The Los Angeles Lakers’ losses on the defensive side of the ball have been spoken about plenty since this season began. With the likes of Alex Caruso, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Dennis Schroder gone, the Lakers must rely on others to step up defensively and Frank Vogel believes a big part of that will be third-year guard Talen Horton-Tucker.
Horton-Tucker’s athleticism, unique build and 7’1 wingspan give him the potential to guard multiple positions and since returning to the Lakers lineup after a thumb injury suffered in the preseason, Vogel has experimented with just that. Horton-Tucker has already seen himself defending the likes of Khris Middleton, Zach LaVine, Jayson Tatum and 2021 first overall pick Cade Cunningham and that is by design.
Vogel views this as a challenge in the development of Horton-Tucker and believes he has the ability to help fill in what the Lakers lost this offseason.
“He’s a two-way player,” the Lakers head coach noted ahead of the team’s comeback win over the Detroit Pistons.
“Understanding that he has physical abilities and we want to present that challenge for him, but also the losses that we have with the perimeter defenders that we lost. We have to fill that gap. Fill it with some of the guys we signed or maybe just Talen being a high-minute player for us, so let’s challenge him for that assignment.”
This is something that Vogel has spoken about previously and Horton-Tucker has embraced it as well. The Lakers’ role players are generally either offensive specialists or defenders who struggle to contribute on the other side of the ball. Horton-Tucker is an exception to that and Vogel wants to develop those skills.
He understands that this will come with highs and lows as he noted after the Lakers’ loss in Boston. “We’re grooming Talen [Horton-Tucker] to guard the other team’s best player and sometimes that’s going to look really good and sometimes you’re going to struggle.”
Horton-Tucker has looked much improved since returning to the court and he will clearly play a big role for the Lakers moving forward. If he is able to turn into someone Frank Vogel can rely on to effectively guard the opposition’s best perimeter player, the Lakers will become that much better of a team.
Vogel believes Pistons win can change momentum of Lakers’ season
Horton-Tucker certainly played a huge role in the Lakers’ win in Detroit, logging 33 minutes off the bench and notching a clutch bucket as well. Vogel believes this win is the type to potentially change the course of the Lakers’ season.
“To me it’s one of those things that can change the momentum of your season,” Vogel said. “To see guys rally around a teammate that just got ejected like that in a strange circumstance, they played with incredible guts. Started in the third quarter when we were down 15 and in that situation, that’s the determination that this team’s gonna need.
“Those young guys played hard and we’ll get everybody’s best punch every night, so that’s how hard we got to play to get Ws. So to see that we can do it and get a tough win on the road down 15 at the start of the fourth, that’s a heck of a win for us.”
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