Now that Magic Johnson has stepped down and head coach Luke Walton has been fired the Los Angeles Lakers should be looking towards the future. The timing of Magic’s departure couldn’t be better, in my opinion. The Lakers are coming off of a season that was a complete letdown and have missed the playoffs for a 6th straight year, the longest stretch the franchise has ever endured.
The Lakers have historically thought of themselves as a small family-run NBA franchise. Their head coaches and management employees usually have had ties to the organization prior to being placed in those positions. Since the late-great Dr. Jerry Buss’ passing, his children have been unable to find the right people “within the family” to continue Dr. Buss’ great winning franchise.
It’s time now, after 6 long years of losing seasons (which is an eternity in Lakers-time) to stop doing what is comfortable and start doing what is necessary. Here we will look at the 7 things the Lakers need to do next.
1. Rob Pelinka needs to go.
I don’t have anything against Rob Pelinka necessarily, but we need to completely overhaul the entire organization from President on down. We need to allow that new President to hire his/her own people, and they need to have almost zero connection to the current leaders. The NBA (especially a team in Hollywood) is all about image and optics. The Lakers biggest problem this summer will be what that image looks like. If it looks anything like what we’ve seen and heard this whole season, the Lakers likely walk away this summer without a second superstar.
2. Jeanie Buss needs to make a public statement.
Right now, the organization looks like the WCW being run into the ground by Vince Russo circa the late 1990’s. The franchise needs its leader to step up to the plate and let everyone know that everything is going to be ok and that she will hire the best management team money can buy. The truth is, this is possibly the most important summer in Jeanie Buss’ career.
3. Hire a respected President, immediately.
When I say immediately, I mean within the next 3 weeks. This needs to be done, and it needs to be someone who is well connected and well respected around the league. This also needs to be someone who is NOT connected to the franchise currently (unless their name is Jerry West or Pat Riley).
4. Hire the next General Manager and Coaching Staff.
Logically, this is the next step that makes sense. Before free agency hits, knowing who the coach and the management staff is will be important in luring any potential big free agents.
5. Trade the lottery pick in this year’s draft for a young veteran starter.
The lottery pick player most likely won’t be a strong contributor on a Championship team for years and we don’t have years to wait for development of a 19 year old. We need veteran defenders and shooters, having Kyle Kuzma off the bench is where he belongs on a Championship caliber team.
6. Do not trade for Anthony Davis (unless the asking price has significantly dropped).
The Lakers became the laughing stock of the league this year with the botched Anthony Davis trade, why make the same mistake twice? The Lakers, instead need to show strength and reservation. Look, I know we as an organization has valued superstars more than anything, I get that. We have to stop overpaying for players, it’s what got us in part of our mess these past 6 years.
7. Sign Kawhi Leonard or Kyrie Irving, then Demarcus Cousins and some veterans.
That big name superstar is important to our future. Kawhi and Kyrie are just the right age to carry the franchise beyond the LeBron era. I’m not looking for the Jimmy Butlers of this offseason, who is likely starting the downward descent of his playing career. Once a superstar has been secured, then comes Demarcus Cousins. Boogie can flat out ball, and is one of the most skilled big men in the NBA today. The Lakers need a starting center (sorry JaVale McGee, but you’re better suited off the bench) and Demarcus is the best on the market, not to mention that he isn’t a max guy any more.
So that’s our list. The Lakers have a big summer ahead of them and it remains to be seen whether Jeanie Buss does the right thing, or if she sticks with what’s comfortable.