I don’t blame anyone for doing it. After all, I do it myself. After the Lakers hired Luke Walton and added talent through the draft and free agency, I started to look at the Warriors, their players, the roles they played, and then sought out analogues on the Lakers’ roster for players who would and/or could be slotted into a similar position or role.
Can D’Angelo Russell and his sweet shooting become the Lakers’ Steph Curry? Can Brandon Ingram be their Klay Thompson? Their Kevin Durant? The Lakers need a Draymond Green — can Julius Randle be that guy? Maybe Larry Nance, Jr. could be? Oh, maybe Deng can fill that Andre Iguodala role? I’ve even compared Lou Williams to Leandro Barbosa. My ability seek out Lakers/Warriors comps knows no bounds.
I need to stop, though. And you do to.
The Warriors can serve as an example of the way Luke Walton would like his new team to play, for sure. The unselfishness. The competitiveness. The way they move the ball onto the open man and rotate defensively. The way they have fun on the court while not sacrificing the work off it. The way they celebrate each other’s successes and pick each other up after failures. This is all a part of constructing a team culture and, with the departure of Kobe Bryant, one that does need a re-brand as much as a rebuild.
But as much as the Warriors can serve as a guide and, in some ways, even a benchmark to strive for in terms of approach and results (over the long term), the Lakers and their individual players must stay true to themselves and try to maximize their own strengths rather than replicate someone else’s. It is fine to try and steal from the best players and incorporate some of their tricks and pet moves into your own arsenal. So many of the greats blatantly rip-off those who came before them.
But trying to pigeon hole any of the Lakers’ players into the role a Warriors’ player served in isn’t necessarily the best way to optimize this team. While there might be some skill-set overlap, these Lakers are different players; different people. They are going to react to situations differently, improvise differently. They also have different strengths and weaknesses which can be leveraged or exploited.
I get that the Warriors provide a certain blueprint for success. And I get that with Walton coming over, the easiest way to analyze how the Lakers move forward and seek progress is to find ways they can emulate what his former team in Oakland did. But not only is that not really fair, it’s probably not even that accurate.
I think we need to give Walton credit that he will not try to create a carbon copy of the Warriors with these Lakers. That he is smart enough to recognize the differences in personnel and, beyond that, try to turn his new players into the best versions of themselves rather than knock-offs of his former guys. Further, that comparing these current young guys to players who all-stars, MVP’s, and Olympians or, worse yet, expecting them to play the same role or style as them may not be the best way to get the most out of them.
Ultimately, we need to appreciate these young players for who they are and what they can and, down the line, will bring to the table. While we can hope they follow a similar developmental curve to their best case Warrior comp, trying to put the round peg into the hexagonal hole isn’t in anyone’s best interests. Instead of trying to turn this team into the last great Warriors’ group, we hope they can develop into the next great Lakers’ one.