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NBA Rookie Extensions: Klay Thompson

Klay Thompson is reportedly seeking a maximum extension. Does he have the leverage to get it?

Nate Duncan

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The 2014 rookie-extension class is one of the most interesting in several years due to the high number of quality players entering their fourth seasons. As most readers likely know by now, teams have until October 31 to reach extensions with first-rounders entering their fourth season or the players become restricted free agents next summer. This year, many of these players fall into the fascinating middle ground between total busts and obvious max outs, and their negotiations are further complicated by the unknown effect of the league’s recently-announced new TV deal.*

*Teams and agents may also be waiting for additional clarity as the league and union discuss how to avoid too much shock to the system from the new money.

Due to the rising cap, it is useful to think of new deals in percentage terms. For example, a $10 million contract under the $58.044 million cap in 2012-13 was 17.2 percent of the cap. For the 2016-17 season, assuming the cap is $80 million for that year, an equivalent contract would be $13.8 million.

Klay Thompson

Age: 24 (February 8th, 1990)

Draft Position: 11th

2013-14 PER: 14.32

2013-14 ORPM: 2.20

2013-14 DRPM:-0.17

2015-16 Cap Hold: $7,689,700

Thompson’s negotiations have some similarities to Kawhi Leonard’s, which we covered in this space last week.  With the maximum deals in restricted free agency for Gordon Hayward and Chandler Parsons this year, the market is seemingly set for Thompson next summer if he is not extended.  Most would probably consider Thompson the superior player to Hayward or Parsons due to his deadeye shooting and superior defense. While there is a reasonable argument that Thompson is not worth a maximum extension in a vacuum, the market clearly thinks that he is.  Moreover, both sides know that Warriors have essentially committed to him and have no way to replace him since they will very likely be capped out. The Warriors famously retained Thompson rather than trade him for Kevin Love, and his star continued to rise with an outstanding performance at the World Cup.

Thus Thompson is a cut above Hayward and Parsons on the market.  That may sound like one of them good problems, but in reality it may make gleaning an offer more difficult since competing teams know there is almost no chance the deal will not be matched.  In fact, the Warriors may welcome a traditional four-year max offer sheet because it would limit the contract to only 4.5% annual raises.  Throw in the fact that the Warriors could avoid having to take on the risk of an injury or failure to improve this season, and they would seem to have little motivation to extend Thompson early unless he offers them a bit of a discount.

Like most restricted free agents, Thompson has little leverage to force a maximum extension now.  Clearly a five-year designated player deal has not yet been offered, as he would take that in a second.*  One would imagine he’d have bitten on a four-year maximum deal as well.  Without such an offer Bill Duffy, Thompson’s agent, has been pulling out as many arguments as he can. Marc Stein has already reported that Thompson could sign a Parsons style three-year offer sheet with a third-year player option.  Such a pact would raise the unpalatable prospect of Thompson and Stephen Curry reaching free agency simultaneously in the summer of 2017.  But again it is unclear if any team would bother with such an offer knowing Golden State would surely match.  Nevertheless, this is a fear for Golden State– Parsons, Dan Fegan and Mark Cuban did all restricted free agents a huge favor by pioneering that sort of deal as a way to provide at least some modicum of leverage.

*The Derrick Rose rule, which came into play for the Paul George and Kyrie Irving extensions, is not an issue here.  Recall that the Rose rule allows an extendee to receive a larger maximum extension if he is voted in as an All-Star starter twice, makes All-NBA twice or is named MVP once prior to the extension kicking in.  Thompson could only possibly meet the criteria as MVP this year, and that’s not happening.

Threatening to take the qualifying offer next summer is another potential way to create leverage.  But it is an idle threat unless Thompson truly has reservations about playing for Golden State long-term.  Playing through his fifth year without an extension just doesn’t make sense otherwise, considering Thompson would be taking on two years’ worth of risk of performance decline or injury while sacrificing an eight-figure salary in the fifth year for the piddling qualifying offer.

Aside from the risk of a Parsons-style offer, Thompson is just going to be dependent upon the Warriors’ largesse if he wants a maximum extension.  While extending Thompson now and keeping him happy may have some nebulous benefits in eliminating distractions, the Warriors’ cap and tax situation makes them more likely to hold out than people might think.

If Thompson were given a maximum extension now, the Warriors would be right at the luxury tax next summer before accounting for key restricted free agent Draymond Green’s new contract.  Green is an extremely underrated contributor as a burgeoning stretch four with a nice passing eye and the ability to guard all five positions in a pinch.  With the amount of cap room around the league and the cap set to explode in 2016, Green could receive an offer starting as high as $8 million per year in restricted free agency.  If the Warriors max out Thompson and retain Green on such a deal, they would be deep into the luxury tax.

