The Los Angeles Lakers are now 11-20 after a 10-10 start, and they’ve demonstrated all of the issues of an inexperienced team during their recent skid. As such, when Lakers head coach Luke Walton went on the radio on Tuesday, he was unwilling to declare that any of his young players are ready to be the face of the team... yet:
.@champagnennuts asked Luke Walton about the importance of there being a face of the Lakers franchise on @ESPNLosAngeles— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) December 20, 2016
1/2: On ESPN710AM, Luke said right now he likes there being different players on diff nights that will have big games & although it may...— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) December 20, 2016
2/2: ..change in the future, Luke said: "I don't see any of our young core taking over as face of the franchise anytime soon." (On espn710)— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) December 20, 2016
One of the best things about the way the Lakers have constructed their roster during this rebuild is that every young player they have is going to have their opportunities to shine in different ways.
D’Angelo Russell is the team’s engine and floor general, so he’s going to eventually lead the team in usage (currently using 28.5 percent of the team’s possessions while on the floor, just behind Lou Williams’ 30 percent).
Jordan Clarkson is going to have a similar opportunity to run bench units as the team’s heir apparent at sixth-man, with a chance to be Russell’s starting backcourt-mate if his improved shooting isn’t a mirage.
Julius Randle is the Lakers’ secondary playmaker with the starter’s and emotional leader. The Lakers over the last two seasons have made efforts to pair him with centers that do a decent job boxing out their man (without actually grabbing the rebound) so that Randle can take caroms and get out in transition (where he’s been killing team’s lately), and he’s improved as a passer and defender this season as well.
Brandon Ingram is being given the opportunity to turn into a versatile point forward while also developing into one of the team’s most impactful defenders during his rookie season, and Larry Nance, Jr. has simply been able to focus on doing all of the little things on offense and defense to make the Lakers a better team while he’s on the floor.
All of those players have their flaws right now as well (Russell can be prone to sloppy passing and defensive inattention, Clarkson and Randle sometimes don’t pass enough, Ingram has finishing issues, and Nance often doesn’t want to shoot no matter how open he is), but those flaws are par for the course with a young team, and none of them should be expected to be the prodigal face of the Lakers just yet.
It’s also possible that none of them will need to be. With their varying skillsets, all of they Lakers’ young core can drive the team towards success in their own ways, their complementary talents coming together as a whole to be greater than any one of them could be individually.
A mindset where all of the players see themselves as one of the key figures on the team might be the exact one Walton is trying to foster with comments like this, and it’s possible that’s the best approach for a team like the Lakers.
Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here, or listen to us discuss why Walton might have said no one on the team is the franchise face in our latest episode below), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.