Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press
According to Sam Amick of The Athletic, Walton is the “clear front-runner” for the Sacramento Kings‘ head coaching job. Amick noted Philadelphia 76ers assistant Monty Williams and San Antonio Spurs assistant Ettore Messina are also candidates.
The Kings announced Thursday they have fired head coach Dave Joerger after three seasons.
Walton’s future with the Lakers is very much in question after L.A. went 37-45 this season despite signing LeBron James. In his previous two seasons as head coach of the Lakers, Walton went 26-56 and 35-47, giving him a career record of 98-148.
It was widely assumed that Magic Johnson would fire Walton, but Johnson abruptly resigned as the Lakers’ president of basketball operations this week, leaving general manager Rob Pelinka and owner Jeanie Buss in charge of deciding Walton’s future.
Despite his struggles with the Lakers, the 39-year-old Walton would undoubtedly be a hot coaching candidate if he gets fired. In his two seasons as an assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors, Walton won an NBA championship and went 39-4 as an interim head coach while Steve Kerr was out after undergoing back surgery.
In his third season as Sacramento’s head coach, Joerger led the Kings to a somewhat surprising 39-43 record in 2018-19, which marked their best finish since they last made the playoffs in 2005-06 with a record of 44-38.
While the Kings finished nine games out of a playoff spot, they ended up ninth in the Western Conference and have a strong foundation to build on moving forward.
Guards De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield enjoyed breakout seasons under Joerger, while 2018 No. 2 overall draft pick Marvin Bagley averaged 14.9 points and 7.6 rebounds per game as a rookie. If Walton goes from L.A. to Sacramento, he will arguably benefit from an upgrade in young talent.
Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart had mixed results under Walton in 2018-19, and the trio of Fox, Hield and Bagley may give Walton more to work with. The biggest negative is the fact that Sacramento doesn’t have a true superstar like LeBron.
Walton would have his work cut out for him with the Kings given their 13-year playoff drought, but with less pressure to perform in Sacramento and perhaps more talent at his disposal, it may be his best landing spot.