Magic Johnson is considered by most the best point guard in NBA history. He has been involved in the NBA in some capacity for 30 plus years. Some people believe he was the best Laker ever. One of his biggest strengths as a player was his basketball IQ and his intelligence. None of these skills guarantee a transition to being a successful decision maker for a franchise and making good personnel decisions. Michael Jordan famously failed at being the man in charge for the Wizards, as he drafted one of the biggest busts in NBA history in Kwame Brown. MJ never got the Wizards to the playoffs and was eventually fired.
In his first move as President of Basketball Operations, Magic executed a trade that immediately made the Lakers worse. In full rebuild mode as an exec you want to secure the best possible pick, and this is usually accomplished by losing more games. Lou Williams was Los Angeles’ best player last year and he was traded for a career role/bench player in Corey Brewer and LA received Houston’s 1 st round pick in the 2017 draft as well. In summary, the Lakers got worse which led to more losses and they got another pick in an extremely deep draft. This was a great first move by the new man in charge.
In his next major move, just before the NBA Draft, Johnson executed a trade that significantly increases their chances to sign 2 free agents to maximum contracts next summer. They gave up an asset, in D’Angelo Russell and a player they significantly overpaid for last off-season in Timofey Mozgov. In return, the Lakers received an all-star Center, Brook Lopez, and another first round pick in the 2017 draft, which is the 27th pick. Russell is only 21 and has a bright future in the NBA. Because of their pick at #2 in the draft, Lonzo Ball, the Lakers essentially did a point guard and center swap. They replaced Russell with Lonzo Ball and Mozgov was shipped out for a significant upgrade in Brook Lopez. It’s true that Russell has proven he can play in the league and at worst be a good role player, but the Lakers brass decided Ball has a higher upside. Finally, the trade created almost $60 Million in cap space for next off-season, which could be used to sign Paul George and LeBron James. The Lakers will have enough cap space for both.
The final verdict is hard to predict and we won’t be able to accurately provide it for several years. But, in the short term, Magic has made some excellent moves. Having that cap space is not a guarantee stars will sign in LA, but with Johnson in the fold the chances of getting stars increase. More time needs to pass before we can place a final verdict, but so far Magic deserves an A+ for the rebuild job he’s done thus far.