The clear X-factor for the Los Angeles Lakers heading into the 2021-22 season is Talen Horton-Tucker, who the team signed to a new three-year deal this past offseason.
Horton-Tucker made a leap in his sophomore season, showing off his elite ability to drive and finish at the rim as well as some early signs of advanced playmaking. Still only 20 years old, Horton-Tucker’s ceiling is massive and he could end up a major contributor for a Lakers team looking to win its 18th franchise championship.
One thing to look out for will be the young guard’s defensive acumen considering Los Angeles lost several perimeter defenders this summer. Horton-Tucker acknowledged that the defensive side of the ball is something that he has already talked to head coach Frank Vogel and vice president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka about.
“Just trying to see myself as that person,” Horton-Tucker said. “Using my youth to go out there and guard guys. Using my tools that I have just to be good on that end of the floor. So I’m just trying to work hard at that and just trying to get better overall, throughout the whole year.”
Aside from his defense —which Vogel has challenged him to be “that guy”— Horton-Tucker’s ability to shoot from the perimeter could make or break his case for extended minutes and he seems optimistic that he could be in for a good year.
“I’m positive about it. Just trying to get the reps in, trusting the work that I’ve put in is something that I feel like will go a long way. So just being able to continue to work at it and I feel like being around the team that we have, playing defense with me doing that will open up a lot of things for us I feel like so it’ll be helpful.”
With the other shooters Pelinka added to the roster, Horton-Tucker should have plenty of room to operate on the floor but him being able to keep defenses honest when he is off the ball would be a massive upgrade to the offense. The sky is truly the limit for the guard and it will be exciting to see if he can build on last season’s success.
Rob Pelinka calls for Talen Horton-Tucker to become a dominant defender
The Lakers’ identity under Vogel has been about their defense, ranking near or at the top in defensive efficiency the past two seasons. But Vogel is not the only one calling for Horton-Tucker to become an impact defender as Pelinka also wants to see him become dominant on that end.
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