Yesterday, the Los Angeles Lakers made a very Laker move when they made franchise-great Earvin “Magic” Johnson their President of Basketball Operations… his first move as the team’s president was trading away one of the team’s best players, Lou Williams, to the Houston Rockets.
Now, while this would make a lot of fan bases kind of grumpy, this move for the Lakers-base feel something else; it made them feel new.
Following a 2011 Playoff series, where the Lakers’ run was polished-off by a future NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks team in ugly fashion.
The Mavericks’ playoff conquering was followed by the retirement of the team’s 5x (11x if you count the Bulls wins) championship-winning coach Phil Jackson’s retirement. It also lead to the end of Kobe Bryant’s career, the loss of Pau Gasol, the failure of the Steve Nash and Dwight Howard signing, as well as a couple muffed trades.
It’s been a rough couple of years for Lakers fans.
This is the beginning of a new journey, climbing the mountain once again; Magic joining the team represents a team with all of it’s gear, standing at the mountain’s base.
One of the best things going for this Lakers team are it’s young talents; rookie-forward Brandon Ingram and sophomore-guard D’Angelo Russell.
The former Ohio State Buckeye turned Los Angeles Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell has become one of the few bright spots on a pair of sloppy Lakers campaigns.
Off of a 2015 where he was selected to the Second Team All-Rookie squad, Russell has come back posting 14.2 PPG, 4.7 AST, 3.8 REB, and makes 39.2% of his shots from the field.
Ideally, the future Lakers will rely on Russell to complete a higher percentage of his shots, but perhaps more so, a notable rise in his assists.
Brandon Ingram is a man of Kevin Durant’s own make-up. Standing in at 6-9, 190 LBS, the forward is freakishly long, but could probably use an extra dose of bulk on his frame.
His numbers this season aren’t that excellent, as his 8.0 PPG, 1.9 AST, 4.1 REB, and 36.3% field goal percentage aren’t exactly lighting the world on fire. That said, his upside is outstanding. Ingram’s journey to the top could be an adventure of what surrounds him in the future.
On the other hand, the Lakers have a few elder-players, who simply have detrimental contracts to the team’s financial portfolio.
31-year-old Luol Deng has a 4-year/$72 million deal and 30-year-old Timofey Mozgov with 4-year/$64 million deal are a black mark on a team shaping for a dramatic rebuild; those contracts are going to be hard to absorb, perhaps even harder to send elsewhere, as both players continue to under-perform with age.
Contracts like Deng and Mozgov can be hard to move, but as Magic and his Lakers front office learned yesterday, dishing some of these talented bench pieces can be invaluable.
Bench talent is a hot commodity for contenders around the trade deadline, as teams looking to make a final push often come calling for players who can help their cause heading into the Febuary-May stretch.
Fortunately for the Lakers, they’re chalk-full of this kind of talent.
Names like SG/SF Nick Young, SG Jordan Clarkson, and C Tarik Black are all names that have been mentioned as potential candidates to find new homes come late-Thursday afternoon.
With the trade deadline knocking, the Lakers have to start making moves for the worse, so they can be better for the future: if the Lakers fall out of the top-3 this year, their 2017 first-round selection will go to the Philadelphia 76ers, in addition to their 2019 first-selection which would head to the Orlando Magic.
So, for the Lakers, less is more, unless it comes down to picks.
2017’s NBA Draft is heavy with talent, and it’s imperative for the Lakers to get in on one of these selections, or even potentially making a move to find a mid-to-late round pick for one of the aforementioned bench pieces.
Potential is all this Lakers’ team can hang its hat on for the time being, but a top-tier talent could be waiting for a purple and gold jersey, which might push a rebuilding Lakers team back into motion.
Magic Johnson was that guy in 1979, as he went from the first-overall selection in that NBA Draft to winning an NBA Championship in 1980, one of 5 in his resounding career.
With a top-tier talent in the draft, a pair of young standouts in Russell & Ingram, and a talented PF Julius Randle in the mix, the Lakers could start making some noise in a shorter time than fans might realize.
At that point, the team could be a free agent away from something special, something lengthy, and something revolutionary.
Magic now holds all of the cards, but he must resist the urge to do something detrimental to the potential excellence of the new-Lakers future. This team will make a lot of noise if the crop comes up the way it’s supposed to grow.