Rewinding roughly 12 months ago, the Lakers decision to not include Talen Horton-Tucker in a trade for Kyle Lowry was seen as a fair line to draw in the sand. THT had flashed more than enough potential for fans and the Lakers to both be plenty intrigued with his long-term upside. His contract was similarly seen as fair value this past offseason as well.
But virtually everything that has played out since has tanked any value around the league that Horton-Tucker did have. A dismal season on the court has led everyone’s view of him to plummet, and to his role shrinking within the rotation. And the outlook for his contract isn’t any better.
What once looked like a great deal for the Lakers is now one that’ll be a double-edged sword. Based on production from this season, Horton-Tucker will be overpaid for the 2022-23 season at $10.2 million. But even if he bounces back and has another big season, he has a player option for the 2023-24 campaign, which he would almost certainly opt out of if he re-flashes the level of potential that got him paid, and opt into if he continues to underperform.
So in his recent piece detailing how the Lakers went from champions to the lottery in just two years, Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report dedicated a section to THT and the front office mismanagement that led to his current situation, and why one anonymous executive admitted they wouldn’t trade for him because of the contractual concerns above:
”He may be great in four or five years, but he’s not right now,” a Western Conference executive said. “If we trade for him and he blows up, he’ll just opt out and hit free agency in 2023. We’d have no control over his contract.”
As Pincus notes, Horton-Tucker’s situation also means he’ll only have less trade value this offseason. The team trading for him would hold his Bird rights which might help ease some of those fears of losing him, but would still require them to pony up even more money for him. Or, if he doesn’t, they’d be stuck with the same underperformed the Lakers spent all trade deadline trying to move.
It’s yet another aspect of the Lakers season that has been disastrous. THT’s trade value wasn’t going to miraculously recover after the trade deadline when seemingly no teams had interest in trading for him, but there’s not a ton of upside in trading for him as he can opt out and leave after a year if he does play well.
It only adds to the difficulties the Lakers are going to face in reshaping this roster this summer, and might take the choice of whether or not to hold on to Horton-Tucker out of the front office’s hands.