The past month saw Talen Horton-Tucker's name get thrown around
far more as a bargaining chip than as an actual basketball
Horton-Tucker, according to most reports, was the "centerpiece"
of many attempted trades by the Los Angeles Lakers. He was involved
in swaths of rumored deals, including one from ESPN's Brian Windhorst that
could have brought back Christian Wood and John Wall from Houston.
The gossip goes back all the way to last season's trade deadline,
when he was supposedly the primary holdup in a potential Kyle Lowry
Of course, the Lakers didn't make any moves. Horton-Tucker
remains on an ill-fitting roster that is lost at a critical
juncture of the season. Many fans are probably wondering why he's
still on the team and not headed elsewhere with a future draft
It feels like we've been forgetting about who Talen
Horton-Tucker actually is as a player. He's 21 years
old and playing a role that far exceeds his age and draft slot. Now
that THT's short-term future is certain, it's worth pulling some
numbers to help describe his unique nature as a young talent.
There are 28 second-round draft picks averaging at least 25
minutes per game over at least 25 games this season. Horton-Tucker
is the youngest. Open it up to all players drafted outside the
top-20 and THT is still the youngest. Among all
players drafted outside the top 10, only Isaiah Stewart is
Horton-Tucker was drafted No. 46 overall in 2019. He was not
supposed to be here this quickly, and especially not for a team
trying to contend in the postseason. He's receiving almost seven
more minutes per game in what I imagine is a more stressful team
environment compared to last season.
Now, I'm not going to sugarcoat anything: Talen Horton-Tucker
has been one of the most inefficient rotation players on offense in
the NBA. Almost every stat points this way, including Cleaning the
Glass' Points per 100 Shot Attempts rate, where Horton-Tucker is in
the 15th percentile (100.8 PSA) at his position. He turns the ball
over at an extremely high rate (13.5%) and has below-league-average
efficiency clips from nearly every zone on the floor.
But hidden between the brick houses are some positive
indicators. He's a great driver. According to The BBall Index,
Horton-Tucker averaged 10 adjusted drives per 75 possessions (82nd
percentile) and 3.4 unassisted rim attempts per 75 possessions
(86th percentile). He's extremely well-built for a 6-foot-4
21-year-old at 230 pounds, and you see that in how he gets to the
Horton-Tucker's assist rate (14.7%) and assist-to-usage rate
(0.77) are both in the top 20%. This is a little misleading;
Cleaning the Glass has him listed as a wing this season, but I
don't think that's his long-term position — despite the weird
nature of Lakers rotations. Still, those are both solid numbers,
and BBall Index supports a case for THT as a passer. Horton-Tucker
gets an A+ grade from the database in their "Passing Versatility"
metric and an A- grade in their overall "Playmaking Talent" impact
estimator. You can read more about how those are calculated
And if you want a small carrot to chase, Horton-Tucker is making
close to 80% of his limited free-throw attempts. That can often be
positive foreshadowing of some shooting improvement.
On defense, THT's block and steal rates are both well above
average. He tallies 2.66 deflections per 75 possessions (74th
percentile) and turns them into 1.31 steals per 75 possessions
(87th percentile). These don't mean he's a "good defender," but
they are definitely positives. His wingspan, which is somewhere
around seven feet, is ridiculous proportionally.
The Lakers give Horton-Tucker some tough assignments. Per BBall
Index, THT spends 21% of the time guarding the opponent's primary
ball-handler. He has extremely high marks in "Matchup Difficulty"
(80th percentile) and "Positional Versatility" (94th percentile)
which essentially means that, from these trackers, Horton-Tucker is
asked to handle good offensive players in a variety of contexts.
And on the whole, he's been at least passable when doing
That's a lot to digest. All of the advanced stats should be
taken with a grain of salt — there's no film here to capture how
THT does what he does, and discern if the numbers line up with his
fit in a team context. Again, this also isn't meant to overshadow
his extreme current negatives on offense and the fact that his
defense isn't helping the Lakers enough to make them, well,
The point is: Talen Horton-Tucker is interesting for a reason.
He's a third-year pro who is only 21 and was expected to be a
"project" out of the draft. He's in a larger role than anyone could
have anticipated from someone on his career path. His current
contract will end in 2024 and he'll still be just 23 years
Should the Lakers have traded him in a deal for, say, Kyle
Lowry? Definitely. But that doesn't mean Horton-Tucker isn't
himself worth betting on in the long-term.
THE OUTLIERS (a.k.a. other random interesting numbers I
find in the void):
- From Em Adler of The Next on one of the
world's most dominant basketball players, Caitlin Clark (stats as
of Feb. 7): "Since New Year’s, Clark leads the country in points,
assists, points in the paint, usage, attempts from both the field
and the line, and nearly leads the country in defensive rebounds.
She’s also in the 98th percentile in true-shooting and in the 93rd
in blocks and ranks third overall in fouls drawn (all per CBB
Analytics)." My goodness.
- Our Nekias Duncan wrote a super insightful piece on Karl-Anthony Towns' post-up
presence and how the Wolves are using it more successfully. My
favorite stat from that: Minnesota is averaging 1.02 points per
possession on plays with a Towns post-up in 2022, compared to just
0.84 PPP in the 2021 part of the season.
- Another plug: Mat Issa opened my eyes to the greatness of Steven Adams
this past week. It's crazy the effect he's partially had on
pick-and-rolls where he plays:
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