Coming into the 2021-22 season, the Los Angeles Lakers bet a lot of their championship aspirations on the growth and development of Talen Horton-Tucker.
The Lakers re-signed Horton-Tucker to a three-year, $30 million contract after his impressive sophomore season but so far this year, he has been a bit up and down as he adjusts to his new 3-and-D role. Los Angeles decided to emphasize shooting in the offseason, which meant most of the defensive responsibility would fall on Horton-Tucker’s shoulders.
So far, the young guard has shown flashes as a prototypical 3-and-D role player in the starting lineup next to the Big 3. It seemed like the 21-year-old had a bit of a breakthrough against the Orlando Magic as he had arguably his best two-way performance and he admitted afterward that he has started to get acclimated to his starting role.
“I’m just feeling comfortable now,” Horton-Tucker said. “Just trying to settle down into the role that I’m playing for this team. Just trying to figure out where my shots are going to come from and doing the things I can do defensively is going to come. Try to just take my time with that and I feel like as the season keeps moving on, we’re going to get better.”
One of the deciding factors as to whether or not Horton-Tucker can reach his potential is his jumpshot. It has looked shaky at times, but against the Magic, he shot an excellent 3-of-6 from distance and finished with 19 points.
He revealed that he was hesitant shooting the basketball during his recent slump, but has instead begun to focus on taking shots when they are presented to him within the flow of the offense.
“I feel like just staying aggressive and catch and shoot. At first, I kind was being a little hesitant not knowing what was going to happen after that, but just being aggressive, staying with my shot trusting my work is something that I’ve kind of been trying to focus in on.”
Because Horton-Tucker is so young, the team has the ability to mold and develop him in ways that can help them win today while still helping his long-term outlook. Horton-Tucker is already elite at getting all the way to the rim and finishing, but improvements as a defender and outside shooter could rocket him up into a different tier of player.
Head coach Frank Vogel outlined the kind of player he believes Horton-Tucker can become and should he meet those expectations the Lakers will be in good shape this season and beyond.
Horton-Tucker believes he and Bradley need to bring defensive energy
Aside from the great shooting night, Horton-Tucker also had an excellent defensive performance as he racked up a career-high six steals. The guard has a long wingspan and it was on display against Orlando as he routinely got his hands into passing lanes for deflections which ignited L.A.’s transition attack.
When talking about the steals, Horton-Tucker revealed he believes he and Avery Bradley are responsible for bringing the Lakers defensive energy.
“Coming into the game, knowing the team that we have, me and Avery [Bradley] are the guys that kind of bring it on the defensive end every night. Not saying everybody else doesn’t, but me and him have to do a little bit more. Just trying to bring any positive impact that I can to the game is something that I’ve been trying to do.
“They think I can be a great defender with my length. I just try to use that. Tonight it actually worked.”
Have you subscribed to our YouTube channel? It’s the best way to watch player interviews, exclusive coverage from events, participate in live shows, and more!