The unforeseen departure of Magic Johnson is a blessing in disguise for the Lakers.
While the Lakers struggles this year can’t be completely placed on Magic Johnson, the man in charge of basketball operation made a lot of bad decisions. That contributed to and underwhelming year and a squandering of an opportunity with Lebron James.
The first and most damning point is the most damning move of all, the Ivica Zubac trade. This is largely considered by most to be one of if not the worst moves made all season..
The Lakers traded Ivica Zubac and Michael Beasley for Mike Muscala. Ivica Zubac a solid 22 year old center (The Lakers most needed position) with good potential and Michael Beasley who offers decent depth off the bench. Mike Muscala is a 27 year old power forward/center, with no real potential, who has never averaged more points, rebounds or blocks than Zubac did last year, so why make the trade?
The Trade was most likely made to free space for the Lakers to sign somebody off of waivers. You might be asking so who did they sign? Well that is where the problem lies, the Lakers signed nobody! Shortly after this trade the Lakers decided to give up on their season and enter tank mode.
Magic and the Lakers gave up a good trade
piece and solid player to their division rivals and a team they were fighting against
to make the playoffs for absolutely nothing. Ivac Zubac could have been used as
a piece to acquire Anthony Davis or a good player from a rebuilding team.
Some of Magic’s worst decisions come in the moves he didn’t make rather than the moves that he made. More specifically allowing both Brook Lopez and Julius Randle to walk.
It has been reported by multiple sources (e.g. Bleacher report and CBS sports) that everyone in the Lakers organization wanted the Lakers to resign Lopez and Randle but Magic Johnson.
Lopez would have a career year from beyond the arc shooting 6.3 3pt shots per game and hitting them at a career high 36.5%. Lopez would also shoot a career high 84% from the free throw line and average a career high and fourth best in the league 2.2 blocks. These are all areas where the Lakers struggled this year as they were 2nd to last in the league in 3pt%, ft%, and struggled with interior defense.
Lopez’s shooting ability would have been great asset for Lebron James and made him that much more effective. Lopez would space the floor much better then the current Lakers configuration allowing James to get to the rim easier where he’s deadliest. With James’s drive and kick ability Lopez would have been on the receiving end of a lot of open threes.
While Magic did manage to sign James the rest of the 2018 free agency was awful. All players acquired besides James had a negative net rating. The net rating shows how a players defensive and offensive contributions affect the team. The more players with negative net ratings the more they’re hurting the team.
The team’s major signings Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope were all busts for the Lakers. Rondo showed little effort on defense and rarely closed out on shooters. McGee mad too many boneheaded plays too often. Stephenson was bad on both ends and was unplayable in crucial games. Caldwell-Pope besides rare spurts was unable to hit shots or play the defense necessary to win.
With all the bad decisions Johnson has made for the Lakers this year his best one has come in the form of his resignation. With plenty of extremely talented front office people available the Lakers would be wise to move on from both Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka and capitalize on the talented group they have.