Los Angeles Lakers guard Talen Horton-Tucker believes that he’s a better player when he has the ball in his hands.
The 21-year-old Horton-Tucker has shown plenty of promise at times and is clearly getting more comfortable on the court as his game develops.
“I feel like every situation that I’ve been in is almost like a learning experience,” Horton-Tucker said. “Being on the ball, off the ball, it’s experience that you need. Obviously I felt better with the ball in my hands, and I felt I had success with that, but just learning to play with stars was the most important thing they wanted me to do.
“During those stretches I got to play a lot more. Bron (LeBron James) was out to start, and then to finish the season we had some other guys out. Just the opportunity to have the ball in my hands and play and be at my best. … It felt good to actually do that.”
Horton-Tucker was originally drafted by the Orlando Magic in the second round of the 2019 NBA Draft. He was then acquired by the Lakers in a trade on draft night.
As the 46th player taken overall, the Lakers’ expectations for Horton-Tucker were most likely modest. However, the guard has continued to make progress during his three seasons in the league.
At certain points during his time with the Lakers, Horton-Tucker has been overshadowed by superstar players like James and Anthony Davis.
The youngster’s relatively obscure status was forced to change at times this season due to key injuries that kept both Davis and James off the floor for extended periods. Those absences were major reasons why the championship hopes of the team crashed and caused L.A. to miss the postseason altogether.
In his time on the court during the 2021-22 season, which included 19 starts, Horton-Tucker averaged 10.0 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.0 steal per game.
Given Horton-Tucker’s growing confidence, those numbers figure to improve next season.
Horton-Tucker is set to make slightly under $10.3 million next season and has a player option for the 2023-24 campaign that would pay him just over $11.0 million. If he gets the ball in his hands more often, he may be able to prove that he’s worth even more.