5 Reasons Why Talen Horton-Tucker Is the Future at Point Guard for Lakers
It’s definitely premature and disrespectful of proven veteran teammates but I’m going to say it anyway: 20-year old Talen Horton-Tucker is the future at point guard for the Lakers and could be the starter sometime this season.
In four preseason games, Talen averaged 20.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 2.3 steals in 31.6 minutes per game, ranking 2nd in points, 2nd in rebounds, 4th in assists, 1st in steals, and 1st in plus/minus for the team. And these were not hollow stats posted in garbage time minutes as Talen was a major force in the Lakers’ undefeated preseason, highlighted by a 33 point, 10 rebound, 4 assist, and 4 steal performance against the Clippers.
Yes, it’s only been four preseason games but the improvement in Talen’s game at both ends of the court has been almost unprecedented for a second round draft pick. His newfound confidence and skill level are off the charts. The Lakers’ coaching staff and players say what everyone’s seen Horton-Tucker do in his brief debut in the playoffs and this preseason, he has been doing everyday in practice and scrimmages since last season in the bubble.
There are five reasons why Talen is the future starter at point guard for the Lakers: his elite ability to get to the rim and finish, run the pick-and-roll, make plays for others, create steals and turnovers, and shoot the three ball.
1. Ability to Get to the Rim and Finish
The first thing that jumps out at you about Talen Horton-Tucker is the ability of his powerful 234 pound body to absorb contact at the rim and use his freakish length and acrobatic athleticism to finish highlight reel layups. Blessed with a 7' 1" wingspan, hands almost as big as Kawhi Leonard, and the biggest body of any NBA player his height, the 6' 4" Horton-Taylor is a tireless juggernaut that relentlessly and fearlessly attacks the basket.
With elite physical skills and shifty moves, Talen has the potential to be one of the hardest players in the league to stop from getting to the basket. He’s an unstoppable attack dog with unique ability to get to the rim at will.
2. Ability to Run the Pick-and-Roll
One of the key skills that make Talen incredibly difficult to defend is his savvy ability on pick-and-rolls to use his handle, strength, and change of pace to put and keep his defender in jail as he navigates through the paint. While he’s not fast or quick, Horton-Tucker’s strong body, long arms, and big hands make him a nightmare matchup for most point guards and impossible to control in the lane where he’s a lethal threat to score or pass.
Talen’s gravity as a finisher and uncanny court vision let him to use pick-and-rolls to create opportunities for others in the paint or on the perimeter and his huge hands and long arms enable him to find them in traffic.
3. Ability to Make Plays for Others
Make no mistake, Talen Horton-Tucker is not going to be a pass-first point guard. His future is clearly as a shoot-first point guard whose threat as a big time scorer is going to demand other teams’ attention and best defenders. Unlike most young high powered scorers, Talen has great court vision and the willingness to make the right play when a teammate is open, whether the result of him being in attack mode or a simple hockey pass to the corner.
Talen’s elite passing repertoire includes all the weapons a great playmaker needs, including pinpoint pocket passes in the pick-and-roll, drive-and-kick passes to wide open 3-point shooters, or lobs to bigs for dunks at the rim.
4. Ability to Create Steals and Turnovers
Defense has been how 20-year old Talen Horton-Tucker has earned minutes on the Lakers’ 10-deep championship roster. His weapons are a 6' 4" 234 lb body, 7' 1" wingspan, and ‘Klaw’ sized hands to create steals and turnovers. His elite arm length and hand size enable him to hound ball handlers and deflect passes, tip balls from dribblers, and rip the ball out of players’ hands like he did while defending Kawhi in preseason game against the Clippers.
Talen’s outlier physical metrics and defensive potential were what first brought him to the attention of NBA scouts. His team best 2.3 steals per game in preseason show how far he’s grown under the Lakers’ tutelage.
5. Ability to Shoot the Three Ball
The biggest surprise since his rookie year is Horton-Tucker’s improvement as 3-point shooter, hitting 2 of 5 (40%) in his 17 minutes in two playoff games and 7 of 13 in his 127 (53.8%) minutes in four preseason games. Talen’s improved 3-point shooting showed how hard he worked on his shot as he only made 49 out of 159 threes (30.8%) in his one year at Iowa State and 72 of 233 threes (30.9%) in his 38 game stint in the G-League last year.
If he can shoot the three well, there’s no limit to how far Talen can go. That he shot 90% from the line in preseason compared to 74% in the G-League and 62% at Iowa State gives hope his improved shooting may be legitimate.
Going from preseason sensation to regular season rotation player to starting point guard is a daunting challenge on any team much less on a deep and talented championship team but Talen Horton-Tucker has a chance to do it. The next step is taking over as the Lakers’ backup point guard and proving his preseason performance was not a fluke and the team can count on him to run the offense efficiently, rack up points, and defend at a high level
That Talen’s already knocking on the door is a luxury and miracle for a Lakers team already favored to repeat as champions. There are encouraging signs they may have already found their point guard of the future in THT.
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