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NBA Sunday: Chicago Bulls Are Still Legit

Derrick Rose believes the Bulls can win the championship this year. He may be correct, writes Moke Hamilton.

Moke Hamilton



Chicago Bulls Are Still Legit

For almost as long as we can remember, the Eastern Conference has been thought to be a two-horse race between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Atlanta Hawks. But with the return of Derrick Rose, the Chicago Bulls are hoping to emerge as a third contender.

Them doing so is not outside of the realm of possibility, and it is especially possible if you ask Derrick Rose his opinion.

“Who knows?” Rose asked rhetorically to BullsTV after he played his first home game at the United Center since February 23.

“The [Mavericks] team that won a couple years ago, nobody knew they were going to win the championship until they did it,” Rose said. “I think that we got the same talent that they had and we still got the same mission from the beginning of the year. We want to win a championship. It seems like we’re getting close.”

A few weeks ago, the thought of the Bulls competing for all of the marbles this year seemed laughable. To Rose’s credit, though, at one point, the same could have been said for Nowitzki’s Mavericks.

But with Rose’s return to the lineup, their continuance as a plus-defensive team, the emergence of Jimmy Butler and re-emergence of Pau Gasol, are the Bulls really to be counted out?

If there is one thing that Tom Thibodeau should have taught you over the years, it is that a team wit him at the helm should never be discounted.

* * *

Before the season began—before Rose’s torn meniscus and rumors of Thibodeau’s demise—more than a few people chose the Bulls to win the Eastern Conference this year. Those that made such a prediction did so based on the belief that Rose would be healthy enough to be a difference maker. They also did so out of a belief that Thibodeau would continue to maximize the talent that he has been given and that he would continue to have his team be amongst one of the top defenses in the National Basketball Association.

As the season draws to a close, despite the Bulls entering the final week of play with no chance of finishing the season higher than the third seed in the conference, those beliefs have proven to be valid.

Under Thibodeau, this season, Jimmy Butler has become an All-Star contributor while Pau Gasol has reverted into one. Both Aaron Brooks and Nikola Mirotic have given the Bulls positive contributions, as well.

As a unit, the Bulls are still formidable on the defensive end, ranking in the top 10 in the league in points allowed (98.1) and 11th in point differential (+2.7). They are fourth in the league in field goal percentage allowed (43.7) and are third in the league in defending the three-point line, allowing their opponents to hit just 33.7 percentage of their looks from behind-the-arc.

In other words, at their core, although they have collectively regressed from the 62-win team they were back in 2011, the Bulls are still a formidable defensive team. The major difference with them this season, is they are offensively potent, as well. Gone are the days where they struggle to score points.

Last season, the Bulls ranked dead last in the league in points per game (93.7) and the year prior, in 2012-13, they were tied for last with the Philadelphia 76ers. Obviously, advanced statistics could paint a rosier picture of the offensive ineptitude of the club, but the overall truth with the Bulls was that they were a roster that was wholly dependent on earning wins by making games ugly and grinding them out. They simply lacked offensively gifted personnel.

The same cannot be said for the team’s current incarnation. While they may have regressed defensively, they are much improved offensively. That balance may go a longer way toward winning big. In the Eastern Conference, the Bulls are still a team that is capable of pulling off a shocking upset. That, of course, is if the two best players on the roster can find some sort of sustained health and if they can contribute highly.

And unfortunately, that remains a big “if.”

* * *

Vince Carter, Allen Iverson, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James were certainly amongst the most exciting players to observe on an NBA court. They would seemingly defy death and gravity, at will. Selling out arenas and causing collective gasps were routine.

Few, if any, though, have ever been capable of sucking the life out of an arena full of 20,000 quite like Derrick Rose.

What was most amazing to witness about Rose, even early on in his career—before he became a solid shooter and a cerebral floor general—was his explosive athleticism. What made Rose so dramatic to observe was the fact that he could literally explode like a Lamborghini, seemingly accelerating from 0-60 in four seconds. Splitting a double-team at the top of the key, taking two dribbles and floating a finger roll over the outstretched arms of a defender?

It was commonplace.

Gliding through the air, absorbing contact, contorting his body and finding a way to finish? No problem. His only rival with regard to his aerial agility is still Russell Westbrook, and before those two, the closest comparison was an in-prime Stephon Marbury, and he wasn’t really that close.

