Los Angeles Lakers guard Talen Horton-Tucker is just 20 years old and is heading into his third NBA season. Because he was a second-round pick and only signed a two-year deal after being drafted, he will be entering restricted free agency after his second season instead of the normal fourth season for a first-round pick.
Normally, a 20-year old second-round pick with two seasons under his belt wouldn’t garner a ton of interest. However, Horton-Tucker took the leap from the G League and spot minutes for the Lakers to become a full-blown rotation player, seeing 20.1 minutes per game during the 2020-21 season.
Throughout the year, he became a topic of intrigue around the NBA with his value skyrocketing so high that the Toronto Raptors nearly traded Kyle Lowry to L.A. with Horton-Tucker as the centerpiece of the deal.
Now, he’s expected to have suitors in the restricted free agency market, including the Cleveland Cavaliers, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com:
Talen Horton-Tucker is another name to watch — although he will be a restricted free agent if the Lakers make a qualifying offer. Restricted free agency is tricky.
The Lakers can make Horton-Tucker a restricted free agent by offering him a one-year qualifying offer worth approximately $1.9 million. Horton-Tucker will then have three options with regard to his free agency.
The first — and the rarest — is for him to accept that qualifying offer. He would then be on a one-year, $1.9 million deal, and would in turn become an unrestricted free agent in 2022. The second is to negotiate a contract extension with the Lakers directly, cutting out the possibility of him leaving.
The third — and most likely option — is for him to look at contract offers from other teams, including the Cavaliers. If there is one offer he likes the best, he can sign an offer sheet with that team. Once he does that, the Lakers will have a predetermined amount of time to decide whether or not to match that offer.
If they match it, Horton-Tucker must sign with the Lakers and play under that contract. If they don’t match, Horton-Tucker plays for the team he originally signed the offer sheet with.
Strategically, the Cavaliers — if they really want Horton-Tucker — could offer him an overpriced deal that the Lakers consider to be too expensive. However, given that the Lakers turned down Lowry at the trade deadline, it’s unlikely that any price would be too high to hold on to him.
Pelinka hopeful to keep players that Lakers developed
While improving the roster is always Rob Pelinka’s top priority, there is also something to be said about keeping players that were drafted and developed by the Lakers. This could clue fans into Pelinka’s mindset about the free agency or trade situations surrounding Horton-Tucker, Alex Caruso, and Kyle Kuzma.
“So the goal is to try to keep that core group together and of course with players like Talen Horton-Tucker and Alex Caruso and Kyle Kuzma, players that you draft or bring into your two-way system and groom and develop, there’s a level of pride in that and what the Lakers have been able to do with those players and to grow them. So of course our intentions would be to keep our core together and to have a championship team. So that would be the answer there.”
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