficult to ignore the growth Horton-Tucker has shown with South Bay this season.
In 38 appearances for South Bay, Horton-Tucker has averaged 18.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, 4 assists and 1.4 steals per game while averaging 29.8 minutes per game. His points per game average is what jumps out, but ironically, his scoring has been the most concerning part of his game.
Similar to his South Bay teammate Kostas Antetokounmpo, Horton-Tucker cannot make a jump shot. Of the 174 jump shots he’s attempted, he’s made just 29.9% of them, including 30.9% of his 3-point attempts. That’s bad for any player, but especially for a player with the size to play both guard positions.
Horton-Tucker has still managed to be productive on offense, though, because of his ability to get to and finish around the rim. Horton-Tucker didn’t come into the league as a lead guard, but he’s shown that he can be with his array of dribble moves.
Once he beats his defender, it doesn’t take too much effort for him to get to the rim because of his impressive 7’1” wingspan. That same 7’1” wingspan is what makes him such an exciting prospect on the defensive end.
Horton-Tucker probably won’t get the opportunity to make an impact in Orlando, even with Avery Bradley out for the remainder of the season, so we’ll have to wait until at least next season to see what he has to offer the senior team. Until then, Horton-Tucker will continue to work on his game and his body, the latter of which has drastically changed from the start of the season until now.
Cue the lofty expectations for him in year two.