Because of physical and mental injury, that Rose has not been seen in quite a few years. And in the NBA, when you find yourself hoping to witness a reversion for so long, odds are, it is time to kiss the memories goodbye. In general, we as optimistic observers tend to hold on to memories and hopes for a bit too long. The gross majority of times, if it hasn’t come back within a year or two, it’s not coming back.

But with Rose, you simply cannot discount the possibility. Not yet, and especially not if you observed him on April 11.

On the same night that Butler made his return to the lineup due to a calf injury, Rose was playing in his third game since February 23. After having undergone his third knee surgery in less than three years, the hope for Thibodeau and his Bulls is that Rose could be somewhere near 100 percent and give the Bulls an opportunity to fulfill the potential that many across the league see in them.

On April 11, Rose did so much more.

Against the pesky Philadelphia 76ers, it was Rose who took the game over late and looked almost like his former self in the process.

For perspective, it was just one game and it also happened to be against one of the worst teams in the entire league. However, what was most inspiring to witness on the part of Rose was his confidence. He consistently attacked his defenders off the dribble and beat them more times than not. He finished strongly around the basket with each hand and seemed to be able to move and cut with more fluidity than he was able to prior to the meniscus surgery that he underwent back on February 27.

In the end, in just 29 minutes, he turned in what may be one of his finer efforts of the entire season. All things considered, that is amazing. 22 points, six rebounds, eight assists and zero turnovers are not normally eye-popping numbers for Rose, however, consider the following:

It was only the second time all season long that Rose has amassed at least six rebounds and six assists in the same game.

It was just the third time all season long he ended a game with zero turnovers.

It was the fifth time all season long he attempted at least seven free throws.

Granted, the race is not for the swift. One game will not make or break a player or his season. But for Rose to show that type of in-game impact, for him to do it so quickly after his return and for him to do it so sharply—it is certainly something worth watching as the Bulls enter the final week of the regular season in a dead heat with the Toronto Raptors for the third seed in the Conference.

“I’ve been out for a long time, so every game I play is going to be a plus for me,” Rose told CSN Chicago after the impressive effort.

“Coming out, playing hard, trying to go into the playoffs strong with a groove and it’s paying off—all my hard work is paying off. I can’t wait to see how I play when I put everything together.”

And for Rose, that’s what it is all about. Mediocrity has never been his aim nor his aspiration. For as long as we can remember, Rose has been enamored with the challenge and the potential of bringing the Bulls their first championship since Michael Jordan hung it up in January of 1999.

“I feel better but at the same time, I know that this is only one game. I put this one behind me already and it’s on to the next game,” Rose said.

Yes, and on to the playoffs. The charge toward championship greatness continues.

* * *

As the Bulls close out their season, there are quite a few question marks. Aside from Rose, the other major one is Joakim Noah, who, this season, has seemed to regress mightily.

It has become commonplace for Noah to arrive at the playoffs beaten and battered. Although his performance in the first round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs was awe-inspiring, the Bulls would prefer if Noah did not have to take on the responsibility of helping them win a playoff series while operating on one good foot, which is exactly what he did back in 2013. It was at the expense of the Brooklyn Nets.

Entering this season, the organization thought it wise to limit Noah to 32 minutes per game in an attempt to keep him fresher for the playoffs. Noah has missed 13 games this season, most recently for what has been reported as knee soreness. Over the course of the season, the former All-Star has let his frustration be known. The Bulls have lost some games while Noah sat idly on the bench, mostly due to concerns over his long-term health and a want to not exceed his minutes restriction.

Partially as a result, he has averaged just 7.2 points, 9.6 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game. While those numbers are still impressive, they are far from the 12.6 points, 11.3 rebounds and 5.4 assists he averaged over the course of the 2013-14 season.

For what it’s worth, Noah played about 37 minutes per game in 2012-13 and 36 minutes per game in 2013-14. This season, he has played right around 30 minutes per game. That has been by design.

Now, as the Bulls charge toward the playoffs, the minutes restrictions for both Rose and Noah will be lifted.

So long as Butler and Gasol continue to perform at a high level, the ways things look at this very moment, for a change, the Bulls may be getting their house—and health—in order at the right time.

The San Antonio Spurs have shown us in recent weeks that getting hot at the right time can change everything with regard to how you are perceived come playoff time. And recall that the 1995 Houston Rockets won the NBA Finals at the sixth seed, having had to win each of their four playoff series without home court advantage.

Heading into the postseason, these are amongst Thibodeau’s reminders to his club.

