What does the Lakers’ future look like?

Okay, so it’s taken me several days and weeks to complete this article because I have been waiting to see what else the Lakers were going to do with the rest of the front office after President of Basketball Operations, Magic Johnson, stepped down. Honestly, as a Lakers fans, I’m not too concerned who’s in the front office as much as I am with who wants to play with LeBron James.

2013 Los Angeles Lakers 2” by Michael Tipton is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Coming into this season, the future looked bright for the Lakers, as they landed the best player in the world, LeBron James. With James as a member of the Lakers, you would assume it’s going to be a playoff season for the young Lakers team who finished 35-47 last year. This year, they finished 37-45, and you could argue saying that had the Lakers not been so hurt this season, they might have been in the playoffs.

At least everyone thought that was possible when James joined, but he missed 18 games due to a groin injury he got on Christmas Day. The Lakers also had to deal with injuries to a lot of crucial guys such as Lonzo Ball, Rajon Rondo, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, Kyle Kuzma, and even veterans like Tyson Chandler and Lance Stephenson.

The Lakers were never at full strength all season, and there’s no telling what could’ve come had they been more healthy. So now we are here waiting for questions and decisions to be made. After Magic Johnson made one decision by himself to step down, the Lakers fired second-year head coach and former Laker Luke Walton. That was a questionable decision that I don’t necessarily like.

New Head Coach:

The Lakers are reportedly planning on hiring former Cavaliers coach Tyrone Lue or Philadelphia 76ers assistant coach Monty Williams. Okay, that’s fine, LeBron gets a coach he wants, but there are better coaches out there who are more than capable of not only coaching LeBron, but developing the young guys and attract superstar free agents.

I’d rather the Lakers meet with Stan Van Gundy or Mark Jackson as the next head coach.

Though Van Gundy has never won an NBA title in his coaching career, he has led teams in the playoffs and helped develop stars along the way. Look at what he did for Dwight Howard’s career before Howard decided to leave Orlando and made nothing positive out of his career. How about the development of Shaquille O’Neal and Dwyane Wade during his few seasons in Miami?

Van Gundy also helped Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe along the way in their careers, as they became one of the best big men duos in the NBA. Now imagine what Van Gundy could do to for the career of Anthony Davis and Kyle Kuzma. Yes, Davis is already the best shooting big man in the league, but he wants to be the best player! We’re talking about MVP status for Davis. Getting Van Gundy might be a way to attract Davis and more free agents.

Or maybe they take the Jackson route? Jackson has already built a relationship with some of the guys on the Golden State Warriors during his time as their coach. Now I’m not saying this is going to happen, but you can quote me when it does. The Warriors’ last ride is this season, and both Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson will go elsewhere forcing the Warriors to give DeMarcus Cousins a long term contract. I’ll give you my thoughts on where Durant might end up in another article, but Klay is coming home. Jackson was Thompson’s coach for his first three NBA seasons, and Jackson helped craft his defense.

Let’s get Klay to the Lakers with another former Warrior Jackson coached, Harrison Barnes. Some of you might have forgotten, but Barnes was a member of the 2015 Warriors team who won their first NBA title, and he too played under Jackson early in his career. I’ll come back to this a little later.

But let’s take a trip down memory lane and see all the transactions Magic made. The first move was bringing former agent of Kobe Bryant, Rob Pelinka, on as general manager. The two immediately started making some questionable decisions.

In February of 2017, Johnson and Pelinka made one move before the trade deadline that everyone was comfortable with at the time, but the rest of the trades and moves might have been questionable. Let’s take a look at all the transactions over the past two years.

February 2017:

  • Lakers traded G Lou Williams to the Houston Rockets for G/F Corey Brewer and the 28th overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft (trade 28th pick for 30th and 42nd).
  • Traded G Marcelo Heurtas to the Houston Rockets for G Tyler Ennis

May 2017:

  • Traded 2nd year PG D’Angelo Russell and C Timofey Mozgov to the Brooklyn Nets for C Brook Lopez and the 27th overall pick (Kyle Kuzma)

June 2017:

  • Drafted PG Lonzo Ball with the No. 2 overall pick, F Kyle Kuzma 27th overall, G Josh Hart 30th overall, Thomas Bryant 42nd overall.
  • Signed undrafted free agents: Alex Caruso, Travis Wear, and Nigel Hayes

July to October 2017:

  • Signed free agents: SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, C Andrew Bogut, F Derrick Williams

2017-18 Season:

  • Traded G Jordan Clarkson and F Larry Nance Jr. to the Cleveland Cavaliers for G Isaiah Thomas, F/C Channing Frye, and 2018 1st round pick
  • Signed PG Gary Payton Jr. and SG Andre Ingram (10-day contracts)

June 2018:

  • Drafted Moritz Wagner, Isaac Bonga, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk

July 2018:

  • Signed F LeBron James, F Michael Beasley, G Rajon Rondo, and C JaVale McGee, G/F Lance Stephenson
  • Resigned Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, let C Brook Lopez and PF/C Julius Randle walk
  • Waived F Luol Deng and his terrible contract

2018-19 Season:

  • Claimed Tyson Chandler off waivers
  • Traded Beasley and Ivica Zubac to the Los Angeles Clippers for Mike Muscala
  • Traded Mykhailiuk to the Detroit Pistons for G/F Reggie Bullock

The terrible transactions:

The few earlier moves are the ones that have me questioning what Magic has done. Although I was okay with the Lou Williams trade, I do miss what he has done for the team during their most desperate times. The deal for Brook Lopez was okay too, because I understood at the time that we had to get rid of Timofey Mozgov’s terrible contract that was left from the Buss-Kupchik era, despite my mixed feelings about D’Angelo Russell at the time.

I do want to say that I am still a proud fan of D’lo and all the ice in his veins, as he continues to lead the Brooklyn Nets in the playoffs.

The bad part about the trade was that the Lakers didn’t retain Brook Lopez. Let’s face it, that was a big mistake this season, as we saw with all the injuries.

Picking Caldwell-Pope over Julius Randle was also a mistake, mainly when they rarely used him in the rotation. When you already have both Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart at your two-guard spot, it’s kind of hard to find minutes for everyone.

But then again, Randle was also in the same situation as a Laker a year ago. With the Lakers having Larry Nance Jr., Randle and Kuzma, it was hard for them to find playing time. They ultimately decided to stick with Kuzma because he is more versatility player. The minutes is where coach Walton lost his job.

Head coach firing:

Everyone was expecting more from Luke Walton as a head coach of the Lakers because of two things.

1. He was known as a player’s coach during his playing days as a Laker, and he learned from one of the greatest coaches of all-time, Phil Jackson. Just that alone looked good on his resume.

2. He led the Warriors to a 44-0 start to the season when Steve Kerr was dealing with a back injury in 2016. That Warriors team went on to finish with a 73-9 record, which was the best record in NBA history.

Where things went wrong for Luke Walton, was the development of the core young guys like Randle and Russell, who openly had problems getting enough playing time. We saw it a lot with Randle, and that may have been the reason why he left last season.

But let’s take a look at who’s left on the Lakers roster, and who they could try to add via the draft, trade, or free agency this summer.

Current Players on the roster heading into this summer are guards Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, Isaac Bonga and forwards LeBron James, Kyle Kuzma, and Moritz Wagner. The Lakers are still paying off the contract of Luol Deng after releasing him last summer, but that should not stop them from fighting to be a player team.

If the Lakers are somehow able to trade for Anthony Davis and get him to sign an extension, that would be the best thing for him. How could this trade get done?

Well… It might involve everyone on the current roster besides James and Kuzma. Honestly, I don’t think anybody is safe on the Lakers anymore. It would also include the Lakers’ first round lottery pick this year, that will happen to be a top-five pick. I know you may think that’s not possible, but if the New York Knicks can get the No. 1 overall pick, the Lakers should be able to get the 5th pick. Of course, the plan would be to use that pick as trade bait to get Davis.

Just think about the talented draft class we have coming in 2019. To be able to get two top 15 players would be ideal for any team.

But a trade like Ball, Ingram, Hart, and the No. 5 pick should be more than enough to get Anthony Davis. The Lakers would also be able to bring back Rajon Rondo and JaVale McGee for lesser money to help fill the roster. They could sign Thompson and Barnes, and then a point guard who would play with LeBron, like Kyrie Irving or Kemba Walker.

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I hope you can make more sense of this Lakers situation better than I can, but as a Lakers fan since the Shaq and Kobe days, I’m getting a bit impatient with the process going on. LeBron didn’t come to the Lakers to retire as a Laker. So come on Jeanie, can you finally make the right moves?

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