Four things the Lakers must do during the offseason to help them reach the promised land
The Los Angeles Lakers have had a disappointing season where they failed to live up to expectations. If landing LeBron James is considered a coup in the eyes of others, the subsequent moves made to fill up the roster has shown the lack of ability on the part of the front office. The losses kept piling up as the season wore on causing a toxic atmosphere in the locker room.
One year deals for bit-part players like Lance Stephenson and Michael Beasley who were touted to be the Lakers' version of the "Bench Mob" ended in a humungous failure as they failed to make a strong impact. Javale Mcgee and Rajan Rondo seem to be the only sensible decisions made by the front office as they brought in invaluable leadership and experience. Magic Johnson leaving the organisation abruptly without informing his "sister" and boss Jeanie Buss, shows the dysfunction surrounding the franchise.
Luke Walton who was expected to be axed by Magic but stayed on due to the owner's support, was let go a short while after Magic's shock exit.
All these factors and more make this summer's offseason crucial for the future of the franchise. They have to not only surround LeBron with the right pieces but also find someone to help them make that decision along with finding the right coach to get the best out of the players signed by them.
Here are a couple of things the Lakers' can do to have a good offseason and have a team which is ready to compete for championships again.
Hire an executive with the required pedigree to replace Magic Johnson
Despite a season filled with disappointments and head-scratching decisions, Magic Johnson's departure from the organisation has left a leadership void which must be filled immediately before making other decisions. Luke Walton's problems with the front office stemmed from the fact that Magic or Pelinka did not choose him and hence he had difficulty communicating with the front office.
In a league dominated by analytics, the San Antonio Spurs model is the most notable example of how a proper channel of communication between the front office and the coach is essential for success and consistency. The Lakers should look to follow if not replicate that model when they hire Magic's eventual replacement as Rob Pelinka lacks both the reputation and the pedigree to lead the Lakers to post-season success.
They need to go after the likes of Sam Presti (Oklahoma City Thunder), R.C. Buford (San Antonio Spurs), Masai Ujiri (Toronto Raptors) and Bob Myers (Golden State Warriors) in a bid to lure them to La La Land despite having a very less to no chance in landing any of the names mentioned above.
A front office's decision making should involve the right mix of cutting edge analytics while also using traditional methods to evaluate players, eliminating emotional decisions in the process. The Lakers being a traditional family run organisation have been prone to making irrational decisions like overpaying players and hiring an outsider should be ideal for getting a fresh perspective if they fail to land either Pat Riley (Miami Heat) or Jerry West (Los Angeles Clippers).
Hire a coach who can hold LeBron accountable
LeBron James has a reputation of taking things into his own hands and is said to act as a player GM at some points in his career. If his tenure in Cleveland and his first season in a Lakers uniform is any indication, LeBron holds himself and his team to a certain standard and holds his teammates accountable if their goals are not achieved. It may look like LeBron gives up on his teammates and lacks patience at times due to his win-now approach, and unfortunately for any team, that is a price you pay for greatness as having a player of his calibre on your side gives you an edge which most teams would pay anything to have.
A key reason why Tyronn Lue did well for Cleveland was that he held LeBron accountable when most coaches held back, and hence he gained James' respect which led to the team reaching 3 NBA finals in 4 years. This also makes Ty Lue a prospective candidate for the vacant HC position which also includes other former coaches who have worked with LeBron in the past such as Monty Williams who was an assistant coach on Team USA and Miami Heat Assistant Coach Juwan Howard.
Trade for another superstar to support LeBron
The supporting cast is as vital to an organisation as the main act if not more, and the Lakers need a Robin to their Batman to reach the promised land. The Lakers go into the offseason armed with trade assets which include a draft pick and youngsters with potential to be a star in the league and should look to make the most of it.
A deadline day deal for Anthony Davis was scorned at by the Pelicans and with the Pelicans adding David Griffin who has a working relationship with Rich Paul who is the agent of AD and a certain "King James", it is safe to say that the Lakers have a much better shot of landing their man. An offer which includes Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and a 2019 draft pick should entice the Pelicans to explore the option rather than outright reject it as they did during the previous attempt unless the Celtics gut their team to land the premier big man. The Lakers have a good chance to pair LeBron and AD in what would be a devastating front court.
Another option which they could explore could be trading for Wizards' superstar Bradley Beal who could give LeBron the elite shooter that he needed to finish his kick outs. Apart from Kyle Kuzma none of the others in the young core shows consistency despite having high ceilings and hence makes them valuable trade pieces. To achieve offseason success and sign a big name free agent it is imperative for the Lakers' to trade for an established star to complement LeBron.
Land a big name free agent
The 2019 free agency could be the biggest yet with players like Kevin Durant (Golden State Warriors) , Kyrie Irving (Boston Celtics), Kawhi Leonard (Toronto Raptors), Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors), Jimmy Butler ( Philadelphia 76ers), Kemba Walker (Charlotte Hornets) and an injured Demarcus Cousins (Golden State Warriors) expected to hit free agency.
The Lakers have a tough job on their hand if they are to land any of the marquee free agents like KD or Kawhi as teams like Golden State, Boston and their crosstown rivals Clippers are in a much better position to help these elite players compete for a championship.
Gone are those days when the history and culture of the franchise led legends like Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Shaquille O'Neal to sign with the Lakers. The franchise's history does help to get a meeting with the big names but not a guarantee that they would sign.
The LeBron James factor also works against the team as most of the big names like Kawhi and KD would rather compete against LeBron and win rather than playing with him as he is considered the best player in the league. The Lakers' would have to show these marquee free agents that they have an aim and ambition to compete for titles and that they would surround them with the right pieces. To do that it is necessary that the Lakers get rid of the "toxic atmosphere" which KD alluded to and sort out their front office, coaching and roster before they make their free agency pitch.