* * *

Yes, the Hawks and the Cavaliers have seemed destined to meet in the Eastern Conference Finals for as long as we can remember. However, if the Bulls end up with the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference, they will have an opportunity to battle the Washington Wizards in a rematch of last year’s first round playoff series. As the fourth seed, the Bulls would take on the Raptors and then, if seeds held, the Hawks. Although they would be the underdog in perhaps each series, that would be based on the assumption that neither Rose nor Noah could rediscover their greatness and effectiveness.

If that assumption is incorrect, though—if they are—What then?

Could they, in fact, channel the 1995 Rockets or the 2011 Mavericks?

With Rose on the floor playing meaningful minutes, if he continues to progress, and if Noah’s minutes restriction proves to have been a wise investment, it is quite possible.

For a change, the Bulls may be getting their house in order at the right time.

For so long, the conference has seemed a two horse race, but if Rose is correct—if things break right—the Hawks and the Cavs may have to make way.

The Bulls are charging, and if they truly have a head of steam, there’s no telling where they will be stopped.


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Miami’s Youth Supporting HEAT’s Early Season Success

While much Miami’s early success can be attributed to the team’s system and the play of superstar Jimmy Butler, much of the credit also goes to three of the HEAT’s younger players. Drew Maresca recently caught up with them to speak about how its youth has helped drive the team’s success.

Drew Maresca



Expectations for the Miami HEAT have varied a lot since LeBron James left for the greener pastures of Cleveland in 2012. Many felt that the HEAT had finally climbed out of the basement when they swung a deal for Jimmy Butler this past off-season, but doubts about their depth and their lack of a true second option remained.

Well, the doubters obviously failed to factor in the HEAT’s rookies performing as they have.

While they do not boast one of the league’s youngest rosters (25th overall), the HEAT have succeeded through the first 20-or-so games by playing young, inexperienced players. In fact, three of the HEAT’s top seven minute-getters are essentially rookies – Duncan Robinson, Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn. Herro is a true rookie, Nunn went un-drafted in 2018 and played all of last season with the Santa Cruz Warriors (Golden State’s G-league affiliate) and Robison played most of 2018-19 with the Siox Falls Skyforce (the HEAT’s G-league affiliate) — but also appeared in 15 games with Miami.

Now, it’s not terribly unusual for rookies and young players to crack a team’s rotation. But when most people consider rookies playing major roles, they typically think of teams that are somewhere in the process of a rebuild – not a team in third place in the Eastern Conference. As of Dec. 9, the HEAT are the only team in the league with a .700 winning percentage or better to feature more than one rookie and/or second-year player as top-seven minute getters.

While this is a pretty impressive feat, it speaks to the HEAT’s organization and its culture. After all, the Miami system is notorious for its player development. Looking back at its past successes and reclamation projects, the HEAT’s system was responsible for reinvigorating a number of players including Dion Waiters and Chris Anderson.

And more importantly, the HEAT are lauded for providing one of the very best cultures in the entire league. The best example is head coach Erik Spoelstra himself, who has now been with the organization for 23 years, famously beginning as a video coordinator in 1995. At the top, Spoelstra preaches defense and ball movement, which leads to success for all.

The team’s youngsters have already taken note of the special vibe around the HEAT locker room. Robinson recently told Basketball Insiders that the Miami coaching staff and veterans deserve most of the credit for their early successes.

“It shows leadership,” Robinson said. “We have some guys, obviously UD (Haslem), Jimmy (Butler) and other guys that are good secondary leaders, and taking us younger guys under their wing…guys like Justise (Winslow) and Bam (Adebayo).”

Robinson elaborated on the importance of absorbing as much as possible from the team’s coaching staff and veterans prior to training camp. “Us three (rookies) were around all summer,” Robinson said. “It’s only my second year as part of this program, but I feel like I’ve learned so much and come so far in that time.”

But while team leadership deserves some of the credit, it’s also due to the rookies themselves – who have taken on whatever role they’ve been assigned. Tyler Herro spoke with Basketball Insiders recently about coming off the bench for the HEAT, which represents a very different – and some might say, reduced – role compared to the one he owned last year at Kentucky. But that’s not how Herro sees it.

“I look at it as I’m still seeing starter minutes,” Herro said. “I’m not concerned with coming off the bench. I try to come in and give no empty minutes and play my absolute best.”

