Talen Horton-Tucker is the easy answer when trying to figure out who the Los Angeles Lakers’ X-factor will be during the 2021-22 season.
The Lakers made sure to keep Horton-Tucker for the near future when they signed him to a three-year deal in free agency, and the young guard is projected to be a major part of head coach Frank Vogel’s rotation. Horton-Tucker has already proven he belongs in the NBA after a solid sophomore showing, but expectations for him are running high and Los Angeles will be counting on him to step up.
The 20-year-old is already a menace when getting to the rim, but vice president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka believes he needs to make strides defensively.
“I think Talen has got to establish himself as a dominant defensive player,” Pelinka said. “I think that is going to be the expectation on him. You guys know Frank Vogel prides himself on that end. He builds everything with his defense. There’s nothing Talen doesn’t have to keep him from being an elite player. We all know about his publicized incredible wingspan. Broad shoulders, quickness, athleticism.
“If he makes a choice to dominate you on the defensive end with his body and his length and his athleticism, that could be a nightmare for opponents. So I think it starts there, and I think we want to see him grow as a playmaker. I think he knows he’s got to slow his game down, but I think when he gets in the paint, if he has open vision where he can see guys in corners or open teammates when the defense collapses, I think growing in his reads those are some of the areas that we see that he will have great success in and add dimensions to his game this year for sure.”
Pelinka seemed to reiterate Vogel’s comments as the head coach revealed that Horton-Tucker’s already been challenged to be an impact player on the defensive end. Horton-Tucker oftentimes made mistakes when guarding players off the ball, but it sounds like he will be expected to assume even more responsibility.
The guard is so young that he is massive amounts of room to grow, but if he is able to make a leap defensively then the Purple and Gold will be that much more formidable.
Talen Horton-Tucker was focused on returning to Lakers
Horton-Tucker was a restricted free agent and it stands to reason that he had his choice of teams to play for. However, he admitted shortly after re-signing that he was focused on coming back to the Lakers.
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