Lakers in a bidding war… For Luke Walton!?

By on February 11, 2016

 

January 14, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors interim head coach Luke Walton (left) talks to Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant (24) during the third quarter at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Lakers 116-98. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

January 14, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors interim head coach Luke Walton (left) talks to Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant (24) during the third quarter at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Lakers 116-98. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

After the New York Knicks fired head coach Derek Fisher, the NBA rumor mill began to buzz. According to various sources around the league, the Knicks will target former Laker Luke Walton to be Fisher’s successor. If these sources are correct, Phil Jackson’s New York Knicks will have their sights on the same target as Jackson’s former team, the Los Angeles Lakers.

There is one simple question people seem to be over-looking: Can Luke Walton coach? In Steve Kerr’s absence Walton led the Golden State Warriors on a historic 24 game win streak to open the season. They are now in the midst of one of the best seasons in history, chasing the 72-10 record of the ’96 Bulls. But how much of this success can be attributed to Walton?

The Warriors didn’t open the season running a different offense than we saw in the finals. Walton didn’t alter the defensive strategy or introduce a new element that catapulted the team into greatness. The Warriors are just a great team. It is arguable that anyone could have stepped in for Kerr and had success. The Warrior’s three point shooting is off the chart. Everyone, even their bench players, have been on fire all year from long range. Brandon Rush is shooting 45% from the three point line. With the red-hot team shooting, Draymond Green becoming a constant triple double threat, and Steph Curry being compared to Michael Jordan, how much coaching did Luke Walton really do? His only responsibility was knowing when to sub.

There is nothing in Walton’s NBA career that suggests he would be a good coach. His numbers were abysmal and one could argue his career only lasted as long as it did because of his pedigree. His career average is 4 pts and 3 rbs per game. If the great Bill Walton was not his father, there is no way he would have lasted 11 seasons in the NBA. Looking at his career totals, his numbers were Adam Morrison bad. And Morrison, who averaged 7 pts per game, only lasted 4 years in the NBA. Why would an underachieving team like the Lakers be so interested in taking a chance on a player who underachieved his whole career?

At this point it is widely expected that Luke Walton will be a head coach in the NBA next year. Some team will inevitably take a chance on him, and after what he has done in Golden State he definitely deserves the chance. But the Lakers are not in a position to take a chance. They took a chance this year with Byron Scott, and it’s turning out miserably. If Scott is having trouble reaching out to the youth on this roster, what would make the Laker’s believe Luke Walton would be the man for the job? What young talent has he developed? He was a young talent… That never developed.

The Warrior’s roster is full of young talent, but Walton did not develop this talent. One could make a stronger argument that the talent on the roster is what developed Walton as a coach. The Warriors have a unique roster built around super stars that are not selfish. They are known for their trademark ball marl movement, but their style of play is impossible to duplicate because they shoot so efficiently. Stephan Curry, who currently leads the league in scoring, is averaging 30 ppg on 20 shot attempts. He is shooting 50% from field and 45% from three point land. As a team the Warrior’s shoot 42% from three. Watching them, it sometimes seems like they don’t miss. With this high shooting percentage and their team’s willingness to move the ball, it’s no secret why they have won so many games. But again the question arises: Can you really attribute any of this to Luke Walton?

The short is answer is no. The team moved the ball and shot well last year. They became NBA Champions with this formula. It’s nothing new. There is no aspect of what the team has done this year that can be attributed to Walton besides signing players in and out of practice, and knowing when to give starters a rest when the score is out of hand.

It would be in the Lakers best interest to not take a chance on an unproven coach at this point. Next season will play a pivotal role in sculpting the post-Kobe era. It is important to bring in a coach who is a seasoned veteran, ready to deal with the roster as the new age Lakers come into formation. This is not to say Walton is a bad coach. But we haven’t seen enough to proclaim him a good coach. There will be better options for the Lakers to consider at the conclusion of this season. The Kings have made it clear that they plan to part ways with George Carl in the near future. Carl is known for fast paced offenses and allowing his stars the freedom to put up big numbers. Demarcus Cousins has been in the top 5 in scoring all year within Carl’s system. Tom Thibodeau is also an option. Known for fierce defenses that carried Chicago to the conference finals, and a system that propelled  to an MVP year, Thibodeau may be a viable option for the Lakers as well.

Whatever the Lakers decide to do this off season regarding coaches, hopefully they keep their recent choices in mind. Mike Brown was fired in what seemed like the first week of the season, Mike D’Antoni was a failure, and we are witnessing the crash and burn of Byron Scott. The Lakers need a veteran coach who can encapsulate the focus of their team and get the most production possible out of their young roster. They need a coach who is a proven leader. Someone the team can rally behind. A bad decision here can potentially set the franchise back and stifle growth for years to come.

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