The Los Angeles Lakers’ young core has become pretty polarizing, mostly due to the way this season has gone. As unfair as it might be, they’re tasked with guiding the franchise out of the lottery and many might not see that direction quite yet.
Guys like D’Angelo Russell and Brandon Ingram (Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson, for that matter, too) don’t quite fit into the classic player types fans probably expect. It pretty much goes without saying Russell looks nothing like the stereotypical point guard and, frankly, Ingram is tall and skinny enough to wonder which planet he might be from.
Still, that doesn’t mean either or both of those guys can be successful in the league, they’ll just have to do so in ways that force fans to open their minds a little bit. Kupchak sat down with David Aldridge of NBA.com and spoke about the differences in Russell and Ingram’s games, and how those are good things.
First, on Ingram.
(Aldridge): Do you think he can be an on-the-ball, ball distributing, [Giannis] Antetokounmpo-type forward? Is that in his tool bag? I know he’s capable of shooting but is that ball handling piece there, too?
MK: There’s no doubt that he could bring the ball up the floor. In fact, that’s what we’re asking him to do now, and he’s been doing it. I think it’s going to be a challenge to figure out where he’s most productive, whether it’s bringing the ball up the floor and facilitating, or is it catching the ball on the wing and making a play? We don’t know yet. But for the last month or so, he’s demonstrated he can bring the ball up the floor. He doesn’t lose it. I don’t think that part’s the question. I think it’s a matter of us figuring out where he can be most productive.
Then, Kupchak talks about what he’s seen from his young point guard.
(Aldridge): Same question for D’Angelo and his progression. What do you see?
MK: Almost the same answer. I think the challenge people are going to have with him is trying to pigeonhole him. Is he a ballhandling point guard or is he a shooting guard or is he a combo guard? I’m not sure any of those things by themselves define who he is. I think he’s just a basketball player. I don’t know if he’s going to be a prototype point guard. I don’t know if Steph Curry is. I’m not trying to compare the two; I’m just trying to make an example of the game today is a little different than the game 20 years ago. A lot of the pieces are interchangeable. But D’Angelo’s gifts are his ability to see the floor. He’s a great 3-point shooter. He’s got size, he’s got length. But like the rest of our guys, with the exception of Larry Nance, he’s young.
It’s become increasingly clear that the old notions we’ve had with positions in basketball need to be completely reevaluated. Evolution of the game is fun, and it’s exciting to see where the game might go. This constant desire to fall back on antiquated ideas of what guys should look like given the position they play needs to go.
Laker fans are pretty new to a rebuild like this, and the relationship they’ve built with the young core is still incredibly young. So, over time, the hope is that start accepting guys for that they’re capable of, no matter how different it might be from what they were previously used to.
Hell, Magic Johnson was a 6’9” point guard, right? He turned out pretty well.