The Los Angeles Lakers announced that they have officially extended a qualifying offer to Talen Horton-Tucker, making him a restricted free agent if he declines, which is expected to be the case.
This move comes as no surprise and is mainly just procedural as the Lakers were never going to renounce Horton-Tucker’s rights, already expressing interest in bringing him back for next season and beyond.
The Lakers originally drafted Horton-Tucker in the second round in 2019 as an 18-year-old out of Iowa State with a lot of upside. They were only able to give him a two-year rookie contract though, so he is now a restricted free agent after not playing a ton of minutes in his two seasons with the team.
Horton-Tucker’s great upside remains, and in 65 games for the Lakers in 2020-21, he averaged 9.0 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.8 assists while shooting 45.8% from the field and 28.2% from 3-point range.
Still at 20 years of age, Horton-Tucker will likely command a large salary in free agency because of that upside. Teams can sign him to an offer sheet with the max being around four years and $80 million, which the Lakers would then have the ability to match if they choose to.
If the Lakers don’t want to match then they would have two options: let Horton-Tucker walk for nothing or try to work out a sign-and-trade with a team of his choosing.
Given the Lakers’ lack of resources this summer, it wouldn’t make sense to let a young, growing player like Horton-Tucker leave for nothing, so it is likely that he is back in a Laker uniform next season unless the team works out some big trade.
Horton-Tucker’s name involved in rumor for Westbrook
Horton-Tucker’s name was recently involved in a trade rumor for Russell Westbrook, which came as a bit of surprise considering the Lakers were unwilling to deal him for Kyle Lowry at the deadline this past season.
The Lakers have stuck with Horton-Tucker since taking him in the draft, and even though they want to improve their roster in hopes of getting back in the championship picture, it’s hard to see them parting ways with the guard now even in a deal for Westbrook.
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