As rumors swirl about Lonzo Ball and Dennis Schröder, the Chicago Bulls are now linked to a lesser-known guard: Talen Horton-Tucker. According to NBA Analysis Network's Evan Massey, the Bulls are expected to pursue the Lakers' restricted free agent this offseason.
Horton-Tucker Has Shown Talent
The Bulls need help at guard, and Horton-Tucker is an interesting name to consider. The former second-round pick has played two seasons for the Lakers and averaged a career-high 20.1 MPG in 2020-21. For the most part, Horton-Tucker's numbers don't jump off the page — 9.0 PPG on 45.8% shooting and 28.2% from three, 2.8 APG, and 2.6 RPG. Still, the guard showed flashes of talent throughout the season.
On May 12, Horton-Tucker scored 23 points and dished out ten assists against the Houston Rockets. Yes, there is an asterisk because it is the Rockets. However, this was one game after going for 13 and ten against the New York Knicks. The guard had several standout performances against quality opponents, with a 24-point night against the Utah Jazz and a 14-point, 11-assist showing against the Brooklyn Nets in April being the most notable. Add in the fact that Horton-Tucker is a local Chicago product, and the homecoming could be a cool story.
Horton-Tucker Addresses the Need for Perimeter Defense
While Horton-Tucker has shown flashes offensively, his real value is on the defensive side of the court. In both of Horton-Tucker's two NBA seasons, he has averaged 1.0 SPG or better. Even better, in 2020-21, Horton-Tucker was worth 2.2 Defensive Win Shares. When you watch highlights, you see a man just hounding opposing guards and fighting through screens. That would be a welcome sight in Chicago.
Adding Horton-Tucker to a second unit that also includes Troy Brown Jr. makes for a couple of solid defensive players on the perimeter. Moreover, he could see the floor with Zach LaVine as the primary ball-handler to make up for LaVine's lack of defensive prowess.
Where it Doesn't Make as Much Sense
Right now, the Chicago Bulls need a point guard who can hit the three and distribute well. Horton-Tucker shows flashes of facilitation, but not to the point where the Bulls can insert him as a starting point guard. Also, he does not offer much as a three-point shooter. Hence, he wouldn't provide the spacing the Bulls would prefer in a guard.
The Lakers are rumored to want to keep Horton-Tucker, too. He's an RFA, so they can match whatever the Bulls might offer him. It would be exciting to add a 20-year-old from Chicago with the potential to keep growing into a really good player, but the Bulls have limited cap space and other pressing needs. While they may explore adding Horton-Tucker, he is likely not high on their priority list. Keep an eye on him during free agency, but expect the Bulls to put most of their energy into guards who can facilitate and shoot as well as big men who can play sound interior defense.