Would Luke Walton Be a Good Fit as the New Coach of Sacramento Kings?

SACRAMENTO -- The Kings haven't even had time to give Dave Joerger's office a fresh coat of paint and already there is a candidate for his old position. Luke Walton is the early favorite coming into the coaching search and it wouldn't be surprising if this thing moves quickly.

Walton was one of the hottest names in the game three summers ago. Fresh off a 39-4 run as the interim head coach for the Warriors during Steve Kerr's injury, Walton signed on to lead a young and inexperienced Lakers club with a five-year, $25 million deal.

While he showed improvement in each of his three seasons in Los Angeles, the 39-year-old coach finished with a record of 98-148.  

Strangely enough, Joerger finished with an identical 98-148 record over his three seasons in Sacramento. The win total wasn't enough for Joerger to keep his job, but it might be enough for Walton to land a new one with the Kings.

Why didn't it work in LA?

While he didn't ultimately find success in LA, there is a lot of blame to go around.

Magic Johnson already quit the team after piecing together a ragtag group of players around superstar LeBron James. The Laker's decision to chase Anthony Davis leading up to the deadline killed chemistry and put all of the team's young core on notice. It's a total mess in La-La Land.

Walton didn't rise above the chaos, but not many coaches would. James missed 27 games due to injury or being shut down. When James went down with a groin injury in December, the Lakers were 20-14. When he returned on Feb. 5, the team was 27-27 and scuffling.

The Lakers shut James down late in the season and coasted to the finish line. Most of the decisions made that affected the outcome of the season came from higher ups. 

Why might it work in Sacramento?

There's no guarantee that it will work with the Kings, but Walton is a fresh voice and he would inherit a team on the rise.

While there are more experienced names available, Walton's play style fits the Kings roster to a tee. He loves to have his team push the tempo, although his 2018-19 Lakers squad was poorly assembled for that style of play.

During his three seasons with the Lakers, his teams finished sixth, second and fourth in pace. Los Angeles finished just ahead of the Kings in pace this season, although they scored 111.8 points per game compared to Sacramento's 114.2.

The biggest reason for the disparity in points hinges on LA's inability to shoot from the perimeter. If hired, Walton would inherit a club that shot 37.8 percent from behind the arc, which ranked fourth in the NBA. Despite shooting more 3-pointers than Sacramento, the Lakers hit just 33.3 percent (29th in the league).

Sacramento shot 86 less 3-pointers than the Lakers and hit 80 more. Walton's offense might look completely different with De'Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Harrison Barnes and Nemanja Bjelica shooting from the perimeter.

On the defensive side of the ball, Walton's group ranked 12th in the league in defensive rating in each of the last two seasons. Joerger's club ranked 20th this last season, which was a huge improvement over the previous season.

If the Kings return with the same roster, they have the potential to improve on the defensive end because of their age and gaining valuable experience. But Sacramento doesn't have the size and length of the Lakers' roster last season.

LA was also a much better rebounding and shot blocking team than the Kings. This issue may be addressed during the offseason, but then again, it might not.


Walton is known as a players coach, although there were times where he appeared to lose the room in Los Angeles this season. Not many coaches could handle the personalities, trade rumors and distractions that Walton faced. When Lavar Ball is the last of your worries, there is an organizational issue.

There is no way that Vlade Divac is adding the types of personalities that Magic did. There is also no guarantee that Walton will find a way to bond with a young Kings team and have them fall in line.

Walton's 39-4 record as coach of the Warriors shows that he can connect, even with the best of the best. His 37-45 record with Los Angeles shows that he can struggle as well.

The truth is, Walton is likely somewhere in between these two experiences.

Walton also has pre-existing relationships with Divac from their playing days in LA, as well as a history with Harrison Barnes from their time together with the Warriors.

Sacramento has plenty of talent. They need to continue to improve and Walton is both young enough to grow with the group and has enough experience to potentially get them over the hump.

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