Preview: Luol Deng returns to Lakers as they host Nuggets

In their first game together, the Lakers showed a shifting culture and mentality as they picked up the pace against the Minnesota Timberwolves. On Monday, they’ll take the court again, this time hoping to translate their ramped up speed to a win.

The Lakers will face the Denver Nugget in preseason game number two on Monday night in their first game of the season at Staples Center. It will also be the season debut for Luol Deng who missed Saturday’s game with injury. Deng’s role on this team is still an unknown as his contract status makes him a near-mandatory rotation player despite his age and injury woes as well as the need to develop young talent especially at the power forward position.

But the Lakers won’t be focused on Deng no matter how important his play is to creating cap space for 2018. Instead, they will be looking for more development out of their young players while going against an upstart team that’s predicted to make a push for the playoffs this season behind young star center Nikola Jokic.

Primarily, Luke Walton and company will attempt to help Lonzo Ball have a strong game as the rookie mostly struggled in his preseason debut. Ball’s passing will always be there but his shooting was sub-par and he made several rookie mistakes that led to turnovers. Those are mistakes the team will live with for now as they hope to see Lonzo be more aggressive on the court.

Beyond Ball, the Lakers will also look for improvement from Brandon Ingram. The sophomore forward was noticeably more aggressive in getting shots off on Saturday but his shooting did not show any sign of improvements from last year despite numerous accounts of tweaking it. Ideally, Ingram will be able to be a more efficient scorer on Monday night as he aims to put together a much better second year in the NBA.

The Lakers will still be without Josh Hart and Brook Lopez due to injury. Andrew Bogut will not play, either, as he’s getting into game shape after missing time while getting his Visa issues solved.

The Lakers host Denver at 7:30 PM on Spectrum Sportsnet and NBA TV.

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