After spending much of the 2019-20 season in the G League and on the Los Angeles Lakers bench, Talen Horton-Tucker has officially become a regular in head coach Frank Vogel’s rotation. In 35 games this season, Horton-Tucker is averaging 17.7 minutes per game. While there has been some expected inconsistency, there have also been flashes of brilliance from the 20-year old.
Those flashes are exactly what caught the attention of LeBron James when Horton-Tucker was still in high school. It was James’ recommendation that got him drafted by L.A. in the first place, and now he’s in position to be a pillar of the team moving forward.
As for this season, Vogel has put his full faith in Horton-Tucker to be a part of the postseason rotation after his career night against the Golden State Warriors, finishing with 18 points, 10 assists and four rebounds.
“Oh for sure, just the amount of minutes and opportunity that he’s gotten this year, he didn’t have that under his belt last year,” Vogel said. “He joined us in the bubble basically having played most of the season in the G League and basically had no experience.
“So to throw him in there in a playoff series just shows the type of confidence I had in him. But it’s a whole nother level now, of course, just him being a rotation player all throughout this season.”
James is also of the belief that Horton-Tucker can be relied on when the playoffs come around, selecting him as a “new” player on the team that he trusts when it counts the most.
“Yeah, Talen. He’s new, he got a little bit of minutes last year but he’s new. We’ve got our veterans, Trezz will be ready, I know Dennis will be ready, I know Marc will be ready for the postseason run. But Talen is new pretty much to our extended season. But I know he’ll be ready for it as well.”
When asked about what has prepared him to be a nightly contributor, Horton-Tucker talked about simply having the opportunity. “Last year when I was first thrown in, I really didn’t know what to expect. So being able to have the opportunity to come out this year, it helped just bring energy which is something that I’m ready for. Just being able to do that is going to be key for us.”
Ever since the Western Conference Semifinals game against the Houston Rockets when Horton-Tucker had an incredible short cameo, Lakers fans have been eager to see what he can do in a regular role.
There are still some issues that need to be work out with his game — poor three-point shooting, tunnel vision when driving, and indecisiveness — but he is certainly ready to help this team win games now and in the future.
Vogel describes Horton-Tucker as fearless
When asked to evaluate what the second-year guard has done so far this season, Vogel gave both constructive criticism and immense praise. “Talen plays like a young player,” Vogel said. “He’s fearless, I love that part about him, he was trying to dunk on the leading shot-blocker last night, making some good plays.
“But he certainly makes his fair share of mistakes as well and that’s part of having a young player. But his attitude, his willingness to get better, his confidence in himself, it’s everything you want in a young player and we’re very pleased with what he has brought to the table for us this year.”
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