• Matt Esposito

Which Teams Should Gamble on Talen Horton-Tucker


CBS Sports

A freshman from Iowa State University, Talen Horton-Tucker causes serious debate among scouts. Should we fall head over heels for a 6-foot-4 playmaker with a 7-foot-1 wingspan? At merely 18-years-old, are we miscalculating his untapped potential? Or, do scouts have good cause to question his shot selection and shooting?

What we know for sure is that Horton-Tucker is a gamble. If the dice roll in his favor, then some team will be getting a steal. THT has not yet flashed the consistency to be labeled elite at any one thing but, he has shown promising flashes of what the NBA covets most.

Horton-Tucker is as elusive as they come. He doesn’t look like a burner but his first step is surprisingly quick. With the defender on their heels Horton-Tucker can unveil a barrage of shot-creation moves, ranging from sidesteps and stepbacks, to inside-out dribbles and eurosteps.

Often, this translates to THT shaking free for attempts at the rim. He took 121 attempts there and made 69.4 percent of them. His arms look photoshopped and they help him finish among bigs. Yet, Horton-Tucker has had less success making shots after freeing himself up for a good look.

He attempted 102 2-pointers which were not at-rim looks and made only 21.6 percent of them. He created over 80 percent of these shots himself (unassisted) which suggests he can get the looks off but lacks the consistent jumper to cash in on them. Regardless, most players in the League never develop his type of wiggle. It is imperative his shot catches up to this skill set.

Will this happen? Horton-Tucker hit an underwhelming 30.8 percent of his college triples. His 62.5 percentage mark from the charity stripe is also discouraging but, THT had runs of good perimeter shooting. One midseason 10 game stretch saw him hit 36.7 percent from deep while taking over four attempts per game. A transition from poor shooter to streaky shooter is what GMs will hope for.

Outside of his spectacular shot-creation ability, THT has also shown signs of advanced vision. As his sporadic, ill-advised shot selection suggests, Horton-Tucker can often play outside the rhythm of the offense. When he is tempered, however, he displays excellent playmaking.

Horton-Tucker is a difficult ball handler to keep out of the paint due to his knack for keeping defenders guessing. When he drives with his head up he can make beautiful passes to cutters, big men in the dunker spot or shooters on the perimeter. He has potential to do this regularly out of the pick and roll as well.

So, what can he bring to the table defensively? If this potential first round draft pick cared about preventing buckets as much as he did about getting them, then he would be guaranteed a spot at a top-20 pick. Still, there is obvious potential to see.

THT has the theoretical tools to become a switch defender. His wingspan has been detailed but the guard also has a strong frame, making it reasonable to envision him guarding either bigs or ball handlers during screens. To do this he will have to become more disciplined and work on his fundamentals.

So, what do we have? Horton-Tucker could become a microwave scoring guard who makes plays for others while adding solid defense. If his shot never comes through then he could end up floating from team to team as a third guard. Which teams should take a chance on him?

The Boston Celtics could use one of their three first round picks on this enigmatic talent. If Kyrie Irving bolts in free agency, which seems likelier by the day, then the Cs will be in need of a guard who can get his own shot off. Plus, if he misses on landing big name free agents, Danny Ainge could opt to swing for the fences on a pick or two.

With the 18th pick in this year’s draft, the Indiana Pacers may also be looking at Horton-Tucker; a player who has already worked out for them. With guards Cory Joseph and Darren Collison entering free agency, the Pacers will be looking to add a ball handler to the lineup. Indiana’s staff has been remarkable at unlocking a player’s best skill and developing it, which should make this a desired home for THT as well.

Yet, the capital attached to the 18th pick may be a little much to spend on a player with this much risk. The Utah Jazz own the 23rd selection and should take an extended look at Horton-Tucker. Ricky Rubio has stated that he will likely end up on another team this summer. Dante Exum is perennially injured. Perhaps the Jazz want to run THT next to Donovan Mitchell.

Still, there is a good chance Horton-Tucker could drop to the second round. Philadelphia does not need another player with questionable perimeter shooting. They do own four second round picks, however, and throwing a dart at Horton-Tucker would be worth it. The Bulls own the 38th pick and could bring Horton-Tucker back to his hometown as their next point guard flier.

Regardless, this draft is surrounded in uncertainty. It is reasonable to think that Horton-Tucker could be selected once the lottery ends or slide all the way to the second round. It may take a gutsy general manager to draft him but, that risk could pay off nicely.

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