Jim Buss, executive vice president of basketball operations for the Los Angeles Lakers, has hinted that the team will trade the top-3 protected draft pick to add “solid veterans” this offseason.
When asked about the Lakers possibly acquiring Ben Simmons or Brandon Ingram via the NBA Draft, Buss said: “Right now, I think our young guys are the perfect number and we will add solid veterans (via trade or free agency).”
The NBA Draft Lottery is on May 17. There is a 44% chance that Lakers lose their pick.
During a telephonic interview with Basketball Insiders, Buss said that the team had found a core of five guys including D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, Larry Nance, Jordan Clarkson and Lou Williams. “There’s five to me – solid, core players we can work with and build on,” said Buss, before revealing the team’s intention to bring back Marcelo Huertas and Tarik Black. “I like Marcelo (Huertas), I think in the right system he might be a good fit. And Tarik Black, I like him. He could be a rotational player,” said Buss of the forward who is a restricted free agent.
Jim Buss praises Luke Walton
The Lakers part owner also expressed confidence in new coach Luke Walton, citing his performance in Golden State as the primary reason for the hire. “He was thrust into a situation (as interim coach). People might say, ‘Anyone could coach Golden State with their roster.’ No you couldn’t have. There’s a lot of pressure in that. There’s a lot of preparation for that,” Buss said of Walton.
Buss said Walton deserved a lot of credit for Warriors’ unprecedented success which includes registered a 39-4 record when head coach Steve Kerr was sidelined with back injury. “It seemed like he had an incredible handle on relationships with players – how to build them, how to build trust and culture,” added the son of the late Dr. Jerry Buss.
The Lakers VP wants Walton to follow the footsteps of Brad Stevens, the young Boston Celtics coach who guided the eastern conference team to 48 wins this season. “Boston did a great job because they also got a young coach (like Walton) that got to grow with their guys. When you have a coach that can grow with you, that’s pretty nice.”
When asked about Byron Scott’s sacking, Jim Buss said that the former Showtime Laker got adequate opportunities as head coach. “It was a fair amount of time (before Scott was fired). There was a lot to go through before that decision was made. I’m not going to have a knee-jerk reaction because everybody says, ‘You won 17 games, he’s got to go.’ I made a promise to sit with him and (general manager) Mitch (Kupchak) and give him a fair shake.”
Plans for free agency
Despite striking out in free agency the last few seasons, Buss reckons the Lakers are an attractive destination for superstars. “In the last two years, we had nothing to sell. Trust me, it’s a whole different feeling when you walk into one of those pitches and we have a lot (more young talent on the roster and cap room to add superstar talent).”
Buss said that he felt obligated to take care of Kobe Bryant and not enter rebuilding mode soon. In 2013, Bryant signed a two-year, $48.5 million contract despite suffering a career-threatening Achilles injury. At that stage, the Lakers had an opportunity to hit the reset button. “We could have expedited the rebuild, but I have no regrets,” said Buss of the team’s decision to pay Bryant max dollars. “We have a tradition here of taking care of our players.”
Jim Buss & Co. are set for the most important offseason in Lakers history.