Talen Horton-Tucker continues to turn heads as several superstars gush about the Lakers rookie

Ryan Ward
6 Min Read

The Los Angeles Lakers are 23 games into the 2020-21 NBA season, and the defending champions already look like they have no equal. LeBron James is making a strong case for MVP in his 18th season, while the new additions on this squad are living up to expectations.

Although James is dominating the headlines with what he’s doing at 36 years old, Talen Horton-Tucker has gone from G League standout to one of the best bench players for the Lakers this season. The young guard has proven to be a valuable asset for head coach Frank Vogel.

It Boils Down to Trust 

“It’s just been a big progression,” Vogel said. “I know he had some strong G League performances last year, but he didn’t really register on my radar until I started watching him in the practices in the bubble and in some of those bubble games. Just on a regular basis showing me excellent play and a very versatile offensive game with some real defensive talent.

“For me to put him in a real playoff game against the Houston Rockets and James Harden, that shows the level of trust that I have with him. 

“Back then I remember thinking, I don’t want to look back and say, ‘We tried to beat this team and I had this guy on the bench and I didn’t even use him.’ So I at least wanted to throw him out there.

“Every test, so to speak, that we’ve given him, he’s passed. He’s played really well and has continued to earn a bigger role. 

“Thing is we have a lot of guys playing well on this team. So there’s some stretches where he’s not going to play as much as others, but it doesn’t mean we have any kind of lack of confidence in him.” 

With the Lakers being one of the deepest teams in the NBA this season, Vogel has had difficulty finding minutes for the youngest player on the squad.

Horton-Tucker has played in 19 of the 23 games the Lakers have played this season, and the more he plays, the more he merits more time on the floor. He’s a threat on both ends of the floor and has earned high praise from the coaching staff as well as superstar Anthony Davis, especially after Thursday’s win over the Denver Nuggets.

Respect of a Superstar Teammate 

“A lot of credit goes to him,” Davis said. “He came in doing good things defensively. Scoring the basketball, making the right plays. We trust him. I know he’s young, but he wants to be in the game when it is crunch time. We can throw him in a game at any point and he’s going to make plays for us.

“He’s a young player that wants to learn, who wants to get better and I think the only way you can do that is with experience and he is not afraid of anyone. 

“Heart of a lion. He was on a championship team last year, so he knows what it takes and I think it was good for him just to be around even though he didn’t get much playing time last year, but just being around it and being around all the veterans and all the guys. He knows what we expect from him and he comes and brings it every single night.” 

Horton-Tucker isn’t a star. He’s not even fully the rotation at this point in his career, but it’s not hard to see his potential to be a special player in the very near future for the Lakers.

The 20-year-old has scored 10 points or more in six games thus far and is coming off his best performance in the regular season with 17 points against the Nuggets. He’s shown flashes of brilliance with his ability to get to the rim at will, stretch the floor with his outside shooting and his impact defensively.

Davis isn’t the only star player to take notice as Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green was glued to the screen on Thursday night watching the Lakers wipe the floor with the Nuggets. Horton-Tucker stuck out to the three-time NBA champion.

NBA Stars Taking Notice 

Of course, Green is a fellow Klutch Sports client, so he could be a bit biased here. Despite the possible bias, Horton-Tucker continues to prove he belongs in the NBA and could quickly become a consistent contributor on this title-contending team.

Horton-Tucker is averaging 16.3 minutes for the Lakers this season, which is an impressive stat for a young player on a team as deep as the Lakers are this year.

He’s also averaging 7.2 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game during his sophomore season. These numbers are bound to increase as it will get harder and harder for Vogel not to play the Iowa State University product as he continues to turn heads while on the basketball floor.

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Ryan is a veteran sportswriter who has covered the NBA and NFL for nearly a decade. Along with numerous exclusive interviews with professional athletes, Ryan has been credentialed by the Los Angeles Lakers since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RyanWardLA.