The Lakers are bringing back at least one crucial free agent to next year’s roster: Talen Horton-Tucker.
The team agreed to a three-year, $32 million contract extension with the 20-year-old wing, who will be one of few homegrown players on what will be one of the oldest rosters in the NBA next season. The organization views the 6-foot-5 Chicago native as a developing talent who could one day ascend to a spot in the starting lineup if his growth continues.
ESPN was first to report the extension, which was confirmed on social media by Luc Newton, one of Horton-Tucker’s agents at Klutch Sports (the firm that also manages LeBron James and Anthony Davis).
Horton-Tucker was a restricted free agent who the Lakers took pains to retain after selecting him in the second round of the 2019 NBA Draft out of Iowa State. He was the reported sticking point in trade talks with the Toronto Raptors for All-Star guard Kyle Lowry during the trade deadline last season.
He became a regular rotation member last season, averaging 9 points and 2.8 assists in 65 appearances, and Laker veterans have regularly spoken glowingly about his potential.
It became all the more important to keep Horton-Tucker after fellow free agent Alex Caruso departed by signing a four-year deal with the Chicago Bulls. As of Tuesday afternoon, the Lakers have just four players returning on guaranteed contracts from last season: James, Davis, Horton-Tucker and Marc Gasol. Alfonzo McKinnie is on a non-guaranteed deal this season.
Veteran wings Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Kuzma were dealt to Washington in the trade for Russell Westbrook, while point guard Dennis Schröder is not expected to return.
ESPN reported that the third year of Horton-Tucker’s deal is a player option.
The Lakers announced the signing of undrafted guards Joel Ayayi (Gonzaga) and Austin Reaves (Oklahoma) to two-way contracts.
Ayayi appeared in 32 games (31 starts) for Gonzaga last season, averaging 12 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.1 steals in 31.3 minutes while shooting 57.5% overall and 38.9% from 3-point range. The 2020-21 All-WCC first-team honoree was named the 2020 WCC Tournament MVP.
Reaves appeared in 25 games (all starts) for Oklahoma last season, averaging 18.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.6 assists in 34.5 minutes while shooting 44.3% overall and 30.5% from 3-point range. The 2020-21 All-Big 12 first-team selection led the conference in free throws made (147). In four years at Oklahoma and Wichita State, Reaves shot 34.7 percent from three-point range.
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