Lakers News: Mitch Kupchak Comments on Free Agency, Brandon Ingram Talks Draft

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistJune 28, 2016

BROOKLYN, NY - JUNE 23:  Brandon Ingram poses for a portrait after being drafted number two overall by the Los Angeles Lakers during the 2016 NBA Draft on June 23, 2016 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE via Getty Images)
Jennifer Pottheiser/Getty Images

So much for the harmonious state of the Los Angeles Lakers franchise.

After ridding themselves of the burdensome final year of Kobe Bryant's deal, keeping their pick and selecting Brandon Ingram second in June, things appeared to be looking up. The Lakers have kept themselves largely devoid of terrible contracts, and even their less-than-great ones (Nick Young's) are probably movable in the current cap environment.

Unfortunately, a report by B/R's Kevin Ding shined a light on the franchise's internal discord. The worst three-year stretch in franchise history has everyone unhappy and antsy—particularly within the Buss family—despite how things look better from the outside.

Ingram joins D'Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, Larry Nance Jr. and (likely) Jordan Clarkson in a promising young core. The Lakers are one or two youngish veteran free agents and some internal development away from being a 35-win team next year. They're on the right path to rebuilding, but Ding's report seems to highlight an organization ready to expedite the process for no apparent reason.

Instead of focusing on the rumors, let's check in on what the likes of general manager Mitch Kupchak and Ingram have been saying publicly over the last week.

Kupchak Open to Adding Everywhere

Greg Beacham/Associated Press

Depending on how you look at it, there's either a bright side or a downside to all this potential Lakers drama.

They have the most cap space of any team by a pretty significant margin. They will have more than $60 million to spend on potential free agents after renouncing the rights to Roy Hibbert and Kobe Bryant. The Lakers could easily fit two max players under their cap.

Their biggest need is in the frontcourt, given the presence of Clarkson, Russell and Ingram at 1-3. Randle averaged a double-double in what was essentially his rookie season, but he's not irreplaceable at this point; the cupboard is essentially bare at center after Hibbert failed to rejuvenate his career.

But when talking about the Lakers' free-agent plans, Kupchak refused to pigeonhole the team as needing only frontcourt talent. 

“So we do feel we need to address the frontcourt, but taking a step back, I think we need help everywhere, so I wouldn't rule out signing a veteran player at any position,” Kupchak said on SportsCenter, per Harrison Faigen of Silver Screen and Roll. “In fact, we may be aggressive in the backcourt position, even though we have backcourt players. Not because we don't like the ones we do, but because we think we can get better.”

The Lakers could be major players for DeMar DeRozan if the L.A. native can't work out a long-term contract with the Toronto Raptors. Nicolas Batum, Harrison Barnes and Chandler Parsons could also wind up in purple and gold if they're willing to max them out.

That would obviously be a dangerous misallocation of resources. The Lakers would be smart to target wings like Arron Afflalo, Tyler Johnson, Jared Dudley and Jeff Green—solid NBA guys who won't expect huge roles or massive salaries. Bringing UCLA alum Afflalo home is a no-brainer on a short-term deal after his disastrous season in New York.

The only real potential max-out guy for the Lakers appears to be Hassan Whiteside, himself a massive risk who could blow up in their faces. Bismack Biyombo and Festus Ezeli are interesting, but only at certain price points; once they move past $15 million or so annually, the value becomes harder to see.

Ingram Excited to Be a Laker, Play Pace-And-Space Ball

The Lakers were one of the biggest winners from the draft process. They didn't win the lottery, but keeping their pick and staying at No. 2 was a win in and of itself.

Most evaluators considered the 2016 class a two-player draft—and the Lakers didn't even have to decide between Ingram and LSU's Ben Simmons.

Now that Ingram's in the fold, it's all about developing his star potential.

We all know his game at this point. There's a "Kevin Durant Lite" version of him who could be a 25-point scorer someday, stretching the floor, grabbing rebounds and blocking the occasional shot. His beanpole stature is a concern, but Ingram doesn't turn 19 until September.

There's a long way to go in his bodily development.

What the Lakers have in the here and now is a ball of potential who seems thrilled to make the leap from Duke to Los Angeles.

"I think just [that] I grew up being a Kobe fan, of course, before I was a Kevin Durant fan," Ingram said on draft night. "But of course that's every kid's dream. Just my Lakers jersey back at home, and I'm definitely going to take this ride and work the hardest I can to be the best player I can be."

Ingram also commented on playing for new coach Luke Walton, who spent last season as Steve Kerr's second in command (and sometimes first in command) in Golden State.

"Of course, everyone wants to play like the Golden State Warriors, so just seeing that and seeing him coach those guys and just with the young guys that we have, the shooting ability and the passing ability for D'Angelo Russell and the different things that the Lakers do, I think it's a good fit for me."


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