It’s hard to say if the HEAT select players with strong personalities and positive attitudes, or if that’s learned from Spoelstra and the team’s veterans. But either way, players like Herro enter their rookie seasons and make the team look incredibly savvy.

“I think (coming from Kentucky) helped a lot,” Herro continued, while – again – complimenting his new team and coaching staff. “My teammates at Kentucky and Coach Cal and his staff prepared me for this. But I also think that the (HEAT) staff and my teammates here pushed me to where I’m at now, too.”

Herro and Robinson have flourished in the HEAT’s system so far. Robinson is averaging 10.9 points on 42.5 percent three-point shooting in 26 minutes per game. Herro is averaging 14.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists over 29 minutes per game.

And then there’s Kendrick Nunn. Nunn is a pleasant surprise for the HEAT, scooped up immediately following last season. Despite slumping of late, Nunn is averaging 15.3 points, 3.4 assists and 2.5 rebounds in 30.0 minutes per game — good for third in scoring and second in assists, making him a major (surprise) Rookie of the Year candidate.

In addition to how well the three HEAT youngsters are playing, they are all incredibly close – especially so considering the short amount of time they’ve been teammates. And that stands to benefit Miami both this season and beyond.

“We’re best friends,” Herro said of his relationship with Nunn while sitting immediately next to Robinson in the Brooklyn Nets’ visiting locker room. “We like to see each other have good games. We don’t pay attention to the media or try to out-do one another.”

“Generally, we got a great group of guys who like each other and we enjoy each other’s success,” Herro continued. “So that makes it easier for everyone to perform at the highest level.”

But friendships aside, they play well when sharing the court.

“I feel like, as a team, we are at our best when Tyler and I are out there and aggressive,” Robinson said. “So we just want to continue to do that and translate that into wins.”

There are still improvements that need to be made in Miami, though.

For example, the HEAT are only 4-6 against teams above .500. Further, they’re lost all four games they’ve played on the tail end of back-to-backs. While you can point to fatigue as a culprit, you can also blame it on a lack of experience and stamina – and the latter two will improve over time. But the scary part is, while there is room for growth, they are already so far ahead of the curve.

Just imagine what they might look like in a year.

But let’s remain focused on this season: And in 2019-20, the HEAT are in the favorable position of having young talent supporting established stars like Butler and Dragic. While they are well-positioned for the future with Winslow, Adebayo, Herro, Robinson and Nunn, they are also built to compete now. Just don’t bother asking them about the team’s goals.

“We talk about goals, of course,” Robinson said. “But that stuff stays between us in this locker room. At the same time, we understand that the day-to-day is far more important. You want to keep the big picture in mind, but you’ve got to take care of what’s on your plate first.”

So we’ll have to wait and see how much they develop and what they ultimately do in 2019-20. But one thing’s for sure – the HEAT are on track to greatly exceed expectations.

And they just might do so in a big way.

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NBA Daily: Davis Bertans Joins Ranks Of NBA’s Elite Marksmen

Not even his most ardent supporters knew what the San Antonio Spurs were losing and Washington Wizards were gaining with Davis Bertans. Nearing two months into the season, he’s suddenly among the best shooters in basketball. Jack Winters writes.

Jack Winter



Not even the best shooter in the world can inform his team’s effectiveness from beyond the arc alone.

The assumption otherwise was put to the test in last year’s NBA Finals, when the Golden State Warriors — with Kevin Durant watching sidelined — proved hapless offensively without both Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson on the floor. If one of the Splash Brothers can’t turn a lineup of non-shooters into a threatening attack from deep, no one can.

But watching Davis Bertans this season, it’s tempting to think just how much better the San Antonio Spurs would be if he still played in the Alamo City. It’s not a complete hypothetical, either. Gregg Popovich is on record confirming the Spurs never would have traded Bertans to free up cap space if Marcus Morris had no interest in coming aboard. Less than a week after he agreed to terms with San Antonio, though, Morris reneged on his commitment to take a one-year deal with the New York Knicks.

It’s remiss to suggest retaining Bertans would make a season-altering difference for the Spurs. But what’s absolutely clear is that San Antonio’s loss has been a bigger gain for the Washington Wizards than anyone could have realistically anticipated.

The best suggest Bertans’ value in a league-wide vacuum this summer is what Washington gave up to get him. Aaron White was the team’s second-round pick in 2015 and played the last four seasons overseas. He might have a chance of finding his way to the league going forward, but it’s telling that White has expressed interest in transitioning to the NBA on multiple occasions only to head back to Europe toward the end of each offseason.

