How to fix the Lakers problems!
A step by step blueprint for the Lakers to fix their front office, coaching, and roster problems to compete for championship
Simply stated, the Lakers are a mess. Front office blunders in building a roster around LeBron James and a plethora of major injuries to key players derailed any hopes of making the playoffs and competing for a championship this year.
As the team plays out the few remaining games and prepares for their sixth straight year hoping for ping pong balls to reward their ineptness, rumors are none of the elite free agents available this summer, including Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, or Klay Thompson are interested in joining LeBron James and the Lakers despite the $38 million in cap space they have. The harsh reality is the Lakers have become the laughing stock of the league.
Fixing the Lakers will not be easy as serious problems exist in almost every area of the organization, including the front office, coaching staff, and the disastrous roster they assembled around LeBron James. Whether Jeanie Buss and Magic Johnson have the will and courage to accept responsibility for the situation they find themselves in and take the bold steps needed to fix the problems is uncertain but here’s a simple blueprint for how they could do it.
- FRONT OFFICE. The first move the Lakers need to make is to replace Rob Pelinka, who’s been a disaster as the team’s general manager. Pelinka was hired by Magic Johnson despite never having any front office experience. As Kobe Bryant’s former agent, Pelinka just does not have the established relationships or experience Johnson needs to build a championship roster. The Lakers should replace him with a respected and connected GM like David Griffin, who could provide Magic with critical advice and guidance.
- COACHING STAFF. The next move the Lakers need to make is to retain Luke Walton as their head coach but upgrade his coaching staff with an experienced associate head coach like Ettore Mussina who could help him with the offense and a respected shooting coach like Chris Matthews (@lethalshooter) who could help players like Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma. Walton has done an excellent job getting the players to play defense and would immediately be in demand to take over several other NBA teams.
- RETURNING PLAYERS. The Lakers currently have seven players under contract for next season, including LeBron James, Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart, Isaac Bonga, and Moritz Wagner, plus a top ten lottery pick which means brings the roster total to eight players. They will need to renounce rights to all of their own free agents to clear the $38 million in cap space needed to sign free agents but may have interest in bringing back JaVale McGee with their room exception.
- NBA DRAFT. The Lakers will likely end up with the #10 pick in the upcoming draft with a 3% chance of winning the #1 pick and a 13.9% chance of landing a top-four pick. The Lakers’ priority should be drafting an elite 3-point shooter. Top prospects would include Virginia’s DeAndre Hunter (43%), Vanderbilt’s Darius Garland (48%), Virginia Tech’s Nickeil Alexander-Walker (37%), North Carolina’s Cameron Johnson (45%), Kentucky’s Keldon Johnson (39%), and Kentucky’s Tyler Herro (36%).
- FREE AGENTS. Barring a surprise decision by Kawhi Leonard or Kyrie Irving to sign with L.A., the Lakers need to use their $38 million in cap space this summer to bring in the 3-point sharpshooters LeBron needs. Charlotte Hornets’ point guard Kemba Walker should be at the top of the Lakers’ list followed by Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic, Milwaukee Bucks’ center Brook Lopez and power forward Nikola Mirotic, Sacramento Kings’ guard Bojan Bogdanovic, and Toronto Raptor’s guard Danny Green.
- POSSIBLE TRADES. The Lakers will likely make another attempt to trade with the New Orleans Pelicans’ center Anthony Davis although they would be wise not to repeat the mistakes they made before the trade deadline. Bringing aboard a respected general manager like David Griffin would certainly give the Lakers a better chance at landing AD as would winning the rights to one of the top four picks in the upcoming draft. Bottom line, the Lakers would be better off keeping and not trading their young stars.
Personally, I doubt Magic Johnson will fire Rob Pelinka and replace him with David Griffin even though the moves they’ve made this year obviously show the Lakers need a trusted, experienced voice in the front office. I have hopes, however, reason will prevail and Magic will refrain from firing Luke Walton and adding an experienced head coach like Messina would help immensely. Also adding Chris Matthews as shooting coach could help Lonzo and Kuzma.
As for the draft, I’m hoping the Lakers will end up moving up to #2 or #3 so they could draft Ja Morant, who would be a perfect fit with the Lakers with his playmaking and ability to shoot the 3-point. As for free agency, I’m hoping the Lakers can sign Kemba Walker for a near max and lure Brook Lopez back to L.A. for $6M per year and an unlimited pass to Disneyland. Adding Kemba and Brook would dramatically improve the Lakers ability to shoot from deep.
That would give the Lakers the following roster:
PG: Lonzo Ball, Ja Morant
SG: Kemba Walker, Josh Hart
SF: LeBron James, Brandon Ingram
PF: Kyle Kuzma, Moritz Wagner
CE: Brook Lopez, JaVale McGee