D'Angelo Russell.

Luke Walton has been seriously impressed with D'Angelo Russell since arriving at the Lakers

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The L.A. Lakers are undoubtedly in a period of transition and they are a far cry from the three-peat they managed at the turn of millennium.

Stars like Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant have both shot their last hoop and the Purple and Gold has a very different look and feel to it these days.

Four of the main players the Lakers will trust to see them into the future have played two seasons or less in the NBA. Add recent second overall draft pick Brandon Ingram to that mix and the Lakers have a talented, but very raw core.

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New head coach Luke Walton is on the look out for a new leader since Bryant has now departed from the game, and although the Lakers have recruited the likes of Luol Deng, Jose Calderon and Timofey Mozgov in the offseason, they are seen as cogs to help the youngsters mature, not lead them.

But where's the next Kobe? The next generational leader who can be the symbol of hope for the next decade?

Of course, Kobe is a once in a lifetime kind of talent. You don't get players like him every day, much less, for 20 years at one franchise.

Los Angeles Lakers Victory Parade

So who do the Lakers turn to and groom? Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson are excellent pieces for the organisation moving forward, but there's no doubt that D'Angelo Russell and Brandon Ingram - both picked second overall in their respective draft classes - are the two stars that the Lakers hierarchy has high hopes for.

That sentiment is particularly true for Russell. Walton has seen a step up in the Kentucky-born star this summer and the 20-year-old has shown Walton that he is ready to work in his sophomore.

“D’Angelo’s been great since I’ve been down here,” the rookie head coach said, via the Orange County Register. “He’s been in the gym at least every day, sometimes twice a day. He comes back at night.”

Operating at the one spot, Walton knows the value of a point guard assuming the role of a floor general.

New Orleans Pelicans v Golden State Warriors

Having just worked with Stephen Curry at the Golden State Warriors - who has just won back-to-back MVP awards, the second of which he won unanimously - the new coach knows how influential Russell can go on to become.

“Being a point guard,” he said. “Guidance in being a point guard. Not just getting thrown out there, saying, ‘Run this team.’ Just the guidance. I feel the guidance is there.”

Russell taking more accountability for his play is bound to be a good thing for the Lakers. He showed flashes of his talents last season, but was often lost in the shuffle when Byron Scott's cold shoulder bit its worst.

However, under Walton, Russell has the chance to show just how good he is. The Lakers fortunes, to a degree, hang on it.

Julius Randle
LA Lakers
Pacific Division
Western Conference
Luol Deng
Miami Heat
Southeast Division
Eastern Conference
D'Angelo Russell
Kobe Bryant

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