Fans of the Los Angeles Lakers are waiting with baited breath to see what direction Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka take the organization. The offseason is still in the lottery-induced holding pattern, but Magic offered some clarity on his intentions.
Some have voiced concern that the front office might opt for a big splash for the sake of a splash. Yes, getting something closer to actual NBA talent would make the Lakers more watchable in the immediate future, but as has been the case with Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov, the return on such investments rarely works out.
In an appearance on ESPN2’s NBA Draft Combine coverage, he answered questions about how he’ll be looking to improve the Lakers this summer. The conversation turned to the roughly $23 million in cap space at the Lakers’ disposal and Magic didn’t mince words.
“We can sign a free agent if we want to, but I’m really looking to keep the cap space that we have and really try to play in next year’s free agent class, and not really this free agent class,” Johnson said.
Another factor in Magic’s thinking here might be the pick the Lakers hold next year, regardless of how this lottery works out. As of right now, the Lakers own next year’s first rounder outright. So as that’s the case, why marginally improve the team to make that pick less valuable while also potentially greatly diminishing the team’s financial flexibility?
Magic didn’t mention this in the interview, but given the first impressions Johnson and Pelinka have given, it’s pretty safe to assume they’ve taken that into account as well.
Lastly, the free agent class this summer is nothing to write home about, especially compared to 2018, when guys like Paul George, DeMarcus Cousins and others will be very available to either the highest bidder or best situation.
Yes, technically, Kevin Durant and Steph Curry could be available this year, but there’s basically zero chance they leave. George is reportedly hell-bent on coming to Los Angeles and Cousins could be looking elsewhere if the experiment of him playing alongside Anthony Davis continues to fall on its face as it did after a trade landed him in New Orleans.
Even the greatest skeptic of the Johnson/Pelinka tandem has to admit, they’ve done very well for themselves. They continue to completely revamp the organization from the inside out and, based on the quotes about how the plan to improve the personnel on the roster, it seems like they’re doing what they can to remain realistic about what they can and should do in the short term so as to really improve long-term.