NBA

Why the LA Lakers Are Unable to Extend the Contract of Talen Horton-Tucker

Talen Horton-Tucker has emerged as one of the new fan favorites in Hollywood as he’s having a fantastic NBA preseason for the Los Angeles Lakers. The second-year swingman from Chicago played just eight total games for the Lakers last season as he spent the vast majority of his rookie season in the G League.

But with LeBron James and Anthony Davis sitting out LA’s first two preseason games against the rival Clippers, Horton-Tucker, who just turned 20 on November 25, is finally getting a chance to shine for the big club and is certainly making the most of the opportunity. He’s led the team in scoring in both games and has Lakers fans very excited. Some of these fans are so thrilled with his play that they’re calling for the team to just go ahead and extend his contract now so he doesn’t have the chance to leave in free agency next summer.

But there’s just one problem with that. The Lakers can’t actually do that right now.

Talen Horton-Tucker played the majority of his rookie season with the South Bay Lakers

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A four-star recruit out of Simeon Career Academy in Chicago, Talen Horton-Tucker played just one season at Iowa State before declaring for the 2019 NBA draft. He was drafted in the second round with the 46th overall pick by the Orlando Magic and then traded that same night to the LA Lakers in exchange for a second-round pick in 2020 and cash.

He was assigned to LA’s G League affiliate, the South Bay Lakers, and played 38 games for the team, averaging 18.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.9 assists, and 1.4 steals per game. Horton-Tucker suited up twice for the LA Lakers before COVID-19 shut the league down, scoring zero points in five total minutes, but then took on a bigger role in the Orlando bubble once the season resumed.

In four seeding games for the Lakers at Disney World, Talen Horton-Tucker averaged 8.5 points while shooting 50% from the floor and then appeared in two games in the postseason against the Houston Rockets, averaging seven points per night.

He’s having a fantastic preseason thus far

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As mentioned, LeBron James and Anthony Davis sat out the LA Lakers’ first two preseason games ahead of the 2020-2021 season and Talen Horton-Tucker has shined in their absence.

In the preseason opener against the Clippers on December 11, Horton-Tucker scored a team-high 18 points in 37 minutes and also added nine rebounds, four assists, and three steals. Two days later, again against the Clippers at Staples Center, he was even better, scoring 33 points while shooting 11-for-17 from the floor and 4-for-5 from the 3-point line. He also added 10 rebounds, four assists, and four steals in the Lakers’ 131-106 victory.

It’s going to be very difficult for Frank Vogel not to include Talen Horton-Tucker on the active roster for the upcoming season as he’s proving that can be a viable scoring option off the bench.

As mentioned, some Lakers fans are wanting him to receive a contract extension but that’s just not possible right now.

Why can’t the Lakers extend the contract of Talen Horton-Tucker?

Talen Horton-Tucker Lakers
Talen Horton-Tucker | Kim Klement-Pool/Getty Images

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After being traded to the LA Lakers on draft night, Talen Horton-Tucker signed a fully guaranteed two-year deal with the team worth $2.416 million, which was the best deal the team could offer given the fact they were over the salary cap and out of exceptions. And therein lies the problem on why LA can’t extend Horton-Tucker’s contract at the moment, not that they likely would anyway.

But for those Lakers fans wanting that to happen, the reason that it can’t is that two-year contracts can’t be extended. The team can’t do anything until next summer, at which point they can extend him a qualifying offer worth $1.782 million to make him a restricted free agent. If the Lakers choose not to extend a qualifying offer, Talen Horton-Tucker would then become an unrestricted free agent.

There’s a long time between now and then so we’ll just have to see how the season goes for the 20-year-old.

Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference

Contract info courtesy of Spotrac