The Los Angeles Lakers’ roster this season has been a mess, but there may be a pathway back to championship contention this offseason by removing certain players, most notably Russell Westbrook, and filling out the team with more young, reliable role players.
Doing so would likely necessitate at least one trade, and in recent months, one player who has been talked about as trade bait for that purpose has been third-year guard Talen Horton-Tucker.
Despite getting just a little bit of spot duty as a rookie in 2020, he flashed his potential by displaying an uncanny ability to get to the rim and finish.
Last season, he became a member of L.A.’s rotation, and he started to develop, averaging 9.0 points and 2.8 assists in 20.1 minutes per game.
Unfortunately, Horton-Tucker has regressed this season. Despite an increase in playing time, he’s averaging just 9.3 points per game, and his shooting efficiency is significantly lower than it was last year.
According to an executive of a Western Conference team, trading for the guard doesn’t seem attractive, but it’s not because he has failed to improve this year.
Via Bleacher Report:
“He may be great in four or five years, but he’s not right now,” the Western Conference executive said. “If we trade for him and he blows up, he’ll just opt out and hit free agency in 2023. We’d have no control over his contract.”
The Lakers signed Horton-Tucker to a three-year deal last offseason when he was a free agent. The deal seemed to make sense at the time, as it seemed it would take him a little while to become whatever he has the potential of growing into.
If L.A. ends up trading Westbrook, it may have to attach a future first-round draft pick in 2027 or 2029 just to get rid of him. Such an option seems unappetizing, as those draft picks could turn out to be very high.
It would seem preferable to include Horton-Tucker instead, but if teams are unwilling to acquire him, the Lakers could face a difficult dilemma this summer.