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What to make of Talen Horton-Tucker’s preseason performance for Lakers

Nobody expected the second-year forward out of Iowa State to set the NBA preseason scene on fire. Should you trust him in fantasy basketball?

Los Angeles Lakers guard Talen Horton-Tucker shoots against Los Angeles Clippers guard Paul George during the first half at Staples Center. Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA preseason was shortened due to the expedited start to the 2020-21 season. As a result, we only get 3-4 games for each team. It’s a shame because that could mean we don’t see much more of Talen Horton-Tucker, Los Angeles Lakers legend. THT has taken the basketball world by storm this preseason. Let’s just go over his preseason log really fast for the kids at home:

Lakers vs. Clippers, Game 1 — 19 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals
Lakers vs. Clippers, Game 2 — 33 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals
Lakers vs. Suns, Game 3 — 18 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists

The Lakers close out the preseason on Thursday night against the Phoenix Suns. THT was pushed to the bench after LeBron James and Anthony Davis returned to the lineup. Horton-Tucker still got a decent amount of minutes off the bench — 24 to be exact. So with that in mind, let’s take a look at how the Lakers rotation may shake out.

Starting lineup

PG: Dennis Shroder
SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
SF: LeBron James
PF: Anthony Davis
C: Marc Gasol

Bench: Montrezl Harrell, Kyle Kuzma, Markieff Morris, Wesley Matthews, THT, Alex Caruso

Now, this might not be exactly what the Lakers roll out for the opener. The bench is actually a lot deeper than anyone thought, particularly at forward with Harrell, Kuz and Morris. KCP should start in the back court or at SF after the contract he signed and what he did in the playoffs. KCP and Matthews figure to be ahead of THT on the depth chart with Caruso also competing for minutes.

The potential Schroder injury adds a wrinkle to the THT conundrum. Schroder injured his ankle and we don’t know how serious it is. If Schroder misses any time, chances are LeBron will run the point and Wes Matthews or THT could be inserted into the lineup at SG with KCP at SF. We could also see Kuzma at SF with Wes Matthews off the bench ahead of THT. My guess is if Horton-Tucker has another strong preseason performance and carries that play into the regular season, Frank Vogel will be forced to play him.

Is he worth drafting in fantasy basketball?

Our very own Ameer Tyree did a write up on deep sleepers to target late in your draft. THT is on this list. I agree with his assessment that Horton-Tucker will have some stash value if you’re in a deeper format — say 12-to-14 team leagues. It also helps if you have additional bench spots. If you’re thinking about drafting THT in a 10-team league, it may be a reach.

You can always hold onto Horton-Tucker for the first week of the season and feel things out. Chances are there will be guys on the waiver wire who will emerge and become valuable assets. There’s also a chance the Lakers rest players, blow teams out and face a few injuries. In any of these instances, Horton-Tucker could end up being a boot to your fantasy team. Ameer called THT a potential “Garbage time All-Star,” which is a great way to put it.