Luke Walton has a good problem on hand, but it could also affect his team’s future.
In front of him are two incredibly solid options at the small forward spot. Brandon Ingram’s selection as the second overall pick comes with huge expectations, while Luol Deng is a new acquisition that comes with a hefty price tag that the team would want to make the most out of.
So who gets the starting spot?
Walton has already stated that he’s not giving Deng, or anyone for that matter, a free ticket to the starting lineup. That leaves Ingram and Deng working together and, at the same time, competing against each other for their coach’s nod.
In Brandon Ingram, chances are good that the Lakers might have a star in the making. Giving him the baptism of fire, like other greats experienced, could jumpstart his development. But learning under Luol Deng also has its benefits.
Deng has always maintained his reputation as a great locker room presence, and Ingram would be best served if he watches how his veteran teammate carries himself around. Also, Deng is still very capable of contributing despite his mileage, which explains a few of the millions in his contract.
However, Luke Walton can push the envelope a bit by making Deng start at the 4-spot with Ingram manning the wing.
Aside from that, the team could also start Deng, then pull Ingram out of the bench after a few minutes, giving the Lakers an interesting small-ball lineup.
But looking at the bigger picture, Luke Walton said that he has other bigger concerns outside of the win-loss record. There has to be obvious development from the young players for the season to be called a success.
It may involved putting Brandon Ingram right where everyone expects him to be – starting at small forward.