After a 2-5 start to the 2018-19 NBA season, head coach Luke Walton and the Los Angeles Lakers have won 12 of their last 16 games. Despite a new roster learning how to play with LeBron James, the Lakers are 14th in offensive rating (108.0) and seventh in defensive rating (106.1).
As the Lakers are currently focused on improving their free throws (70.6 percent) and turnovers (16.1), the young core will ultimately determine how far they go come the NBA Playoffs.
With Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, Kyle Kuzma and Lonzo Ball all showing flashes of potential through 23 games, Walton acknowledged their development is instrumental to the team reaching their full potential.
“Absolutely,” Walton said.
“Brandon, Kuz, ‘Zo, Josh Hart and if Moe starts getting in there a little bit. I think people around the league know what LeBron is doing, they know what Rondo is going to do, JaVale has been deep into the playoffs the last few years.
“Where we’re trying to get to and how much success we have by the end of the year is in large part going to be dependent on how much and how quickly our young players continue to grow.”
With James and the Lakers trying to compete for championships now, Walton believes developing the young core is still happening. “Everywhere,” he said.
“Before practice, after practice, individual work with coaches they work with, showing them every clip they had in a game — good and bad — in the film room as a group, from their teammates.”
As the young core individually worked on their games during the offseason, there was naturally an adjustment that had to be made once James signed in free agency.
“I think it’s hard to sometimes recognize how much you’re improving as a player because you’re in it so you don’t see the little bit that’s happening here and there. You get out there and you do it day after day, it happens,” Walton explained.
“A lot of the style of play that we’re talking about developing happens way more in the season than the offseason. The offseason is way more individual development.”
With all of the attention on the young core, Walton is ultimately pleased with how they have handled themselves so far in just their second or third seasons.
“They’ve been great,” Walton said. “We give our young guys a ton of responsibility. That’s not easy in this league, to ask of them what we do. Coming out of the gate struggling record-wise, having new teammates, media everywhere.
“They just keep coming in and working and wanting to get better and figure it out. I’m very pleased with our young core.”