The Lakers rebuild took an accelerated turn when they signed LeBron James to a four-year, $154 million contract this summer. With the LeBron era in full swing, young players like Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart must adjust to playing with someone of his magnitude.
The former No. 2 overall pick, Ingram showed flashes of his potential last season and looks to make big leap in year three. While Hart put on a clinical display throughout NBA Summer League en route to earning MVP to jumpstart his second season.
The Open Floor podcast crew broke down what they expect from each player and how they will fit playing next to LeBron James.
(Listen to the latest Open Floor Podcast here. The following transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Andrew Sharp: I don’t know where you have Brandon Ingram on the Top 100 but he is probably 20 spots lower than he should be.
Ben Golliver: Oh come on.
Sharp: I think whatever happens, we are going to turn around in like 9 months and be very impressed by Brandon Ingram.
Golliver: You are in the tank for Brandon Ingram for no good reason. He actually did make the list of guys I wanted to talk to you about, so I am glad you mentioned him. He has a lot of areas where he can improve. He has already made some progress in those areas. Crucial areas like getting comfortable with the ball in his hands more often, creating offense for himself one-on-one and being somewhat comfortable shooting the three-pointer, even though that is not really his strength and just finding ways to use his strength to score around the basket.
Those are all positive developments and I think he is going to be the big beneficiary of LeBron going there. He is going to be the biggest x-factor for the entire Lakers season. If he is actually as good as you think he is, they are going to be in really good shape and everyone is going to be calling LeBron a genius for hand-selecting another great prospect like he did with Kyrie Irving a few years ago.
Sharp: Do you have anything else on breakout candidates?
Golliver: Well on the Lakers, what about Josh Hart rather than Brandon Ingram? Doesn’t Josh Hart seem like he can be a really nice fit with LeBron? Obviously his ceiling might not be as high but when you are looking at guys who will be playing in L.A.’s closing lineups and playing big minutes when it matters, I just like Hart’s fit better than a lot of the other guards they got on the roster—better than a lot of the veterans they signed this summer.
In terms of being able to be a really quality three-point shooter, he is already that. Now you have LeBron setting him up with the best looks he is ever going to see in his entire career. Could we see Josh Hart be in this conversation than some of the other Lakers’ youngsters in terms of the most important guys that LeBron got around him or is that going too far? Am I getting too deep in the Summer League sauce?
Sharp: I don’t know. That is my answer I don’t know. I am a little suspicious because I have loved Josh Hart for the last couple of years. He is from D.C. and I have been rooting for him. I think he is good but I am just not sure how good he is. The version we saw at Summer League seemed too good to be true so I don’t want to jinx him with too many expectations with what he is going to do playing next to LeBron. I do think he should start and he looked good in the games he started last year too and he was very solid. I am pro-Josh Hart but let’s be careful here. I think Ingram is a much safer bet to be very, very good next to LeBron. But if Hart is good as well than that is very huge bonus.