Barely 12 months ago, the Lakers drew a hard line in the sand at not including Talen Horton-Tucker in the team’s pursuit of Kyle Lowry at the 2021 NBA trade deadline. It was a sign of the team’s faith in Horton-Tucker as well as an indication of just how much they valued him.
Fast forward to present day and the situation has drastically changed as Horton-Tucker’s trade value is significantly lower. Part of that is due to the contract signed this offseason, meaning Horton-Tucker is no longer a prospect on a cheap contract. The other part of it is due to the poor player of Horton-Tucker this season as he’s failed to adapt to his new role alongside the team’s Big Three of LeBron James, Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis.
The result has been the team actively shopping Horton-Tucker in search of an upgrade that can help the struggling Lakers make a run in the second half of the season. However, as reported by Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report, the Lakers are finding out Horton-Tucker can not be the centerpiece of a blockbuster trade.
“Now that the Lakers are looking to improve their roster ahead of the trade deadline, Horton-Tucker is viewed by other teams as a marginal asset. He’s still a developing prospect, but he’s about $7.7 million more expensive this season than his contemporaries. But the bigger issue for the Lakers, above his salary, is the 21-year-old guard’s player option before the 2023-24 season.”
Statistically this season, Horton-Tucker is averaging 9.9 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game this season, the former two only modest improvements on last season and the latter fewer than the 2.8 per contest he averaged last season. More critically, his shooting percentage is down to just 40.7% this season, including a career-low 24.8% from the 3-point line.
While Horton-Tucker is only 21 years old, the teams trading for him would have to really bank on his unnatural fit in the Lakers current roster as the main reason for his struggles, so much so that they’re willing to commit $10.2 million next season and potentially $11 million with his player option in 2023-24.
On the flip side, if Horton-Tucker turns things around, that player option could be damaging to teams in the complete opposite way, meaning the team is effectively trading for only 1.5 guaranteed years of Horton-Tucker.
It’s a tight rope that teams aren’t willing to walk at the trade deadline so far. Perhaps if other offers don’t meet the asking price for the likes of Jerami Grant or Harrison Barnes or others at the trade deadline, it could lead to more interest but for now, it’s leaving the Lakers in a pickle this deadline.