Over the offseason, the Los Angeles Lakers made it clear that the development of Talen Horton-Tucker was going to play a major factor in their success this season. And while it’s only been three games since his return, it’s apparent that the 20-year old combo guard has taken a major leap.
In three games, Horton-Tucker is averaging 23.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.3 steals, shooting 49% from the field and 40% from three. It’s unlikely these types of numbers sustain themselves over the whole season, but even getting a large portion of this on a nightly basis would be a difference-maker.
Horton-Tucker kept it simple when discussing his hot start this season. “I just wanted to come in and trust my work, the work that I put in in the summertime. So just being able to come in and get an opportunity to play has been good.”
The 40% 3-point mark has been perhaps the most impressive thing, and Horton-Tucker feels that his injury may have actually helped him to get to this point.
“When I first got hurt, after I had surgery, I didn’t have any feeling in my hand,” Horton-Tucker said. “So coming back, I’m just trying to focus on getting my follow through right, finishing my shot, just all the little mechanics that go into shooting. Being able to focus on that the time I’ve been out, including on top of the summer work that I put in, I feel like it’s been coming.”
And like all young players, Horton-Tucker has reached a point where the game is slowing down, making it easier to see what’s in front of him and react to it. “I feel like you only get better with experience. I still don’t think I’ve played 82 games in the NBA period yet,” Horton-Tucker said after his 74th career game.
“So I feel like I’m just getting better with time. Everything, like Coach says, is starting to slow down a little bit more, make easier reads and things like that. I feel like it’s only the start.”
While this wasn’t a necessary choice, the Lakers felt during the offseason that they had to decide between keeping Horton-Tucker or keeping Alex Caruso. If Horton-Tucker can make this type of leap and keep it consistent, then there’s no denying they made the right call.
The Lakers’ third-year guard looks like a star in the making, and he can drastically raise the ceiling of this team and the franchise’s future if he can sustain this level of play.
Horton-Tucker making case to start when LeBron James returns
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel had not thought this far ahead but assumed that Horton-Tucker would return to a bench role when LeBron James came back to the lineup. Now, he is not so sure after seeing the way he has played through three games.
“Yes. That’s not to say that when Bron comes back or we’re whole, I haven’t made any decisions about what that’s ultimately going to look like. Sometimes scoring off the bench is what you need, but he’s been playing good as anybody from a standpoint of both sides of the ball. What he’s given to us on defense and what he’s given to us on offense.
“He’s been terrific in his first few games back and he’ll have a big role, but definitely has made a case.”
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