LeBron James and the LA Lakers have an excellent chance to win a second consecutive championship in 2020-21. They have James, Anthony Davis, and some outstanding players around them. However, they also now have $1.5 million man who gives them a great opportunity heading into this season. That player is Talen Horton-Tucker.
Talen Horton-Tucker played college basketball at Iowa State
Talen Horton-Tucker played college basketball at Iowa State and started in 34 of 35 games during his freshman season. He ended up playing well, too, as he earned All-Big 12 Honorable Mention, averaging 11.8 points per game to go with 4.9 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.3 steals, per his Iowa State bio.
He had several big games throughout the season, too, scoring 26 points on 4-of-7 shooting from 3-point range to go with 14 rebounds in a game against Illinois. Horton-Tucker also ultimately had six 20-point games throughout the season, which helped Iowa State have a good year. The Cyclones went 23-12 in 2018-19 and made the NCAA Tournament for the seventh time in eight seasons.
They ultimately lost to Ohio State 62-59 in the First Round, though.
He played well in the G League for the LA Lakers
The Orlando Magic selected Horton-Tucker in the second round of the 2019 NBA draft. The Lakers then acquired him via trade. However, he only appeared in six games for the Lakers in 2019-20. In those six games, Horton-Tucker averaged 5.7 points per game in 13.5 minutes.
He did, however, play in 38 games in the G League. He averaged 18.1 points in those games to go with 6.3 rebounds, 3.9 assists, and 1.4 steals.
The Lakers ultimately went on a run in the NBA bubble in 2019-20, as James and Davis led them to an NBA championship. Horton-Tucker ended up playing in two playoff games, too, and averaged seven points and 2.5 rebounds in 8.5 minutes.
Talen Horton-Tucker has been incredible in the preseason
The Lakers have played two preseason games so far, and their stars, LeBron James and Anthony Davis, haven’t played yet. This has, however, given Horton-Tucker an opportunity.
In LA’s first preseason game, Horton-Tucker recorded 19 points, nine rebounds, and four assists. The Lakers’ second preseason game is where Horton-Tucker really dominated, though. He scored 33 points and made 4-of-5 three-point attempts. He also pulled down 10 rebounds and dished out four assists.
It’s only the preseason, but the Lakers seem to be pumped about the opportunity they have with Horton-Tucker.
LeBron James and the Lakers are pumped about their $1.5 million man
It will be hard for the Lakers to find minutes for Horton-Tucker, who will make $1.5 million this season, according to Spotrac. They already have a ton of talented guards who deserve minutes.
In addition to LeBron James, who played point guard throughout last season, the Lakers have Dennis Schroder, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma, Wesley Matthews, Alex Caruso, and Quinn Cook, who all play at either the one, two, or three positions. It will be hard to take away minutes from any of those guys. LA seems to be pumped about Horton-Tucker, though.
After the Lakers’ first preseason game, James tweeted this: “Telling you right now! This kid is flat out SPECIAL! Mark my words.”
Jared Dudley also tweeted, “That boy [Horton-Tucker] is goin to be special,” while Wesley Matthews praised him after a recent practice.
“‘Special’ is definitely the word to describe his game,” Matthews said, according to Yahoo. “He’s young, but he’s got all the tools. He’s a dog. He’s tough on the offensive end, the defensive end. He’s crafty. He’s got some stuff to him, and he’s only gonna get better.”
Lakers coach Frank Vogel has admitted that Horton-Tucker will make his “job difficult for sure,” but this could be an incredible $1.5 million opportunity for the Lakers. They have a talented player on a cheap contract who can actually make a difference for them this year, especially in a weird season.
Yes, the Lakers are hoping to win another ring, and they already have a deep team, but with the shortened offseason, guys who were on last year’s team, especially the older ones, will need significantly more rest this season. So, while those guys are resting, the Lakers might not actually see that drastic of a drop-off if Horton-Tucker is on the court.
Talen Horton-Tucker might put the Lakers in a tough spot once the season starts. However, he also gives the Lakers an embarrassment of riches that can ultimately help them win another title.