While I fully support and endorse the Lakers hiring Luke Walton, hiring him, specifically, doesn’t come without potential logistical hiccups. Walton, after all, is still employed, fulfilling his responsibilities as the Warriors’ lead assistant as they look to defend their title. As Walton helps Steve Kerr and the Warriors, then, he’s not able to yet move into his role as head man for the Lakers — at least as long as the Dubs are still in the playoffs.
With the Lakers getting a taste of lady luck by holding onto their draft pick on Tuesday night, they will soon start to hold pre-draft workouts of top prospects (they have already been working out prospects for their 2nd round pick). Only with Walton still working for the Warriors, he’s not likely to be around for many — if any — of them. TNT and NBA.com’s David Aldridge has the report:
So Walton may have to miss a number of Predraft workouts the Lakers schedule with some of the top Draft prospects. The Lakers are taping every workout for him to view when he can. Walton and Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak text each other every day and talk on the phone when possible, but the Lakers are being very respectful of Walton’s remaining days at Golden State.
In the meantime, Walton is continuing to try and convince Brian Shaw to join his Lakers coaching staff. But Shaw is also being wooed by new Pacers head coach Nate McMillan for a similar position, according to sources. Ideally, Shaw would serve as Walton’s proxy in L.A. during the Predraft workouts.
This isn’t the most ideal situation for the Lakers. In a perfect world Walton would be present, offering his thoughts and providing his opinion on players the Lakers may end up selecting. His insight on how a guy might fit into what he plans to run on offense and defense, his perspective on their skill set, and him generally getting a better feel for who these guys are as people by being in the room has real value. Some things might translate over tape or via communications with staff who are present, but in the end I’m sure even Luke would say nothing can fully replace being present.
This is especially true for Walton since he is entering his first year as the team’s coach. It’s not like Walton has been with the team for years, where familiarity could breed a type of comfort level between those in the room to take up the mindset of “what would Luke think about this” and feel good they’re hitting the mark. Yes, Walton could provide some key things he’d look for via pre-workout conversations, but, again, him being there would undoubtedly be better.
The flip side, of course, is what Mitch Kupchak said last season when he was asked about how much input Byron Scott had in the draft process which led to selecting D’Angelo Russell (Scott was not hired yet when the Lakers drafted Julius Randle):
(Byron was) not very influential at all. The coaches were present during the workouts, they are all veterans and they don’t watch any college basketball, they don’t attend any college games, there is just no time. They are smart enough to know that what they see in a workout or two is not nearly the body of work that you need to see to make a decision with a college kid. They were present, they conducted the workouts, I solicited some opinions, but Byron would have been happy with any of the guys we brought in to work out. He would have been very, very happy.
Whether or not that’s a 100% accurate portrayal of the coaching staff’s involvement in the lead up to the draft, if we simply take his words at face value, I would imagine the same would be true of Walton and his staff (if they were in place) for this year’s draft. Yes, they’d be involved, but it seems Mitch would lean heavily on the scouting department and his own personal opinions from seeing these players in game situations multiple times, rather than what the coaches think from a workout or two.
Speaking of coaches, though, the note about Brian Shaw in Aldridge’s report is worth discussing as well. Shaw’s name has been out there for some time, but those talks died down when Shaw was mentioned as a possible candidate for head coaching vacancies in Indiana and Orlando.
Now that Nate McMillan has been hired by the Pacers and the Magic have moved onto Frank Vogel and Adrian Griffin as their top choices, expect Shaw’s name to come up again — as it does with Aldridge — as a potential assistant under Walton. It’s worth noting too that Shaw has history in Indiana and a good relationship with Paul George from his time as an assistant under Vogel before taking the head job in Denver.
We will see how this all plays out. Not only with Shaw, but in how the pre-draft process plays out with Walton not getting a first hand look at these players. Again, it’s not the best situation, but the hope is that the Lakers planned for this when they hired Walton in the first place.