Talen Horton-Tucker’s breakout sophomore season has come as a surprise to many, especially those that watched him in the G League with the South Bay Lakers last season.
While Horton-Tucker showed potential as an offensive threat in the G League, he still looked incredibly raw on most nights. For context, Horton-Tucker made just 31.3% of the jump shots he took from inside the 3-point line last season. Anything he shot that wasn’t a dunk or a layup wasn’t likely to go in.
Then, seemingly overnight, Horton-Tucker became one of the most exciting young prospects in the NBA.
When the Los Angeles Lakers first returned from their four-month hiatus and entered the bubble, Horton-Tucker was all that anyone on the team cared to talk about: How much more toned he looked, how talented he was and how much he loved to compete.
What he showed in practice was apparently gave Frank Vogel enough confidence to give him a shot against the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference Semifinals, and he didn’t disappoint his head coach. So, while the season Horton-Tucker is having may be unexpected for many people on the outside, the Lakers have known what they have in him for a while.
“I think by the end of the playoffs last year, my expectations for this season were pretty high for him,” Vogel said on Monday. “So I wouldn’t say he’s exceeded my expectations. He’s shown me over those three months in the bubble that he’s a hell of a basketball player. And (because) we had sort of an established rotation in the playoffs last year, most of that came in practice time and in a handful of games, a little bit during the Rockets series, but he showed me enough that he’s certainly good enough to be a rotation player and has a bright future.
“And then this year he’s just sort of lived up to that expectation in my mind. He’s a hell of a player,” Vogel continued. “We’ve got a deep team, we’re going to bring him along at the right pace, and hopefully we continue to see him grow.”
Horton-Tucker has appeared in 21 of the Lakers’ 25 games this season, including the last seven games. He still has nights where he still looks like a 20-year-old guard with less than 30 NBA games under his belt, but he’s done just enough with his opportunities warrant a spot in the rotation.
Only time will tell if Horton-Tucker can keep his spot there, but regardless of whether or not he’s able to keep contributing this season, on a veteran-heavy team, it’s clear that the Lakers view him as part of their future.