Typically speaking, a young NBA player’s development is aided when he’s surrounded by legitimate league-average-and-higher talent. This isn’t always the case and there are examples of veterans taking away from the growth of a prospect, but for the most part, it’s a good thing to have good players helping younger teammates figure things out on and off the court.
For some reason, though, some (most notably Charles Barkley) are concerned about the effect the Lakers’ veteran additions might have on the team’s young core. Assistant coach Jessey Mermuys sat down for a back-and-forth with Mike Trudell of Lakers.com and tried to put some of that concern to rest.
MT: There was clear development last year for the young guys. How much of a step did you see taking this offseason regardless of what free agents were brought in?
Yeah, they were gonna take a jump no matter what, and that’s just from the competitive standpoint that we talked about. The front office has done a great job of bringing in guys that love to play, that love to hoop, that love to work, that want to get better, that are coachable and listen and take the knowledge and apply it. And then Luke does such a great job of building confidence and building an environment where guys are able to make mistakes and not really get down on themselves or fear coming out. He’s such an empowering force in that way, which speeds their development. So they’re on a great trajectory, but adding a player like LeBron can only help those guys. It’s an unbelievable opportunity from them to learn from one of the best to ever do it, and they should be extremely excited. Knowing our guys, I’m sure they’re ecstatic.
Look, the caliber of veteran matters. Concern about Lance Stephenson hurting, say, Kyle Kuzma’s ability to get as many minutes as he should is fine. But this idea that the Lakers shouldn’t have signed veterans for fear of signing veterans who are better than the kids is borderline insane.
This idea that the Lakers should have targeted lesser players out of concern that they definitely wouldn’t win minutes from the young core already in place is asinine and would be potentially harmful for the kids in question.
Mermuys was very clearly excited for the culture of competition heading into training camp that is (at least in theory) going to be pivotal for this team’s success. That competition would be jeopardized if the players acquired weren’t capable of legitimately pushing the players already in place.
We’ll see how it all plays out but as of right now, it’s good to see that the coaching staff and front office are on the same page in terms of what they think is the best way forward. They could obviously be wrong, but continuity from top to bottom is pivotal nonetheless.