NBA Exec: Lakers' Talen Horton-Tucker 'Type of Player You Want to Chase' in FA

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistMarch 1, 2021

Los Angeles Lakers guard Talen Horton-Tucker (5) in the second half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Feb. 14, 2021, in Denver. The Nuggegts won 122-105. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
David Zalubowski/Associated Press

The Los Angeles Lakers will have more than a few role players potentially hitting free agency after the 2020-21 season, from guard Dennis Schroder to big man Montrezl Harrell to Alex Caruso, Markieff Morris, Talen Horton-Tucker and Wesley Matthews.

And one player who could attract a lot of attention on the market, and be tough for the Lakers to retain, is Horton-Tucker.

"He's a gifted defender with great length and great upside who's just 20 years old. In this market, that's exactly the type of player you want to chase," an Eastern Conference executive told ESPN's Brian Windhorst. "There could be a few teams who put them to the test and give [Horton-Tucker] an offer sheet thinking they could pry him away."

As Windhorst noted, interested teams couldn't offer Horton-Tucker more than the mid-level exception for next season (around $9.5 million), but they could backload an offer sheet that escalates his earnings in the final few years of a deal, making it difficult for the Lakers to match. 

The 20-year-old guard has shown promise off the Lakers' bench, averaging 6.9 points, 2.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 0.8 steals per game, shooting 43.6 percent overall and 28.1 percent from three. 

The issue for the Lakers is twofold: They are already on the hook for around $105 million next season, with LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma and Marc Gasol under contract, and they also have a number of role players likely to hit free agency who will receive plenty of interest around the league.

The Lakers are going to have to dip into the luxury tax next season. That's a foregone conclusion. But how far they'll go to keep the current roster intact remains to be seen. 

Keeping a young and developing player like Horton would make sense, but would it make sense at the expense of players like Harrell or Morris? Or will the Lakers be willing to go all-in and absorb a salary sheet that could ultimately rise to the $250 million mark once the tax is factored in?

Big questions for Rob Pelinka to answer. To this point, the Lakers have done a fantastic job of surrounding James and Davis with complementary pieces, but continuing to do so is only going to get more expensive.