Had Johnson stuck around for the offseason, Walton would almost certainly be looking for a new team to coach. However, now that Johnson is gone, it’s possible that Walton could see out his contract with the Lakers, which still has two more years on it, including a team option for the 2020-21 season.
Im the event that Walton is still let go this summer, though, there’s reportedly at least one team that is willing to give him a shot at redemption in the NBA: The Sacramento Kings.
According to multiple reports, the Kings would have a high interest level in Walton if he and the Lakers were to part ways in the coming weeks:
Amid reports that Kings coach Dave Joerger's job is in jeopardy, league sources say that Sacramento would have interest in Luke Walton should they decide to go through with a coaching change— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) April 11, 2019
Can confirm @wojespn report that Kings GM Vlade Divac will fire coach Dave Joerger today. Lakers coach Luke Walton - if available - is the clear frontrunner here, per sources. Former New Orleans coach Monty Williams is also a strong candidate, as is Spurs asst. Ettore Messina.— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) April 11, 2019
With the Kings, Walton would inherit one of the NBA’s most exciting young rosters, which features names like De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Marvin Bagley III and Bogdan Bogdanovic. The Kings also have an incoming lottery pick, as well as roughly $36 million in cap space to improve their roster this summer. That numbers could climb as high as $60 million in the unlikely event Harrison Barnes declines his $25.1 million player option.
Of all of the head coaching positions that are expected to open up this summer, Sacramento is probably the most desirable situation outside of Los Angeles. The real question is: Why would the Kings want to hire Walton?
Yes, Walton has all of the intangibles a rebuilding organization like the Kings should want in a head coach, but from a strictly basketball standpoint, he’s probably not an upgrade on Joerger, who coached the Kings to their best record in over a decade this past season.
Sacramento’s interest in Walton likely stems from the idea that he can bring elements from the Golden State Warriors to a Kings team that likes to get out in transition and shoot 3-pointers at a high clip. But if Walton hasn’t done that during his three years in Los Angeles, what makes the Kings think they can be the team to unlock his potential?
If the Lakers let Walton go, Sacramento wouldn’t be a bad place to restart, but if the expectation for the Kings’ next head coach is to end their 13-year playoff drought next season, they might be better off looking elsewhere.