The Lakers’ Talented Core


Ryan A.

The Lakers’ young core has both disappointed and surprised this season.

Ryan A., Editor-in-Chief

The Lakers’ young talent has both surprised and disappointed throughout the course of the 2021-2022 NBA season. 

Talen Horton-Tucker, 21-year-old former 46th overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, had been a pleasant surprise to many Laker fans. Averaging a mere 13.5 minutes in just 6 games played in his first year on the Lakers, Horton-Tucker made the most of his playing time, averaging 5.7 points, 1.2 rebounds, and 1 assist. 

The second year of Talen’s career was quite different from the first; he started to get key role-playing minutes and showcased his talent, averaging 9 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 2.8 assists. 

The sign of a possibility of blossom in THT was definitely noticed by the Lakers front office; in order to keep him long-term, he was given a three year deal that would accumulate 30,780,000. 

The extension of Talen would prevent the team from resigning Point Guard Alex Caruso

Caruso was a free agent in the 2021 offseason, and after multiple times of going back and forth, Caruso ultimately tried to get the Lakers to accept a 4 year, 37 million dollar contract, which would have put the Lakers millions of dollars in the luxury tax. The Lakers did not budge from their 3-year, 21 million dollar contract, and ultimately lost him to the Chicago Bulls.  

The addition thus far to the Bulls has benefited them greatly, putting them in the second seed in the Eastern Conference, and serious title-contenders. 

After serious training in the off-season, Talen Horton-Tucker still looked to have great upside. He was seen training with Lebron James and 23-year-old Malik Monk, who the Lakers also acquired in the off-season. 

However, Talen Horton-Tucker thus far has been as inconsistent as could be; one game he would go for 20 points, and the next he would go for little to no points. Averaging 9.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 2.7 assists, Horton-Tucker has not yet been able to live up to the expectations of fans. 

Many still like Talen’s potential upside, in hopes that he can become what they once thought he could be. 

Another successful pickup in the 2021 offseason was Charlotte Hornets Shooting Guard, Malik Monk

Monk, averaging 11.7 points in Charlotte, was a player that no team offered a contract to; in fact, Monk publicly said that there was no interest in him other than the LA Lakers. 

Being a solid shooter and finisher, Monk has fit in well thus far with the Lakers’ play style. Averaging 12.6 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 2.5 assists, Monk has also been an inconsistent player as well as THT; on a game like one against the Hawks, he could go off and score 29 points, but he could also play like he did a few nights ago against the Pelicans, and score 0 points in 24 minutes. 

“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t look at my future with anything,” Monk said. “I love it here. I’d love to play here again, man. But you never know what’s gonna happen with the NBA. You never know what happens. It’s a business, at the end of the day. But I’d definitely love to play here…but I don’t know. It’s hard to call the future.”

After these two, the Lakers really did not have much young depth; trading it all away in trades for Russell Westbrook, and Anthony Davis, the Lakers also gave up draft capital in many years to come. 

The Lakers also added Austin Reaves, an undrafted rookie from the University of Oklahoma. 

Being a more than adequate shooter and great hustler on the defensive end, Reaves has established himself as a key player for the Lakers, and recently made his first start against the Los Angeles Clippers in a heartbreaking loss. 

Merely putting up 6 points, 3 assists, and 1 rebound, Austin did not make his statement on the offensive end, but instead on the defensive end; having two blocks on Clippers PG, Reggie Jackson near the end of the game. 

Reaves has turned himself into a fan favorite, and he has started to be the 3+D player the Lakers have desperately longed for. 

A possible addition to the roster in the near future could be Point Guard Mason Jones on the South Bay Lakers of the NBA G League. 

Jones has dominated the G League, averaging 26.1 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 6.8 assists. 

He could be a great pickup for the Lakers, following the moveless trade deadline and with the obvious acceptance of Russell Westbrook’s 47 million player-option contract, which would cause there to be very little money to buyout any players better than Mason. 

Lakers have also very recently waived Center DeAndre Jordan and 2-way contract player Sekou Doumbouya to clear space for Point Guard D.J. Augustin and Wenyen Gabriel to a 2-way contract. 

An NBA roster is allowed to have two 2-way contract players at one time, and the Lakers already had Mason Jones and Doumbouya as 2-way contract players. As a result, the Lakers have decided to waive Sekou in order to sign former 5-star recruit, Wenyen Gabriel, and will have to make a decision on Mason Jones by next year. 

Next having their own 1st round pick in 2026, the Los Angeles Lakers have no money to sign big-name free agents, and have to move their direction in the undrafted rookies and buyout market to complement their big-three of Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis, and LeBron James in spite of their championship aspirations.