After taking the job to become the new head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, Luke Walton will have quite a challenge ahead of him as he tries to turn things around for the storied franchise. Although there’s no telling whether the Lakers will be to upgrade the roster through free agency this summer or if they’ll even be able to retain their lottery pick, Walton does have a few talented young players already on the roster.
Point guard D’Angelo Russell had his ups and downs during his rookie season with the Lakers, but the Ohio State product showed flashes of his potential in his first year in Los Angeles, and Walton believes the 20-year-old has a bright future ahead.
Walton thinks Russell can become one of the better guards in this league and sees his point guard becoming a regular at the NBA All-Star Game, via Mike Bresnahan of the L.A. Times:
Walton on D'Angelo: "He has very high potential. To me, he can be a perennial All-Star." Likes how he can score from 3-pt range + the post.
— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) April 30, 2016
Russell is considered to be an important part of the team’s rebuilding efforts along with Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson. The Lakers brass made a bold move in drafting the former Buckeye with the second overall pick last year rather than going with the safe bet in Duke’s Jahlil Okafor.
Although the Lakers were praised for their decision to go with a guard in a guard-driven league, it remains to be seen whether the move will eventually pay off. Russell is talented and appears to have some leadership qualities, but he was inconsistent and left some doubt about whether he can live up to expectations.
In 80 games, Russell averaged 13.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game while shooting 41.0 percent from the floor and 35.1 from beyond the arc. The rookie started in 48 of the 80 games he played with Byron Scott taking Russell and Randle out of the starting lineup early in the season before inserting them both players back in later in the year.
It’ll be interesting to see how Walton uses Russell next season and what players head to Los Angeles through the draft and free agency that might impact playing time or a potential role change.