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LeBron James: Lakers 'Super-Duper Lucky and Blessed' to Have Talen Horton-Tucker

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistMarch 17, 2021

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) shakes hands with guard Talen Horton-Tucker (5) during the second half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

LeBron James praised Los Angeles Lakers teammate Talen Horton-Tucker, who scored 16 points off the bench in the team's 137-121 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday night.

"Let's be honest, if you go back in the [2019] draft and re-do the draft from last year, Talen Horton-Tucker would not go in the second round," James told reporters. "So we're super-duper lucky and blessed to be able to grab him."

Horton-Tucker spent most of his rookie season with the G League's South Bay Lakers, making just six appearances with L.A. after being selected with the 46th overall pick in the 2019 draft.

The 20-year-old Chicago native showed signs of a potential breakout year during the preseason, highlighted by a 33-point performance against the rival Los Angeles Clippers in December, but that didn't immediately translate to regular-season success as he tried to find a niche in the team's rotation.

He's started to find his stride since the calendar turned to March, as he's averaged 13 points, 3.8 assists and 3.6 rebounds while shooting 54.5 percent from the floor in five games this month. He tallied 18 points and 10 assists for his first career double-double in Monday's win over the Golden State Warriors.

"His ability to get downhill. Either his ability to get to the lane and finish or his ability to make the extra passes. You know, he's a big guard with great handle, with great poise and great balance," James said Tuesday.

Kyle Kuzma added, "When he's 25, 26, 27, it's gonna be scary."

The Lakers will likely want to balance getting their stars as much rest as possible during the second half of the regular season while still trying to improve their playoff seeding. They currently sit third in the Western Conference with a 27-13 record.

In turn, Horton-Tucker should continue to see ample playing time down the stretch, especially if the past couple of weeks of improved play are a sign of things to come.

If he consistently outplays Wesley Matthews and Alex Caruso, the Iowa State product could also earn himself a place in the Lakers' postseason backcourt rotation.

Los Angeles is back in action Thursday when it hosts the Charlotte Hornets at Staples Center.