The Los Angeles Lakers will have some difficult decisions to make this summer as they could have as many as 10 free agents and likely won’t be able to retain all of them.
Perhaps at the top of the list though will be 20-year-old restricted free agent Talen Horton-Tucker, who the organization has been high on since drafting him in the second round out of Iowa State in 2019.
Horton-Tucker’s two seasons with the Lakers have been filled with ups and downs, but the star potential remains, so much so that the organization was unwilling to part with him in trade talks for Kyle Lowry at the deadline this past season.
If the Lakers want to re-sign Horton-Tucker though it won’t come cheap as he is expected to garner interest from a number of teams, with the Cleveland Cavaliers already reported to be one of them.
According to Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report, one Eastern Conference executive is even willing to give Horton-Tucker a maximum contract:
“I’d max him out,” an Eastern Conference executive said.
In 65 games for the Lakers this past season, Horton-Tucker averaged 9.0 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 20.1 minutes. While that is far from max player production, with him it is all about potential and what he can be in the future.
Now, Horton-Tucker’s max salary figure is significantly lower than most players. Because of the Arenas Rule, Horton-Tucker can only make around $9.5 million the next two seasons before making a true max in the final two seasons. That would come out to a contract of around four years, $84 million that is significantly backloaded, if a team is willing to offer it.
Because Horton-Tucker is a restricted free agent, the Lakers will have the ability to match any offer sheet he signs, making it increasingly likely he returns to L.A.
Pelinka putting priority on retaining players Lakers drafted and/or developed
Rob Pelinka may have tipped his hand a bit at the beginning of the offseason when it comes to free agency. He stated that the team takes pride in retaining players they drafted and/or developed, signifying that free agents like Horton-Tucker and Alex Caruso will be prioritized.
“In terms of free agency we feel like we have a core group of players that can do special things,” Pelinka said. “I’m convinced that, again, without some of the unforeseen circumstances this year, the challenges we had to face, that we’d be a championship-caliber team.
“So the goal is to try to keep that core group together and of course with players like Talen Horton-Tucker and Alex Caruso and Kyle Kuzma, players that you draft or bring into your two-way system and groom and develop, there’s a level of pride in that and what the Lakers have been able to do with those players and to grow them. So of course our intentions would be to keep our core together and to have a championship team. So that would be the answer there.”
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