Coming into the 2015-16 NBA season, the Los Angeles Lakers top priority was to win games and that sentiment was echoed by general manager Mitch Kupchak as well head coach Byron Scott.
Many, however, believe that developing the team’s young core should be first and foremost for this franchise as D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, and Julius Randle have all shown flashes of greatness.
Scott has come under a lot of scrutiny for relying on veterans at times more than the young players. Kupchak took part in Lakers.com’s ‘Voices’ chat and spoke about the need to develop the young players:
I don’t tell Byron what to do. I don’t tell him who to play […] We’re working to improve wins. But you do want to develop young players. By and large, our future is the young players we have. But I don’t tell Byron what to do. He plays the players he feels gives him the best chance to win.
Kupchak also noted that while development is important, the team must be careful about simply gifting players minutes:
If you’re getting 15-30 minutes a game, you better be pretty happy you’re getting those minutes, and you better not take them for granted. Because they’re difficult to come by, and I can make a list of 60-70 guys in the NBA right now that can’t get into an NBA game. They would die for 20 or 15 minutes a game. It’s not something to gift out, and it’s not to say we’re sending a message.
With this 3-21 start, it makes complete sense that development for the future should be a priority. That is made somewhat more difficult by the presence of Kobe Bryant and his ‘retirement tour’ and the Lakers want to showcase him as he goes through his final season.
The benching of Russell and Randle sent many fans on a tirade about Scott and his handling of the team, but his mindset seems to be a shared one throughout the franchise. The team wants to develop their young core, but those players will have to earn it.