KlayDrayExt Tax Payment

That is over $14 million in luxury tax payments for 2015-16 assuming a $67 million cap, which is the league’s most recent estimate.  Sure the tax may not be so bad for the Warriors; the tax level could rise more than projected, Green may not cost as much, salaries could be dumped.  But keep in mind that is before the Warriors make any additions via the tax-payer mid-level exception or veterans’ minimum, or address restricted free agent Ognjen Kuzmic. Once they exceed $10 million over the tax, the Warriors would be paying an additional $2.50 per every $1.00 of salary added.  Moreover, as a tax team the Warriors could not engage in any sign-and-trades.  Warriors’ ownership has never completely ruled out paying the tax, but $14 million or more might be a lot to swallow even with the potential for a new TV deal after the 2014-15 season.*

*As noted in July, the tax situation was another great reason to trade Thompson and David Lee for Kevin Love and Kevin Martin–they would have reduced the 2015-16 bill if Love re-signed.

What’s worse, re-signing Thompson and Green might make it difficult to add to the team even in the vaunted summer of 2016.  That year, David Lee comes off the books and the cap should rise to at least $80 million.  But the Warriors would be scheduled for at least $69 million in salaries committed, plus cap holds, another first-rounder, and anyone signed in the 2015 offseason.  With Andrew Bogut, Andre Iguodala and Lee aging quickly, the Warriors will want to add another major player, likely a power forward.  It seems unlikely they will have the space to do so unless the cap goes up all at once into the high $80 millions with no “smoothing.”   If it becomes clear after this year that the current core cannot compete for a championship, the Warriors will have few mechanisms to improve until the summer of 2017.  And if the Warriors have stagnated by then, the possibility of Curry leaving for a potentially better team becomes all too real.

All of this means that every penny will count for the Warriors with Thompson’s extension.  If they can get him under contract for even just $2 million less each year or get lower annual raises by matching a contract in restricted free agency, that could be the difference in adding pieces or avoiding the tax later on.  They have little impetus to agree to an extension now without some concessions by their star shooting guard.

Like the Spurs with Leonard, an even bigger reason for the Warriors to wait is Thompson’s and Green’s relatively small cap holds in the summer of 2015.  The Warriors are not currently slated to have any cap room next summer even without new contracts for those two, but that could change if management gets aggressive.  Golden State could potentially bribe a team like the Sixers, Magic or Jazz to take Lee and Shaun Livingston, perhaps by including Harrison Barnes and future picks. Lee’s $16 million per season expires in 2016, and Livingston is only $3 million guaranteed for 2017.  The going rate in the past has been a first-rounder per $10 million in salary, but as more teams amass cap room perhaps that price will go down a bit.  If the Warriors jettison Lee, Livingston and Barnes next summer, they would have near maximum cap space–if they do not extend Thompson and can avoid immediate offer sheets to him and Green.

GSW LeeLivingston Trade

*Note that cap holds for Green, Thompson, and Kuzmic are in green.

This amount could change depending on the ultimate cap level, the specific moves made, whether Nemanja Nedovic’s third-year option is exercised and a host of other factors.  But the Warriors can get to the point where they can make an offer to pretty much any major free agent next summer–if they are willing to pay the heavy price to excise salary.  Punting more draft assets is certainly a terrifying prospect for an organization that has already surrendered 2014 and 2017 first-rounders to the Utah Jazz to clear space for Andre Iguodala.  But if management believes it can make a splash in 2015 free agency, when power forwards like LaMarcus Aldridge* or Paul Millsap (both excellent fits stylistically) might be available, they may want to pull the trigger.  Other big man free agents could include Al Jefferson, Greg Monroe, David West, Thaddeus Young, Marc Gasol, Omer Asik, DeAndre Jordan and Tyson Chandler.  Making a move may prove necessary if Lee declines precipitously or the current group does not appear to be a true contender.

*Aldridge has been vocal about staying in Portland after last year’s surprise season.  But it’s worth remembering he was unhappy in bleaker times, and the rules require him to actually become a free agent to get the most money and years on his next contract.  Portland was unable to really improve this offseason, and are forecast for a regression by many this year, including this writer.  If Portland misses the playoffs or peters out as a low seed, Aldridge could revisit the idea of leaving.

Signing a player like Millsap or Aldridge would probably be worth giving up draft assets and Barnes if the right deal can be found.  The Warriors would be fairly thin, with only their 2015 first-rounder, Green, Festus Ezeli, whomever they can sign with the $2.8 million Room Exception and minimum guys on the bench.  But the top-end talent would be tremendous.

Nevertheless, this scenario is relatively unlikely despite the Warriors’ willingness to roll the dice by offloading salary with draft assets in the past.  But maintaining flexibility for next summer is another motive to wait on an extension.  Unless Thompson is willing to move off his demand for a maximum salary, the only real incentive the Warriors have to acquiesce now is the threat of a Parsons-style offer sheet that may not actually be forthcoming from another team.  It remains to be seen whether that will be enough.

Nate Duncan is an NBA analyst and attorney. He writes regular features for Basketball Insiders and chats weekly at 11 Eastern on Tuesdays.

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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

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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

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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 NBA.com.

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 NBA.com.

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

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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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