The Los Angeles Lakers new head coach Luke Walton couldn’t have been more pleased to see forward Brandon Ingram’s name still on the board when his team’s 2nd overall pick came up in last week’s NBA Draft. Walton joined The Jim Rome Show on Monday and talked about what kind of player the franchise got in the former Duke Blue Devil.
“I love his versatility. I love that he’s a basketball player,” Walton said. “I envision him playing multiple spots. Even bringing the ball up if we want to run D’Angelo [Russell] or whoever off of ball screens, let him run the point spot of offense. And also with his wingspan, and what it seems like on tape, his feel for the game, what that would allow us to do on the defensive end, which we need a lot of help on from last year, just blocking shots, and getting out in transition after steals and running. Players like him can help the team in every area.”
Walton was asked if the organization had the top pick in the draft, would they have selected Ingram over the Philadelphia 76ers’ decision, first overall pick LSU’s Ben Simmons.
“I would have tried to [select Ingram first overall]. That’s not my decision to make but I would have,” Walton laughed. “When asked for my opinion, Ingram would have been the kid I recommended taking.”
Like Ingram, the Lakers used last year’s 2nd overall on a freshman Ohio State’s D’Angelo Russell. Walton evaluated the young point guard’s first year in the NBA.
“I think he had a pretty successful rookie season. This is a grown man’s league and to come in as young as he was and be able to show glimpses of the type of player he is, I think it’s pretty impressive,” Walton said.
However, like with all rookies in the league, Walton says Russell has plenty to work on but sees some encouraging signs in the 20-year-old’s off-season progress.
“Like all young guards, to get better at leading the team from the point guard position.” Walton said about what Russell needs to improve. “We need him to get better defensively. Watching tape, his shot selection, I think, needs to be better, but I think that will get better, and I think all these things will get better.
“It takes a while to figure out the NBA game, and the best way to attack things, the pace it needs to be played at and I think now, after your rookie year, you kind of get a feel for it, and you can spend the off-season improving on certain things.” Walton added. He also noted that Russell has been in the gym every single day since he showed up a roughly a week ago.
Having such strong ties to the Lakers organization as a player, Walton talked about why he left such a great job in being Steve Kerr’s lead assistant on the record breaking Golden State Warriors to a team with the worst record in the Western Conference last year.
“I played for and won championships with, it’s down in L.A. Southern California is where most of my family still lives,” Walton said. “We have now a lot of young talented players I’m excited to work with, and a lot of cap space to use in the open market and there’s an opportunity to help one of the greatest storied franchises in the history of this league get going again and someone who loves basketball as much as I do, that’s just something you can’t pass up on.”
As excited as Walton is to be working with those talented young players, and having money to spend, the former Lakers forward cautioned their strong fan base to pump the breaks a bit if they think they will see immediate results.
“I’d just say to the fans to be patient. We have a young team that I think is going to be a lot of fun to watch them grow together,” Walton said. “How quick it’s going to be? There’s no way to know. A lot of that will depend on free agency, what type of players we will sign here. A lot of that depends on how quickly the young players grow into the players they will become. At this time there’s no way to know, it’s going to be a fun process to watch it for us and the Laker fans and this team is going to continue to get better continue to play better together on both sides of the ball, and just be patient.”