The Divisiveness of Talen Horton-Tucker
The cases for and against Talen Horton-Tucker (THT) are laid out below in what are sometimes hyperbolic fashion.
For by Fenrich:
If you believe Talen Horton-Tucker, a kid who played his first six games at the collegiate level as a 17-year-old, is a finished product, then I expect him to be low on your draft board and to be a poor, inefficient pro. If you believe that a kid who doesn’t turn 19 until almost December, a kid who has truly unique physical dimensions at 6-4, 235-pounds with a 7-1 wingspan, still has room to develop, then I’d expect Horton-Tucker to rank higher on your big board. He’s not Zion Williamson or RJ Barrett, this Chicago native is a jumble of skills and physical ability waiting to be sculpted and molded into an octopus-like basketball defender, his long arms unrolled like tentacles to harass opponents into turnovers and therapy, his burly frame absorbing the thrusting shoulders of would-be opponents and impeding progress like the Great Wall of Horton-Tuckers.
And while it’s easy to rest on THT’s limitless potential, it does him a disservice to acknowledge what he can and does already do well. For a player who will likely be the youngest selected in the draft, he already has a cache of NBA-ready moves and footwork.
He can Eurostep and finish through traffic, he has a step-back that creates plenty of space to get clean looks, he has great vision off the dribble and is already competent as a passer. Defensively, if we project him spend time as a stretch-4, he already employs that Houston Rocket-type of brick shithouse post defense we’ve seen from Chris Paul, James Harden, and Eric Gordon. Against Texas’s Dylan Osetkowski, a 6-9 250-pound tank of a post player, THT was able to easily leverage his lower center of gravity to stand up Osetkowski and then casually strip him with those long arms and big hands. He already understands how to play to his strengths, it’s just fine tuning that’s required.
Where THT still requires refinement is his shot selection and mechanics, consistent effort, and nuance. These are addressable, teachable skills. You can’t teach 235-pounds on a 6-4 frame with terrifying length and baby-Kawhi type hands. I don’t consider any of the following players as comparisons for THT, but rather, see shades of each of them in his physical profile and versatility: From Dwyane Wade’s power to PJ Tucker’s defensive versatility to Draymond Green’s transition passing. Each of the aforementioned star layered on a lavish array of intangibles to embody full basketball players. If, how, and when THT can learn to harness his focus and the finer points of the game, he can produce positive outcomes for winning teams. If a team trusts its player development staff, then you draft THT with glee, dump him in the lab and watch the magic unfold.
Against by Bug:
The mixture of an inaccurate shot and bad shot selection made it painful to watch Horton-Tucker at times this past season. He was so bad in the NCAA Tournament against Ohio State that he was benched and only saw 15 minutes in ISU’s most important game of the season. In his last three games as a Cyclone, all high-leverage, high-pressure conference and NCAA Tournament contests, THT was a combined 6-24 from the field.
Opponents consistently blow by him off the dribble like he’s wearing ankle weights. His long arms and strength saved him on the recovery at times in college, but that will get you nothing but a seat on the bench in the NBA. It’ll be barbeque chicken out on the perimeter in the league.
The jumper is horrendous, which is backed by his 40-30-62 shooting line in his lone season at Iowa State.
He doesn’t have much of a motor to go along with his physical gifts. With that ridiculous 7-1 wingspan, he only averaged 1.3 steals/g and 0.7 blocks/g. He doesn’t have the skill level to get by without maximum effort in the NBA, and I’m a believer that you can’t teach effort. The player either has that fire or they don’t. He doesn’t.
Doesn’t have the handle or quickness to get off his shot against NBA defenses. This wouldn’t be as problematic if he develops his outside shot to hit the corner-three, but as of now his outside shot isn’t even close. Where do you play a 6-4 guy that can’t shoot or get to the rim (only 2.5 FTAs per game)? The bench.
THT is probably still 2-3 years away from being ready to play in the NBA. Do you really want to invest a 1st round pick on a guy who likely won’t contribute much of anything until his contract is up? No thanks. The player that THT is most commonly compared to, PJ Tucker, spent five years overseas developing his game before making his mark in the NBA. Teams in the first round should pass on THT the same way they did with PJ Tucker. The smart play is to wait and grab him on his 2nd contract for cheap after he spends a few seasons in the G-League figuring out his jumper.