The Los Angeles Lakers are down to the final 14 games on their regular season schedule and once the season officially ends, and the offseason begins, the front office is expected to evaluate the future of head coach Luke Walton — and by “evaluate,” I mean fire him off into space.
All signs point to this season being Walton’s last as the head coach of the Lakers after he failed to coach his team to a playoff berth in the first year of the LeBron James era. In his defense, the front office didn’t exactly put him in the best position to succeed and the roster he was given had a hard time staying healthy, but he also didn’t do himself any favors.
In the likely event Walton is let go by the Lakers this summer, he’s reportedly going to be a “wanted man” by rebuilding teams including, but not limited to, the Phoenix Suns, according to Sean Deveney of Sporting News:
The Suns have not committed to bringing first-year coach Igor Kokoskov back for next season, and with just 16 wins, Phoenix could take a step backward in a season in which improvement was expected. A source told Sporting News that Walton, who starred at Arizona, is seen as a top potential replacement for Kokoskov should the Suns make a move.
Deveney also mentioned the Cleveland Cavaliers as a potential landing spot for Walton because of the ties he has to the franchise as a player and his relationship with general manager Koby Altman.
If the Suns decided to fire Kokoskov, who they signed to a three-year deal just last summer, Walton would be a qualified candidate.
When Walton signed on to coach the Lakers in 2016, he inherited a young team with no real direction. Since then, he’s played a big part of establishing the culture the organization has in place and has improved the team’s record every year he’s been there.
In Phoenix, he would have the opportunity to do the same while getting the time he needs to develop as a tactician. In Los Angeles, with a 34-year-old LeBron James, they don’t have time to wait for Walton to figure things out.
One thing’s clear: Walton can have a head coaching job in the NBA by the start of the season if he wants one, it just won’t be in Los Angeles.