LOS ANGELES – Second-year guard Talen Horton-Tucker, the outstanding second game of preseason, already has Los Angeles Lakers coach Frank Vogel scratching his head about his rotation.
“It will definitely make my job harder,” Vogel said when asked how he would find a role for Horton-Tucker after he dominated the LA Clippers with 33 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals in 131-106. win Sunday.
Horton-Tucker, selected by the Lakers with the No. 46 pick in the 2019 draft, was able to show in large part why LA was missing. LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Wesley Matthews and Dennis Schroder were given the free night to rest, and Kostas Antetokounmpo and Devontae Cacok were delayed due to the “health and safety protocols of the league,” according to Vogel.
That left 41 minutes available for Horton-Tucker to play – more than half of the 81 minutes he recorded his entire debut season – in which he won a plus-minus of a plus-36.
“We have a very deep team. No minutes are guaranteed,” Vogel said. “He will continue to play at a high level, and that should push everyone else to stay playing at a high level. It gives us that luxury to have him carry the burden for some of our guys who played deep in the championship. Last year and had a short offseason.”
In an unprecedented season the Lakers and the NBA start in 2020-21, having someone like Horton-Tucker on the roster is good. He can fill in when the stars are resting, as Vogel alluded to. He is another capable body if COVID-19 would affect the locker room. And, especially in the case of a veteran team like the Lakers, the energy generated by a 20-year-old certification found in the league seems to be already rubbing the group.
James showed aside all night, leaving his seat to imitate how Horton-Tucker slapped his wrist to end a shot in traffic, shaking his head in amazement after a robbery and finish at the other end and even taking off his mask to poke it on the bench as if he hit a touchdown when the Iowa State product won another bucket.
“I look at it as a blessing,” said Horton-Tucker, who is often referred to as “THT”. “Actually it’s crazy, because I feel like another 19-, 20-year-old has this experience in the world? Not too many. So just being able to take it all in and learn from it every day, seeing other superstars a little bit realize it’s actually quite good. “
Standing 6-foot-4, but with a wingspan of 7-foot-1, Horton-Tucker showed skill in using that reach to make plays at the defensive end.
“Obviously he’s still young and he’s going to make some mistakes from time to time, but he has as much defensive talent as offensive,” Vogel said. “So I feel he’s a good fit for us.”
His potential is already beginning to mirror another young defensive guard for the Lakers, who went from the G-League two years ago to the 6th Game of the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat: Alex Caruso.
“Everyone’s journey is different, but I just feel like AC is pretty good,” Horton-Tucker said. “Just being able to see him next to me every day gives you a good measure to see where you are individually. So just being able to have such a guy and see the success he’s had gives me confidence in myself that I can do the samon. “