This offseason, before any draft picks or free agency moves, the Los Angeles Lakers’ first move was firing head coach Byron Scott and hiring 36-year-old Luke Walton to take over the team. Some would argue that the Walton hire was the most significant move of the summer and Lakers President Jeanie Buss is willing to go even further than that.
In an interview with William Weinbaum and Steve Delsohn of ESPN, Buss called Walton the team’s best free agent in a long time:
“I think he is our best free-agent signing in a few years,” Lakers president Jeanie Buss said.
It is pretty hard to argue Buss’ point for a number of reasons. First and foremost is the fact that the Lakers have failed to bring in a marquee free agent in each of the past three seasons. The likes of Carmelo Anthony, LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Durant, and Hassan Whiteside have all bypassed the opportunity to join the Lakers for one reason or another.
Aside from that, however, the impact Walton has already had on this young roster is evident. The young talent on this team has spoken glowingly about the mindset and culture that Walton has brought to the Lakers. From D’Angelo Russell to Jordan Clarkson to Larry Nance Jr., the reviews on Walton have been outstanding.
Additionally, the Lakers look like a much-improved team on the court so far this preseason. Walton has implemented a new offensive system with far more ball movement than previous years, and the team is focused on defense even if the results aren’t completely there yet.
Jeanie Buss badly wants the Lakers to move out of the cellar of the NBA and return to contention as quickly as possible. The Lakers won’t be there this season, but the makings of a great team are beginning to show and Walton has a lot to do with that.