After a disastrous season, Lakers President of Operations Magic Johnson has stepped down from his position, revealing he ‘was not having fun anymore’. The former team legend, with whom he won five titles, admitted he was more comfortable on the position of ‘big brother’, since he enjoyed being some sort of a mentor to the players and the business role didn’t allow him to do that. So, after dropping out of the playoffs, losing their ‘Magic’ and recently losing their coach to Sacramento Kings, how will Lakers get their structure on the right tracks again?
Remember how it all begun?
When the LA Lakers held the press conference last summer to announce that they had inked Lebron James to a four-year contract, many were willing to place their bets that the team would once again find itself among the contenders in the Western Conference title race. Yes the Golden State Warriors were still the odd on favorite to repeat as champs, face it, they had two potential MVP’s and the opportunity to trod out a starting lineup that featured five recent All-Stars, but signing The King gave Lakers fans hope that after a five year absence from the post season they would once again contend.
So how could something that was seen to be so right go so horribly wrong? First, this master plan began as a brainstorm a year before the Lakers signed The Chosen One when the Buss family brought in Magic Johnson as the President of Basketball Operations. Magic was known for his megawatt smile, his award-winning accolades on the court and his business success off of it.
With the promise of returning his former team to greatness, Johnson promised to bring in superstar level talent back to Los Angeles. So, with a six-straight absence from the playoffs, a barrel full of cash and a long off-season to ponder, where to the Lakers go from here in order to get back into the race, on the right tracks, for 2019/20?
After returning from the longest absence of his career, following an unfortunate injury sustained during their Christmas Day matchup with the Golden State Warriors, there were reports that even after nearly twenty games on the sidelines, James still returned too early. If this was in fact true, it could lead to the reason why James appeared not to be as explosive as fans, teammates and management were used to seeing. For a player with a lot of mileage on his tires, even at the age of 34, a long off-season of rest and rehab could be a blessing in disguise.
With and without James on the floor, the Lakers were able to see their young core of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Jason Hart develop. While they all had statistical successes, the work that needs to be done comes off the court, as individually they need to repair themselves from their respective physical injuries, as well as their potential mental and emotional ones.
For the last couple of years, the quartet was tagged as the future of the team, but come the February trade deadline, all of them were thrown in the bag as part of the Anthony Davis trade fiasco. The Lakers are in a “win now” status with only three more seasons of James in the lineup, but in order to have success in the future, making these four-feel important is vital to the betterment of the franchise. They already parted ways with D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle and Ivica Zubac, three impressive young players who just needed some time to flourish.
In regards to the “one and done” contracts on the roster, the Lakers signings of Rajon Rondo, Javale McGee, Lance Stephenson and Kentavious Caldwell Pope have all expired, which means that with the inclusion of Reggie Bullock, Tyson Chandler, Mike Muscala, Alex Caruso and Jonathan Williams, LA has only $65 million committed to eight players for next season.
So, how to go from here?
Even if the team decides to bring back Rondo and McGee, they will be signed for a minimal amount, leaving the team money to throw at players like Klay Thompson, Kemba Walker, DeMarcus Cousins, Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris, all who would fit within the Lakers lineup (we will assume that Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Kawhi Leonard will have no interest in the Lakers).
While they may not be the big fish, adding players like Bojan Bogdanovic, Dwight Powell, Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Ross, Nikola Vucevic and Jeff Green could help bolster the depth of the Lakers lineup.
Some say that the Lakers missing out on the playoffs this season is a blessing in disguise as odds are had they finished anywhere between sixth to eighth they would have faced the Rockets, Nuggets or Warriors, being the underdog in each matchup. That would have potentially meant a one and done playoff series and as a result a lower first round draft pick.
With the eleventh worst record in the league, the Lakers have the chance to add a valuable ready now component from the June draft. Odds are “the fix” won’t be in, meaning that the Laker faithful won’t see purple and gold jerseys with Williamson or Morant on the back, but the team could luck out with adding Jarrett Culver, DeAndre Hunter or Keldon Johnson.
In a dream potential lineup of Ball, Butler, Ingram, James and Cousins as the starting unit with Hart, Ross, Kuzma, Green, Mirotic, Rondo, McGee, Mo Wagner and a lotto pick coming off the bench, the 2019-20 Lakers roster looks much more improved than the dysfunctional mess that was handed to Luke Walton this season. S
Speaking of the dead man walking, although many said that Walton did the best job that he could with what he had, many feel that it was just fluff talk. Soon after Magic dismissal, Luke Walton handed in his resignation and has already signed a contract with Sacramento Kings. So, besides a new President of Operations, Lakers also needs a new coach on the sidelines.
We all knew that the Lakers were going to be one of the most talked about teams of the 2018-19 season, however it turned out to be for all the wrong reasons. Starting this week, the front office has to do a much better job at putting a more competitive, cohesive unit on the floor, or we might see their names on the chopping block in a short time.