The Los Angeles Lakers are bringing back Talen Horton-Tucker, who was set to become a restricted free agent. The 20-year old guard has agreed to a three-year, $32 million contract, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, per Rich Paul.
Horton-Tucker’s evolution is an impressive achievement for the Lakers’ player development pipeline. The 46th pick of the 2019 NBA Draft spent most of his rookie season with the South Bay Lakers in the G League but joined the Lakers for their title run in the bubble. He earned playoff minutes — and Frank Vogel’s trust.
Horton-Tucker was one of the league’s breakout stars of the 2020 pre-season. He quickly became a mainstay in the Vogel’s rotation. He averaged 9.0 points in 20.1 minutes per game across 65 appearances in his sophomore campaign.
His rim attacking often sparked the second unit, and he greatly improved as a play-maker as the season wore on (he averaged 1.9 more assists per game after March 15).
THT churning butter #LakeShow pic.twitter.com/MSc3gtG3MK
— Michael Corvo (@michaelcorvoNBA) February 9, 2021
Horton-Tucker still has strides to make as a three-point shooter (28.5% career) and wing defender (he does have a 7’1 wingspan). Clearly, he’s a quick learner and a hard worker.
At the trade deadline in March, Rob Pelinka’s unwillingness to part with Horton-Tucker was the sticking point in the Lakers’ unsuccessful attempt to acquire Kyle Lowry from the Toronto Raptors.
As the rare 20-year old restricted free agent with two years of service time, Horton-Tucker was eligible to receive hefty “poison-pill” offers from rival teams that could have paid him up to $80 million over four years, or $60 million over three years. An offer like that would have forced the Lakers to make an exceedingly tough decision, one day after letting Alex Caruso walk.
Instead, the Lakers and Horton-Tucker were able to strike a reasonable deal that keeps THT away from restricted free agency. Klutch.
Congrats on the bag, Talen Horton-Tucker!