The Los Angeles Lakers are heading into next season with an interesting dilemma: The expectations that come with LeBron James and the growing pains that come from a rebuild kicked into high gear.
Channing Frye was talking about this dynamic, and had some interesting thoughts on Thursday’s episode of “The Road Trippin’” podcast.
“Their young guys are crazy talented. The only worry I have is: They don’t have a guy that’s not expected to play, that is going to do the work. You need that one 15th man (James Jones)... You need a guy that is on par with your A-1, that is working harder than him to do nothing... That is respected and can hold people accountable. I don’t know who that is.
I think the communication is going to have to change with Kuz, and Josh Hart, and Zo and B.I. and big Zubac who I like a lot, Big Zu. Like, that’s five guys.
Now, my question is, as a person that’s been there, what happens to their development? Luke has to win, right? Are you going to play a guy that you don’t know what you’re going to get, or are you going to play Lance Stephenson, Michael Beasley, Bron, Rondo, JaVale McGee... You have to play the experience. So, what happens to these guys?”
To me, this one of the two most critical questions left up in the air after what’s been an interesting offseason. First, the center position. If LeBron isn’t open to playing considerable minutes at that spot, the Lakers are pretty much screwed.
The second question mark is the dynamic described by Frye above.
Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart — and to a lesser extent, Moe Wagner and Svi Mykhailiuk — are all better fits (and maybe even better players) right now than their veteran counterparts, but in the NBA, it isn’t necessarily that simple.
Coaches of teams with expectations care more about predictable production than potential. Each win is going to matter for these Lakers, so you can bet Walton and his staff are going to lean on the players he feels more comfortable with. There’s a non-zero chance those players will be the veterans added over the summer.
So, the onus falls on the young core to outperform veterans to the point where Luke has no choice but to lean on them. Whether or not they’re up to that task is going to go a long way in deciding the outcome for the upcoming Lakers season.