The Los Angeles Lakers are set to miss the postseason for a third consecutive season, a first in their illustrious history.
And yet, with approximately $68 million to spend over the summer, Lakers can return to relevancy almost instantly. With Kobe Bryant’s exit marking the end of an era, the Purple & Gold need a new franchise player, essentially to regain the faith of their global fanbase.
All through the Showtime Era to the Kobe Bryant-Pau Gasol Era, every Laker home game was graced by a host of celebrities led by Jack Nicholson. In recent years, the aura that surrounded Lakers has gradually reduced. The untimely rise of Clippers and Warriors, as celebrity pullers, hasn’t helped.
This coming summer is perhaps the most important one in franchise history. Here, we propose five well-thought moves to alter the course of L.A.’s treasured sports team:
#1 Fire Jim Buss, clean up the front office…
It’s time to pull the plug, Jeanie. In April 2014, Jim promised to resign if the team wasn’t contending for a championship by the 2017 season. With the team still identifying its future cornerstones, they aren’t expected to ace Warriors or Spurs in the near future. The front office, led by Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak, has failed to recruit quality talent in recent years. If they don’t get a marquee free agent this summer, expect Buss to be fired.
Suggestion: Bring back Jerry West as GM and unite him with son Ryan West. Ryan, currently the director of player personnel, can be groomed to take over in a few years.
#2 Allow Kevin Durant to pick a new coach…
With the right pitch, Kevin Durant can be persuaded. If Durant were to join L.A., he’d make about $100 million more over the rest of his career, accounting max contracts and endorsements. Despite all the money in the offing, Durant is a low-profile superstar who won’t be lured by Hollywood. Durant’s interest lies in the roster and the coaching staff. Remember, the Lakers have enough cap space to sign Hassan Whiteside and Durant to maximum contracts, and still have close to $20 million to spend on another superstar.
Suggestion: With Byron Scott set to lose his job, Durant must be given the option to pick a coach and advise how the FO spend the remaining 35-40 million.
#3 Ask Magic and Kobe to recruit stars…
Recently, Lakers icon Magic Johnson told ESPN First Take that he’d go to any extent to recruit Durant. “I would play whatever role Jeanie Buss (Lakers principal owner) wants me to play (to recruit Durant). I would get on the phone; I would host him. I’ll show him different neighbourhoods and things of that nature,” said the leader of Showtime.
Suggestion: Though Kobe Bryant hasn’t shown interest to join the Front Office, Jeanie would be best advised to ask Kobe to accompany Magic in the Durant pitch. After all, Durant grew up idolizing Kobe. Durant will surely want to step into Kobe’s shoes.
#4 Take the Warriors route, trust in young core…
Despite the current state of affairs, the Lakers seem to have done well in the previous two draft nights. In Jordan Clarkson, they struck gold with a second rounder. In Julius Randle, they’ve found a high motor double-double machine. And in D’Angelo Russell, they’ve found a James Harden-type dynamic scorer. By potentially drafting Brandon Ingram or Ben Simmons, the Lakers will have an enviable quartet of young stars.
Suggestion: Lakers must follow the path of the Warriors, who essentially built their title team through the draft. This process won’t yield instant results but would help build a squad that grows together. Don’t hamper the development with too many veterans.
#5 Commit to analytics, embrace the change…
Basketball nerds consider L.A. a regressive team because of their reluctance to embrace analytics. Now, they did shore up the analytics department recently, but there’s not enough evidence to suggest that its influencing basketball decisions. Granted that analytics does not guarantee success, the Philadelphia 76ers being a prime example, enough teams have proven that analytics do more good than bad. Warriors have credited sports science and data for putting together a healthy squad. Last season, they rested Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson for a game after data from Catapult devices and SportVU cameras indicated their bodies had reached extreme fatigue levels.
Suggestion: Hire Luke Walton as coach and give him a state-of-the-art analytics team to help the younger players improve their efficiency levels.