The Los Angeles Lakers scouting department has earned plenty of praise in recent years for how they have identified talent available late in the draft, but may have outdone themselves with Talen Horton-Tucker.
The Lakers selected Horton-Tucker with the No. 46 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, but the young guard spend most of his rookie season developing with the South Bay Lakers. While in the G League, Horton-Tucker showcased his unique ability to score at all three levels and eventually flashed what he could do for the Lakers when head coach Frank Vogel gave him spot minutes in the second round against the Houston Rockets.
The 20-year-old built on that progress and took the preseason by storm, displaying advanced on-ball skills and a knack for finishing at the rim. During his strong run, Horton-Tucker drew the attention of players like L.A. Clippers star Kawhi Leonard.
Horton-Tucker has come on as of late and Vogel voiced how pleased he has been with him the past two games in the absence of Alex Caruso and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
“He’s carrying a much bigger load than he was earlier in the season. We haven’t had a lot of practice time, so all of our guys are struggling to really get their legs under them. Talen had some really good bursts,” Vogel said.
“He’s still a really young player and had some coverages that he missed early in the game that, like the rest of the group, he figured out and got better as the game went along. We just love what that young man brings to the table in terms of his two-way productivity. Also got to the rim a couple times, he knocked down a 3. He brings a lot to the table.”
In their recent win against the Memphis Grizzlies, Horton-Tucker provided a much-needed boost for the Lakers in the first half as helped the team get going offensively while also playing solid defense. He finished the night with seven points, six rebounds and two assists in 24 minutes but his impact went beyond the box score.
It is a nice two-game stretch from Horton-Tucker after being benched in the team’s first game against the San Antonio Spurs. Horton-Tucker blew several defensive possessions against the Portland Trail Blazers, but has since looked much more locked in on that end of the floor.
Horton-Tucker’s continued development will be an intriguing storyline to follow all season long as he could be the next diamond in the rough for Los Angeles.
Horton-Tucker making case for regular rotation spot
With how Horton-Tucker has played the past couple of games, Vogel may have no choice but to make him a more permanent fixture in his rotation.
Horton-Tucker has seen extended run the past week because Caruso has yet to be cleared to return as he complies with the league’s health and safety protocols. Caldwell-Pope also missed the game against the Grizzlies because of a sprained ankle, allowing Vogel to give Horton-Tucker a longer look than usual.
The Iowa State product should continue to see more run during this early stretch of the schedule and it will be interesting to see if does indeed see more floor time.
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