For all intents and purposes, it seems, the only thing of value Washington used to acquire Bertans was a trade exception. Take a bow, Tommy Sheppard. But it’s safe to say that not even the Wizards general manager saw this long-range onslaught coming.

Bertans cashed five more threes on Friday night in his team’s loss to the Miami Heat, bringing his season-long total to 78 on just over eight attempts per game. Only James Harden and Devonté Graham have connected on more triples than Bertans, and neither of them sniffs his 44.8 percent shooting from beyond arc. There are 35 players with at least 50 made threes this season; just four of them are have been more accurate than Bertans, per

Maybe some Spurs fans aren’t shocked by Bertans’ prowess from deep. He made a mini leap as a shooter in 2018-19, adding a bit of versatility to his long ball while upping his accuracy more than five points to 42.9 percent. Bertans isn’t some seasoned veteran, either. He was drafted in 2011 but only entered the league in 2016-17, and just turned 27. Some growth was to be expected from Bertans, basically, especially as the game’s emphasis on three-point shooting continues reaching new zeniths.

But the jump Bertans has made to join the exclusive shooting club reserved for the likes of J.J. Redick and Joe Harris is stunning nonetheless. After mostly serving as a weak-side floor-spacer and pet play shooter, Bertans is hunting threes this season while exuding the confidence and conviction of a true marksman with every step he takes on the floor.

Wonder why Bertans leads the NBA in points per possession in transition? He routinely sprints to open spots when the floor changes sides, and Washington ball-handlers know to look for him.

It’s hard enough for most guards to stop on a dime and launch catch-and-shoot triples in transition, which makes Bertans’ ability to do so all the more impressive. He stands 6-foot-10, but you’d never know it by the speed and footwork he often utilizes to create enough space for himself to launch.

All players Bertans’ size not named Durant are supposed to need an extra blip before letting fly. It’s hard enough for them to set their feet and square their shoulders to the rim on the move without worrying about getting a shot off in time to avoid an effective contest. But Bertans gets to his shooting form with remarkable ease, sometimes even hopping on the catch when his air space is closing fast, and owns one of the quickest releases in basketball.

Coming into 2019-20, Bertans had connected on just 20 off-dribble triples over three full seasons. He’s over halfway to that total through 21 games, regularly using a bounce or two to find some extra breathing room between he and the defense.

Is this Durant or Bertans?

Of course, Bertans would be the talk of the league even more than he is already if the skill he exhibits as a shooter fully translated to the rest of his game.

He can drive hard close-outs or turn the corner after a dribble hand-off with two or three dribbles to get to the rim, but has little workable wiggle in his handle. More problematic is his tendency to finish like a guard, too. Bertans is far better described as a fluid athlete than an explosive one, but that doesn’t mean he should regularly opt for floaters and scoops when challenged by rim-protectors in the paint.

His ceiling is also limited by his lack of positional versatility. Bertans is surprisingly light on his feet and fights hard defensively, but is way overstretched checking smalls. He possesses natural timing as a shot-blocker, but has short arms and vertical oomph needed to compensate. Bertans is a four-man, and that’s pretty much the extent of his positional scalability.

That’s why he’s probably best suited coming off the bench for the remainder of his career, perhaps closing games not just for Washington, but a title contender. Bertans is already proving himself as a high-impact offensive player, leading the Wizards – who boast a top-five offense, remember – in offensive rating and ranking behind only Bradley Beal in terms of net offensive efficiency. Lineups featuring that tandem are scoring 120.1 points per 100 possessions, almost 16 more than when Beal is on the floor without Bertans, per

The bad news for Washington? Bertans is an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, and an uninspiring list of marquee free agents assures he’ll be getting major upgrade on his $7 million salary. The Wizards should have enough flexibility to bring him back, but there’s no guarantee he’ll want to remain in the nation’s capital. It bears mentioning that Bertans has made clear he still considers San Antonio home.

But his future is a concern to be addressed another time.

For now, Bertans is a problem for Washington’s opponents to deal with, and unfortunately for them, there’s no workable answer to limiting his influence – just like that of every other shooter his increasingly rarified caliber.

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NBA Daily: Horton-Tucker Making Most Of Time With South Bay Lakers

David Yapkowitz has a chat with Los Angeles Lakers rookie guard Talen Horton-Tucker about getting reps in the G League with South Bay and what he sees his role being in the NBA when that time comes.

