Luke Walton signaled the beginning of things really turning around just over two years ago. The Los Angeles Lakers had struck out on each attempt at luring a marquee free agent for years on end, so landing the top candidate on the market was quite the achievement, all things considered.
Walton arrived with a ton of hype and thus far, he’s lived up to it.
In the latest season review on “Locked on Lakers,” Pete Zayas and I look back on Walton’s sophomore year. The show is broken up into three parts: Expectations, production and looking ahead.
It’s important to take into account expectations heading into the year so as to have full context on the successes and failures of each player, coach or executive. Lonzo Ball headed into the year with more to prove than, say, Tyler Ennis.
For Walton, similarly to a second-year player, all I really wanted to see was progress built atop the foundation he laid last year. In his first season, Walton was impressive as a communicator, but a little rough around the edges in terms of details. So, that was where my hopes for growth started.
Walton displayed plenty of the growth from season one to two. Yes, there were a couple hiccups along the way (Julius Randle’s minutes, for one), but there were far more positives than negatives, all things considered.
You have to keep in mind that he was working with an incredibly young roster and the few veterans he did have to work with were on one-year rental-type deals. That he instituted a defense that jumped from one of the league’s worst two years ago to anywhere near respectable is nothing short of miraculous.
Offensively, the Lakers struggled mightily in the halfcourt and not enough was done from the staff to aide personnel by way of X’s and O’s.
For Walton to take the next step forward in his growth as an NBA head coach, he’ll have to improve from a tactical standpoint offensively. Whether that comes from his own mind or from an addition to the staff, it needs to happen if he hopes to join the ranks of the NBA’s elite.
If this offseason goes to plan, the Lakers will have exponentially tougher expectations heading into next year. As Pete mentions, Walton wasn’t a Rob Pelinka/Magic Johnson hire. If things go south, Walton might wind up the scapegoat, fair or not as that might be.
For the full discussion between Pete and I, listen below.