Luke Walton, new coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, is unsure whether to start rookie Brandon Ingram or veteran offseason acquisition Luol Deng at the small forward spot this season.
The Lakers, who aren’t projected to win more than 30 games, are in a precarious position since they are focused on the development of the youth but also need to justify the lucrative contracts handed to veterans Deng and Timofey Mozgov.
Typically, a rebuilding team is expected to start a No.2 draft pick from the get-go, the way the Lakers started point D’Angelo Russell at the start of the 2015-16 season. However, Russell had a falling out with former coach Byron Scott and was forced to come off the bench after the first 20-odd games.
Brandon Ingram turns 19….
In Ingram’s case, many analysts are worried about the Duke standout’s wiry frame and lack of muscle, even though many others feel the talented wing is ready to compete with grown men in the NBA.
Ingram turned 19 last Friday. Should the Lakers ease him into the NBA?
When asked which way Walton was leaning, the former Warriors assist coach said: “You can pencil in whoever you want (to the starting lineup), I don’t have anyone penciled in right now,” Walton said last week.
“Everyone earns his spot. You come into camp, you compete against other players, you respect your teammates, but whoever outplays the next guy in line, that’s who gets to start,” added Walton.
The Lakers begin their preseason on October 4. According to this Hoops Habit writer, the Lakers should consider starting both Deng and Ingram at the 4 and 3 spots respectively, while bringing Julius Randle off the bench.
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Could both start?
“And while that (starting both Deng and Ingram) may seem unfair to Randle and Nance, it could help one the league’s worst defensive units stop the bleeding against the powerhouse offenses out West,” opined the writer.
In fact, Bleacher Report has also projected a starting unit comprising of Timofey Mozgov, Luol Deng, Brandon Ingram, Jordan Clarskon and D’Angelo Russell.
However, that route could hamper the growth of budding power forwards Larry Nance Jr. and Julius Randle, who are seen as an integral part oft he Lakers’ young core.
It’s important to note that Deng played most of last season at the 4 spot in the absence of Chris Bosh. In fact, Deng was more effective playing the power forward compared to starting at the 3.
Brandon Ingram is viewed by many as the player with most superstar potential from the 2016 draft class.