Talen Horton-Tucker - Iowa State
Guard 6’4” 235 lbs 18 years old
40.6% FG%, 30.8% 3P%, 62.5 FT%
27.2 MPG 11.8 PTS 4.9 REB 2.3 AST 0.7 BLK 1.3 STL 1.7 TOV
A Chicago native, Horton-Tucker was a 4-star recruit coming out of high school, and was recruited by schools like Illinois and Xavier, eventually choosing Iowa State. He has dealt with a lot of difficult losses in his life, including the tragic death of his father just a few days before committing to Iowa State. He’s overcome a lot of turmoil in his life to get to where he is now, just weeks away from the NBA draft.
“I just want to be happy in life. I just want to make my family proud and show everybody in the city and the state, and even the country, that I’m one of the best players to come from Chicago,” Horton-Tucker said, tripping over his words.
”Man, I’m choking up a little bit.”
Horton-Tucker played high school basketball at Simeon Academy, where head coach Rob Smith had previously coached former NBA MVP Derrick Rose.
[Smith] remembers Horton-Tucker was still pudgy in fifth grade, but he was impressed with the kid’s feel for the game, even at that age.
At the time, Smith made a mental note to keep track of Horton-Tucker, who grew up on the city’s North Side. But as he grew up to become one of the best eighth-graders in Chicago, Smith never thought he’d come to Simeon. North Side kids so rarely came to the South Side high school, Smith said.
Horton-Tucker had different plans.
Horton-Tucker’s physical profile is impressive. He’s built more like a linebacker than a basketball player, measuring 6’ 4” and 235 pounds at the combine. His massive 7’ 1” wingspan was the longest at the combine among guards and wings. He has good strength (10 bench press reps at the combine) and has some of the biggest hands in the draft class (9.5” long and 9.75” wide). Defensively, his length and huge hands helped him rack up 2 steals and 1 block per 40 minutes at the college level. He’s a fantastic rebounder (nearly 5 per game in college) and a fierce competitor.
He’s good at getting into the paint and using his wide shoulders to create space. While he’s not an explosive athlete (just a 26” standing vertical and 34.5” max vertical at the NBA combine), he has good functional athleticism and he’s decisive and methodical with his drives. He’s also one of the youngest players in the draft and has huge upside due to his sheer size and physical tools.
The jumper simply isn’t there yet. A paltry 30.8% from 3 and 62.5% from the charity stripe aren’t good enough for an NBA guard. The form on his jumper looks OK - maybe a bit of a hitch sometimes at the top of his jump before the release - but it’s a bit on the slow side. He’s the same age as some high school seniors, so it’s possible nerves could have played a role in his poor free throw shooting. As it is, right now he’s not a good enough shooter to play at either guard position at the NBA level, and he’s not big enough to be a combo forward - which would be a great position for him if he was a few inches taller.
As mentioned before, Talen is a good, but not great NBA athlete. He’s not quick or particularly fast for his position, and with a wingspan his size he should be able to rack up more steals and cause more disruption on the defensive end.
His shot selection isn’t great, and he has a tendency to force things in isolation. His consistency is all over the place, with hot and cold streaks in his shooting percentages.
He’s an incredibly raw player, but his upside is tantalizing. He’s likely a G League player for the first year of his career, but with the right player development and coaching he’ll quickly improve. If the mechanics on his jumper can be tweaked a bit, he’ll be a hell of a player.
Q&A with Levi Stevenson of Wide Right & Natty Lite
I talked with Levi Stevenson of SB Nation’s Iowa State site Wide Right & Natty Light. He had some awesome insight about Talen. Levi even gave a shout out to two former Cyclones, Georges Niang and Naz Mitrou-Long. Responses are Levi’s.
What strengths of Talen Horton-Tucker will translate well to the NBA?
First and foremost Talen has some absolutely absurd length. I know length tends to be an overblown scouting talking point, but at 6’4” Talen boasts a wingspan clear of 7’-0”. To compliment his length, Talen has a natural feel for scoring around the rim, and has a good nose for picking off passes on defense. Coaches will look at him and see a body with a ton of potential that they’ll be able to unlock with pro coaching.
What weaknesses of Talen will need to be improved in the NBA?
The first thing you’ll notice about Talen is that his shot selection is not good. It may just be a carry-over from his AAU days, but on plenty of occasions THT simply tried to do too much, and chose to take a step-back three or circus finish at the rim, rather than continuing to move the ball. Another area he needs to improve tremendously on is defensive rotations and lateral quickness. Right now, he’s consistently late on most defensive rotations, which allows the offensive player to take advantage of Talen’s below-average lateral quickness and get by him for the easy bucket.
Talen’s outside jump shot needs to get better. He shot just 30% from three last season, with some of those misses being on bad takes, as mentioned earlier. His mechanics are far from broken, but right now, he’s a below average outside shooter for a guard.
What role do you see Talen being in the NBA?
THT has the potential to be a nice spark plug off the bench. I think his somewhat vanilla athleticism and inconsistent outside will prevent him from ever becoming an elite scorer, but I think his ceiling probably looks a lot like Jamaal Crawford. Crawford is a nice scoring punch off the bench, but there’s a reason he’s never been the primary scoring threat on his team. If his defense improves, then he can absolutely be a sixth man for just about any team.
Would you consider Utah a good landing spot for him?
Virtually any team will be capable of taking advantage of his length on the perimeter, so from that perspective he can fit anywhere. However, his game would probably work best with a team that will design some sets specifically for him to get iso opportunities, as catch-and-shoot situations are still very much a work in progress. The Jazz are an excellent organization with a lot of great young talent, and an outstanding coaching staff, and have two other Cyclones in the organization in Georges Niang and Naz Mitrou-Long. THT could definitely see some success in Utah simply due to the talent and coaching staff around him, but his game is probably too iso-oriented to be a great fit in Salt Lake City.