In two seasons as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, Luke Walton has compiled a 61-103 record, heading a team that was still in largely unfamiliar territory for longtime fans — far away from playoff contention. With LeBron James arriving as the Lakers’ new superstar, most of the team’s young core returning, and several veterans joining to add depth and experience to the purple and gold, big improvements are expected in Los Angeles in the 2018-19 season. As such, Walton’s job might be in jeopardy if he isn’t able to live up to fan expectations, according to the latest predictions from Bleacher Report.
Earlier on Monday, Bleacher Report‘s Zach Buckley listed the five coaches whom he expects would be on the “hot seat” in the 2018-19 season, also predicting that the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Billy Donovan, the Chicago Bulls’ Fred Hoiberg, the Denver Nuggets’ Michael Malone, and the Portland Trail Blazers’ Terry Stotts might also have a hard time holding on to their jobs if their teams aren’t able to step up. As for Luke Walton, Buckley wrote that the main catalyst for his possible departure would be the expectations of Lakers fans, given that the team’s fanbase is “starving for success.”
As further noted, the Lakers have not made the postseason since 2013, when the team, which was then led by touted new acquisition Dwight Howard, lost in the first round of the playoffs to the San Antonio Spurs. Prior to that, the team had only missed the playoffs five times in over six decades in the NBA.
According to Bleacher Report, the Lakers’ “mismatched” roster is another issue that could make Luke Walton a candidate for firing in the 2018-19 season. Aside from James, the team doesn’t have a second marquee player, as the rest of the Lakers are either young prospects like Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Kyle Kuzma, or “win-now(ish)” veterans like Rajon Rondo, Michael Beasley, and Lance Stephenson. All told, this could lead to a “major” challenge for Walton.
— Silver Screen & Roll (@LakersSBN) August 2, 2018
“There isn’t enough shooting (which James needs), and there might be too much playmaking (which James already supplies). All the incumbents played for a 47-loss group just last season,” Bleacher Report wrote.
“Now, [Walton] must already prove he’s a championship-caliber coach to James (who turns 34 in December), the front office, and the star(s) the Lakers will surely chase next summer.”
Rumors suggesting that the Los Angeles Lakers might fire Luke Walton are nothing new. Just last month, ESPN‘s Stephen A. Smith predicted that the Lakers would let go of the 38-year-old coach and replace him with Phil Jackson, who had led the team to five championships between 2000 and 2010. The Big Lead, however, opined that Smith’s predictions were “ridiculous,” adding that the Lakers’ top brass, including controlling owner Jeanie Buss, president of basketball operations Magic Johnson, and general manager Rob Pelinka, “really like” Walton and still have faith in his leadership.