— don (@donny_mchenry) September 22, 2021
In a series of articles leading up to the start of the Lakers’ preseason on October 3rd, we’ll be looking at the best options for the team’s starting shooting guard and what those options could bring to the lineup. This is the second article of the series (we examined Kent Bazemore as an option in the first article), taking a look at Talen Horton-Tucker and why he could be an option for Frank Vogel to use at the starting two spot.
The 2021-22 Lakers are old. It’s not “breaking news” to say that, as it has been a running joke through NBA Twitter for this entire offseason. Ever since the Lakers surrounded LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook with players like Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony, and Rajon Rondo, Staples Center has been envisioned as a nursing home for 2013 NBA All-Stars. LeBron, Davis, and Westbrook are all set to start, and with a possible starting center in Howard (35 years old) or DeAndre Jordan (33 years old), the team could have an average age of 30-32 years old in their starting lineup (although recent reports from Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer suggest AD will be starting at the five). However, that average age could easily plummet with an injection of youth in the form of Talen Horton-Tucker who will only be 20 years old when the season opens on October 19th.
Head coach Frank Vogel has already gushed over what the team’s fast breaks could look like with Russell Westbrook on the floor. If Vogel wants his team to get out and run early, the young legs of Talen Horton-Tucker may be the perfect fit alongside Westbrook in the backcourt. However, the fit in the backcourt between THT and Westbrook would be a little wonky in other areas due to the fact that the two have similar skill sets. Now, I’m not saying THT provides the same quality when doing similar things to Westbrook, but the similarities are definitely there. The difference is that THT’s shortcomings are due to his youth. It’s unlikely that a 13-year veteran like Westbrook would come into training camp with his stark weaknesses turned into strengths, but THT still has the time to reinvent, retool, and reinvigorate the facets of his game to try and be that perfect complementary piece that could shore up the starting backcourt.
If he doesn’t improve in his weaker areas (more on that in a bit), Horton-Tucker definitely could help provide some needed perimeter defense to a starting lineup that will need it now that Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is in Washington. Defense is definitely one of Westbrook’s weak points, while THT has shown the talent and ability to be a good perimeter defender. Just take a look at his perimeter defense statistics above courtesy of B-Ball Index. You’ll notice that pickpocketing and collecting steals are his best abilities while defending on the perimeter, as the 6’4” guard has an insane 7’1” wingspan allowing him to cause havoc on the perimeter like in the play below.
The Lakers’ front office and scouting department would be celebrating before the season starts if THT were to debut the season as a starter. He’s the lone player on the team that has actually been drafted by the Lakers, and he’s one of only a handful of Lakers draftees to receive a new deal from the team in the past decade. THT starting would further validate the Lakers’ pursuits of top-level, veteran superstars with their other young assets throughout the years, as it would show that team can do that while improving around the margins in the present with their few draftees, while also preserving a long-term asset that may ascend to All-Star status down the road.
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