The Los Angeles Lakers had a stroke of good luck during the NBA Draft Lottery, landing the second overall pick which they used to draft Duke forward Brandon Ingram. They have added a player to their roster with tremendous potential, and they hope that Ingram will ultimately live up to the hype.
That said, Ingram just recently turned 19-year-old, and the team is focused on bringing him along slowly. Accordingly, head coach Luke Walton told Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News that he would not give Ingram a spot in the starting lineup to begin the season:
“We’re not going to throw him into the starting lineup right away”
In all likelihood, this is the right way to go. The Lakers gave Luol Deng a massive contract worth $72 million this summer, and part of the benefit of signing him is that he can carry some of the burden on the wing while Ingram adapts to the NBA game. Ingram does have massive potential thanks to his sweet shooting stroke and 7’3″ wingspan, but at just 195 pounds, he needs to put on muscle before he will be ready to handle the physicality of the NBA on a nightly basis.
Walton did also mention that he isn’t opposed to allowing the younger players to spread their wings as the season goes on, particularly if the team is losing:
“You develop the young core by rewarding them when they play well. If there’s 10 games left in the season and out of the playoffs and there’s some vets that played long minutes all season, maybe you play all your young guys to finish out the season. But when you’re going through the season, you’re not doing anyone any favors just by playing young guys so they can play if they’re not out there playing the right way.”
Of course, most fans are anxious to see the young Lakers on the floor and thriving right from the start, but players don’t develop into stars overnight. A year ago Ingram was making a huge leap from high school to college, and now he is making an even bigger one to the NBA. That being the case, Walton is making a smart move by lowering expectations and giving Ingram a little breathing room.