Sometimes it’s a gift and a curse to have an excess of players at a specific position. While it’s a blessing due to options and different lineups you can run with, it’s also a curse because everyone wants to play and you have to keep guys happy. Luke Walton and the Los Angeles Lakers are in this boat with a lot of talent at the power forward position.
Julius Randle is the lead candidate for this position for the Lakers. The growth of Randle over his 3-year career has been very evident. He’s been a beast inside using his size and athleticism to his advantage. But where I love the growth of Julius is in transition. He’s evolved as a break starter, grabbing the rebound and initiating the fast break. And more times than none, he makes the right play either dumping the ball off or taking it himself for a bucket. What I’m looking forward to seeing from Julius Randle going ahead is his maturation as a player picking his spots but also his jump shot, as he’s looking to increase his range. This will be a big year for him with all of the work that he’s put in, especially with his focus on getting in better shape.
Larry Nance Jr, the “human pogo stick” is the current back-up for Los Angeles. Nance has been the guy to come in and make his presence felt with his athleticism. He’s been a constant highlight reel putting opponents on posters on a night to night basis. Nance has become a fan favorite with everything that he does on the floor. He provides assurance that you’re going to get his all during those minutes that he touches the floor. Fighting, hustling, and just doing all of the little things that a coach looks for from his role player. I’m expecting more of that from him this season as well as more development in his mechanics in his game.
Kyle Kuzma is the next man up. He’s been labeled as a steal for the Los Angeles Lakers with the versatility that he provides at the forward position. He stole the show at the Las Vegas Summer League averaging 21.9 points and 6.4 rebounds shooting 51.4% from the field over a span of 7 games. Kuzma was named to the Las Vegas Summer League 2nd team and was also awarded the MVP for the title game due to his outstanding performance. The rookie forward out of Utah brings another threat from behind the arc. At 6’9″ he has a sweet stroke and the ability to stretch the defense which can open up the floor for guys like Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram. While it was only Summer League and a span of 7 games, I believe Kyle Kuzma is going to put pressure on Randle and Nance for their minutes at the forward position.
Luol Deng is a seasoned veteran entering his 14th season in the NBA. While he’s listed as a small forward with the league going small, Deng is more of a 4 at this stage in his career. He experienced the worst statistical year of his career only averaging 7.6 points and 5.3 rebounds shooting a horrid 38.7% from the field. Deng averaged 26.5 minutes per game last season but I’m expecting that to dwindle some this season to provide more time for some of the younger guys. Even though he’s on contract for four years, I don’t expect to see him in a Lakers jersey for that duration of time. With the hope of signing some big names in the future, more cap space is required and Luol Deng will have to be the casualty for that to occur.
With so much talent at the power forward position, Luke Walton will have to decide how he’s going to disperse their minutes. They each provide something different but with their versatility, Walton gets the luxury of plugging them into different positions. Don’t be surprised if you see combinations with two of them on the floor at the same time in a small ball lineup. I’m looking forward to seeing their evolution this season as well as how Walton will handle this situation.