When Jeanie Buss first decided to invite Earvin 'Magic' Johnson to be the President of Basketball Operations, the former head, Jim Buss, basically handed over a poorly assembled team that lacked direction or chemistry. The future of the Lakers was abysmal.
The huge contracts dished out during the reign of Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss made basketball experts around the league scratch their heads, namely the Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov signings. Several veterans were on the roster but none stood out as All-Stars or leaders.
The Lakers were able to secure the number two pick in D'Angelo Russell and had a good shooter in Nick Young, but the likes of Jordan Hill, Tarik Black, Robert Sacre, and Yi Jian Lian were just not enough to get wins. It didn't help when the constant musical chairs of players prevented any real progression or chemistry.
When Rob and Magic took over the helm, the first top priority was planting a clear flag declaring the Lakers style of play. This will give more clarity to the team and future.
Through the hiring of Luke Walton, who led the Kerr-less Warriors to a fantastic start, the Lakers were able to establish a clear style of play. Luke is a coach who is high on team defense and proponent of free-flowing fast-paced offense.
The legacy of Magic Johnson, the heart of the Lake Show fast break offense, blended perfectly with the principles that Luke hold dearly. The Lakers aced this aspect in terms of finding their style of play, clarity, and direction.
Next, the team needed to unload the contracts and players that were incidental mistakes from the former management.
Through trading for Brook Lopez, the Lakers were able to release D'Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov, and receive draft picks.
This was a shrewd move by Rob and Magic as D'Angelo was not the leader that the Lakers had hoped for and his off-court Shenanigans with Nick Young also breached the trust within the team. Timofey was never fast or nimble enough to play Luke's style of basketball. Brook Lopez brought interim stability and anchor beneath the basket and helped teach the young draft picks in Brandon Ingram and Julius Randle how to prepare and be professional.
Through the second wave of the trade involving Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr to Cleveland Cavaliers, the Lakers received further contractual flexibility by undertaking only the light deals of Isaiah Thomas and Channing Frye. This helped give the Lakers room for free play in future negotiations.
Through the third wave of chess move by Rob and Magic, the Lakers jettisoned one of their brightest young players (Julius Randle) in return for even more cap space that is otherwise depleted due to the big contract that Julius is due for claiming. Tough loss but a necessary measure since Rob and Magic had eyes on multiple, bigger All-Stars.
Just when we thought the Lakers superseded all expectations doing the above, news broke in September that the Lakers managed to reach an agreement with Luol Deng on a buy-out, with the veteran willing to give up 7.5 million to facilitate this release. Both parties were happy as Luol will be open again to be fished up in the open market while the Lakers obtain yet another precious roster spot and a ton of money left to sign multiple All-Stars.
With this finishing move, Rob and Magic perhaps completed a mega Royal Flush in player contract moves. The Lakers now hold the most financial flexibility in the NBA in 2018.
They also need to secure two to three perennial All-Stars to form pillars of the characteristic Star-studded Lakers roster tradition.
As with the style of the late Lakers owner, Jerry Buss, the new owner, Jeanie Buss, made waves with the first acquisition. The arrival of their primary star shook the league like an asteroid striking the Earth. He is none other than LeBron 'the King' James.
A few solid veteran pieces, some with Championship experiences, also quickly joined the Lakers on one-year deals. Rob and Magic were smart to keep the tenure to one year so that the Lakers could stay nimble in case the roster experiment go sour. Truly marvelous ingenuity til this point!
The fourth need of the Lakers would be to bolster the team into a Championship perennial. Currently, the roster already has solid Champions like Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee, and LeBron James, who will teach the young core how to cultivate Championships habits.
The Lakers have stable defensive anchors in these acquisitions. Consider Rajon Rondo, Lonzo Ball, LeBron James, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, and Lance Stephenson, suddenly the playmaking versatility at all five positions of the Lakers rise much fold. With defense and playmaking settled, the only lacking part is the shooting department.
If the Lakers can secure another All-Star in the 2018/2019 season, who can bring sharpshooting to the table, that would add another star to the already impressive 'A' grade in the front office acrobatics.
Some dip-stick tests of the Lakers' efforts would probably include a substantial increase in the number of wins or a good playoff stint after the long hiatus.
Since the hire of Luke Walton, Magic and Rob made the decision look smart as the Lakers improved from 17-65 (2015) to 26-56 (2016) to 35-47 (2017). With a brand new roster assembled and the financial flexibility being their best weapon, all eyes are on the Lakers to see how many more wins they can accomplish in the 2018/2019 season.
Pundits and analyst are projecting a 45 win team. Stretching the benchmark a little further, if the Lakers do make the playoffs, pundits will be judging the performance based on the fight they put up. A first-round exit, a second-round finish or a conference finals appearance will greatly alter the rhetoric around the league.
Anything north of 50 wins would instantly place key members of the team in awards conversation. LeBron for Most Valuable Player? Kyle Kuzma for Sixth Man of the Year? Brandon Ingram for Most Improved Player? Luke Walton for Coach of the Year? The true reflection begins with excellence in the front office. None of the above are possible without the strategic planning of Rob and Magic.
If the Lakers were able to satisfy the expectations in the win department and give a strong showing in the playoffs, votes will definitely tilt heavily in their favor for either Magic or Rob to win the NBA Executive of the Year.