After a wholly poor campaign last season, the Lakers went out and hired Luke Walton as their new head coach. Walton, a former player with Los Angeles, is inheriting a very young group of players, headlined by second overall pick Brandon Ingram.
When talking with Mark Medina of the LA Daily News, Walton wasn’t shy about his reluctance to throw Brandon Ingram into the starting lineup right away. In his only season with the Duke Blue Devils, the lanky, 6’9 forward impressed everyone and experts saw him as Ben Simmons’ only competition for the first overall pick.
His skill set is tremendous, and the 2016 ACC Freshman of the Year averaged 17.3 points, 6.8 rebounds, and shot 41 percent from three-point range in 36 games as a Dukie. Although there’s so much he can do on offensive because of his ability and size; Walton is “not going to throw him into the starting lineup right away” just because he’s the second overall pick:
You develop the young core by rewarding them when they play well. If there’s 10 games left in the season and out of the playoffs and there’s some vets that played long minutes all season, maybe you play all your young guys to finish out the season. But when you’re going through the season, you’re not doing anyone any favors just by playing young guys so they can play if they’re not out there playing the right way.
I doubt Laker fans wanted to hear that about the new face of the franchise, but Walton has a point. Ingram is going to have to produce, and he will. It’s just that nobody knows how long it’ll take. Walton also never said that Ingram wouldn’t be getting any playing time–that would be flat out wrong. The Lakers team is going to need him out on the floor, and it’s safe to say he’ll average anywhere from 20-25 minutes per game at the start of the season, and that’ll increase once he’s earned it.
The difference between the college level and NBA level is striking, and young guys don’t always produce at the same level–Laker fans know because of D’Angelo Russell, who struggled mightily in the first half of his rookie season after putting on a show at Ohio State.
Walton has been on the staff of two outstanding Golden State Warriors teams and fared remarkably well as the interim head coach for Steve Kerr, so he knows what he’s doing. Rushing Ingram through his first season is the last thing that the Lakers’ organization needs.
Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference
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