In an ideal world, the Lakers would like to keep promising young wing Talen Horton-Tucker on their roster for years to come.
Thursday, the Lakers made sure they have the mechanism to do that, extending a qualifying offer to Horton-Tucker, making him a restricted free agent this offseason. That means the Lakers can match any offer for Tucker from another team.
Horton-Tucker averaged 9 points and 2.8 assists a game last season, but he shows the potential for so much more than that (especially if he can improve his 3-point shot, which was at 28.2% last season).
This is not a surprise. It is standard operating procedure, so the Lakers have leverage (if they had not given him a qualifying offer, he would be an unrestricted free agent).
There are a lot of teams that have seen Horton-Tucker’s promise this past season playing next to LeBron James and have thought about poaching him, and some may still try. It should be noted Horton-Tucker falls under the Arenas Rule of the CBA, which means the most another team can offer him is the mid-level exception of $9.5 million the first year, a 5% raise off that the second year, but in the third year they can offer all the way up to the max — a bubble at the end of the contract. Whether Horton-Tucker is worth more than $10 million a season (around the league average) is up for debate, it depends on how he develops, but some team might be willing to roll the dice on him. Los Angeles would likely match that offer.
The Lakers might be more likely to send out Horton-Tucker in a sign-and-trade (if they don’t just match any offer and keep him). Horton-Tucker is one of the most coveted players on the Lakers around the league; if Los Angeles used a sign-and-trade and combined him with the No. 22 pick and/or Kyle Kuzma or Montrezl Harrell (if Harrell picks up his $9.7 million player option for next season) or someone else, it might bring back the kind of difference maker ball handler the Lakers are looking for.
Horton-Tucker’s sign-and-trade could be combined with a Dennis Schroder sign-and-trade to bring back a player such as Russell Westbrook from the Wizards, someone the Lakers are known to have at least considered.
One way or another, expect a lot of Talen Horton-Tucker rumors to fly around in the coming weeks.