When the Los Angeles Lakers cleaned house last season, firing Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak before replacing them with Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka, it was clear that the relatively new executives would need to lean on what remained of the front office as they got their bearings.
Luckily for them, the two had an experienced scouting staff, led by assistant general manager Jesse Buss, who have had consistent success in the draft over the past few seasons and appeared to continue the trend this year by selecting Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart and Thomas Bryant.
But if there is one thing Magic Johnson showed he could do during his playing career, it was defer to teammates and help facilitate their success. Jesse Buss told Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report that Johnson uses a similar leadership style in the front office:
“Magic, in particular, he obviously was the leader of the franchise for a very long time [as a player],” Buss said. “He has his form of leadership, holding people accountable, [asking us] to bring your ‘A-Game,’ do your job. This is what you’re here for, and I’ll pass you the ball. He’s very collaborative. As long as you can finish the bucket on the fast break, you’re going to get the ball.”
One trait seemingly shared by the most successful executives both in and outside of the NBA is the ability to know what they don’t know and defer to others who are strong in areas they’re weak.
From the sound of it, Johnson has grasped this, which isn’t surprising given the way he’s run other organizations or ran his team when he was a player. The Lakers will still need him to be the type of free agency recruiter and dealmaker he’s been pitched as if he’s going to lead them back to prominence, but he seems to at the very least figured out the delegation aspect of his job.