David Yapkowitz



When the Los Angeles Lakers drafted Talen Horton-Tucker this summer, the expectation was that he probably wouldn’t receive much playing time. On a veteran-laden team with championship expectations, there wasn’t going to be much of a role for a rookie.

That was further accentuated when Horton-Tucker suffered a stress reaction in his right foot, causing him to miss all of Summer League, which kept him limited during training camp. When he was finally cleared to return to the court, the Lakers assigned him to their G League affiliate, the South Bay Lakers.

He has suited up in only one game for the Lakers this season, but he’s played in every game with South Bay so far. In 11 games in the G League, he’s shown flashes of why the Lakers still drafted him despite suffering the foot injury during the draft combine.

His time in the G League was his first meaningful court action since leading Iowa State to the NCAA Tournament last spring.

“It feels great to be out here finally. I’m just trying to catch a rhythm with South Bay,” Horton-Tucker told Basketball Insiders. “I’m just taking it a day at a time. I feel like it’s been pretty good for my overall growth, that’s what’s important.”

Horton-Tucker has fit in well with the South Bay roster. He’s shown an ability to shoot from the perimeter at times, and he’s looked comfortable in putting the ball on the floor and making plays off the dribble.

His shot hasn’t always been on point, though. He’s shooting only 32.4 percent from the field and 24.2 percent from the three-point line, but he’s gotten good looks from the perimeter within the flow of the offense. And despite that, he’s made himself valuable on the court by contributing in other ways. He’s attacked the glass well, and he keeps the ball moving while looking to set teammates up for easy shots.

He’s managed to average double-digits in scoring with 11.8 points per game, and he’s put up 5.9 rebounds and 3.2 assists as well. Being able to be a positive on the court when his offense isn’t quite there yet is something he believes will help his career moving forward.

“I feel like if you play basketball, you’ve got to learn how to do everything. It’s just something I got to do,” Horton-Tucker told Basketball Insiders. “Whenever my shot is not falling, I know I can stay involved and rebound. I’ll still be able to contribute to a winning environment. I feel like I’ve been doing that the last few games that my shot hasn’t been falling.”

A few years ago, Horton-Tucker wouldn’t have had this opportunity to work on his game. The G League was much smaller than it is now, and most teams didn’t have affiliate they could send young players down to for development. NBA teams didn’t use the league as much, and many players viewed being sent down as punishment rather than a positive.

Without the G League, Horton-Tucker would likely have spent the majority season gathering splinters on the Lakers bench. With the growing expansion and usage of the G League, he’s able to get actual game reps in against legitimate competition to stay fresh.

He knew coming into this season that he wasn’t going to play much for the Lakers, if at all, so he’s grateful for being able to play with South Bay.

“It’s good to get your run in when you need to. I understand that I’m probably not going to get minutes with the Lakers right now,” Horton-Tucker told Basketball Insiders. “I’m just taking it one day at a time. I feel like the G League has been great. It helps us get our reps in and it helps our careers get started.”

While Horton-Tucker is still very young — he was one of the youngest players in the draft and just recently turned 19 years old last month — he has a skill set that should be able to eventually translate to regular NBA minutes. He’s a big guard who can generate his own offense, and he’s strong enough and skilled enough to be able to match up defensively against multiple positions.

He was recalled to the Lakers this weekend for their game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He only played in two minutes of garbage time and missed his only shot, a three-pointer. He’ll likely return to South Bay sometime soon, and when he does get brought back to the Lakers, garbage time minutes will be his role. But the NBA can be unpredictable at times, and injuries and whatnot can strike at a moment’s notice forcing players into immediate action.

In the event that he is called upon for regular minutes at some point this season, Horton-Tucker is confident in what he can bring to the team.

“I feel like I can bring the same things I bring to this team right now,” Horton-Tucker told Basketball Insiders. “It’s my versatility, being able to do things like rebounding, passing, just doing whatever they need me to do, I can do that.”

The Lakers are clearly going to be in win-now mode for the duration of LeBron James’ contract, but if Horton-Tucker continues with his development, it’s going to be hard to keep him off the court. He’s going to use this year to continue to learn, with the hopes of being able to play a meaningful role next season.

“I just want to get better all around. I want to play on the Lakers next year, that’s just my goal,” Horton-Tucker told Basketball Insiders. “Not being cocky or anything, but that’s just my goal, to play with the Lakers next season. That’s something that I’m going to work hard towards.”

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