Los Angeles Lakers: Talen Horton-Tucker is tonight’s key vs. Phoenix Suns

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Talen Horton-Tucker is key for the Los Angeles Lakers against the Phoenix Suns

The Los Angeles Lakers and Talen Horton-Tucker have the chance to finish the preseason with a perfect 4-0 record with a win over the Phoenix Suns tonight. In the last game against Phoenix, Lakers OG veteran Jared Dudley made the dagger three-pointer to close out the game. Dudley and crew have the opportunity to sweep the Suns in their home-and-home mini-series tonight.

What is the key to making this happen? Scoring more points than the other team! But what is key for that to happen?

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Talen Horton-Tucker.

The man known as THT may as well spell TNT soon because he has just blown up in his second year in the league. His offense has been dynamite.

He has been scoring off the catch, off the dribble, off the fast break, and even off the bus. He is slicing defenders on the pick-and-roll like Chris Paul and shooting like Stephen Curry. He terrorized Kawhi Leonard on the game’s opening possession.

LeBron James even retroactively stated he urged his agent, Rich Paul, to sign THT while he was a hoops star at Simeon High School in Chicago.

Fast forward to today’s rumor mill, the Lakers almost got James Harden. But Lakers GM Rob Pelinka could not justify getting Harden because the Rockets refused to add at least two first-round picks in the trade package for THT.

Giannis Antetokounmpo only signed his supermax contract with the Bucks because he knew he could not be traded to the Lakers. Apparently, the Lakers turned down a THT for Giannis swap, if Jason Concepcion of the Ringer is to be believed.

Wow. Such a meteoric rise! For Harden and Giannis to be mentioned in trade talks for THT! But still, the question needs to be asked.

Should Talen Horton-Tucker start on opening night?

Probably not. The worst thing that can be done is to let a young player get ahead of himself. Keep him on the bench unless if he is clearly the best choice to start. He has to stay humble.

The first step would not be letting him stop at this point in the article. He will go back to earth eventually. The scouting reports will be centered on him. His overall stats will go down due to the NBA’s law of averages.

For example, remember when Kyle Kuzma scored 41 points? Then he only had 11. Kuzma went from young superstar to the most polarizing player in Lakers’ history.

Can THT maintain his brilliantly efficient level of play?

In the words of Sasha Pavlovic, THT’s offense was his defense. THT was yet again impressive on offense, scoring 18 points in only 24 minutes. By comparison, the CP3-Book backcourt only scored 20 points in 50 minutes combined.

Considering the NBA is a business, THT may be the most productive player in NBA history. He got paid an annual salary of $1,208,146 to be twice as productive as Paul and Booker, two players that stand to make $65,790,000 combined this season.

Money talks.

Will Talen Horton-Tucker stay humble? If not, will he be humbled?  

Not if he reads this article. Guarding Devin Booker and Chris Paul will still be difficult. Coach Vogel should start him tonight. Dennis Schroder may not play due to a mild ankle sprain. LeBron won’t play more than 15 minutes. The preseason is for rounding veterans into game shape and developing young players.

THT will continue to barrel and slither his way to the basket. This take to the basket was so artful it needed two camera angles. He should be able to continue to score a bunch of points tonight if he continues to be the go-to guy on the second unit.

But I want to see is to see how he does the little things needed for success. How does he thrive as a role player? Pay close attention to what he does outside of the box score.

Does he pass the ball to his teammates as they are in stride? Can he perfectly time his cuts to the basket? How does THT set up his man to get himself open off screens?

I ask because he will have to do this during the season to get buckets. Even THT himself will have to eat after The King and AD. If THT is one of the King’s first four men, he will have to know how to guard literally anyone.

So how will he fare on defense? Will he guard Chris Paul or Devin Booker?

That is assuming Paul or Booker play tonight. If they do, it would be for only the first half. Hence why THT should start tonight. He needs to have some kind of sample size guarding star players that are different from his body type.

He has been able to guard bigger, stronger wings such as James Harden and Kawhi Leonard. Now he needs to prove he can guard quicker guards like Paul or Booker.

Boston Celtics’ defensive stopper Marcus Smart should be his comparison. They have a similar body frame. Smart is one of the few players who can credibly guard anyone from point guards to power forwards.

THT has to have that same kind of defensive impact to earn a starting spot.

Next. 2 new questions the preseason has created. dark

And that is the key to tonight’s game.