Los Angeles Lakers: Busy offseason coming for Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka

Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images
Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images /
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Los Angeles Lakers
Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images /

Following their exit interviews with Los Angeles Lakers players, Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka answered media questions, providing clues as to what can be expected in what should be a busy off-season.

Only five Los Angeles Lakers players are signed for the 2018-19 season, including their prized young “core four”. That core includes Brandon Ingram, who made significant strides in his second year. The final three pieces were draft in the 2017 NBA Draft. Lonzo Ball at No. 2, Kyle Kuzma at No. 27 and Josh Hart at No. 30, who all had promising rookie seasons and provide hope for the future.

Ingram missed 23 games this season due to injury and Ball missed 30. Both said that Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka told them to emphasize improving their physical condition this offseason to help prevent future injuries. Kuzma said that Johnson and Pelinka told him not to settle for just being good, but to aim for being great. And Magic said he wished he had a team full of Josh Harts.

Together, Magic and Rob indicated that they’re quite pleased with the potential of the core four and seem unlikely to include any of them in a trade. It appears they may actually be more patient to let the young team grow together than previously thought. Magic also made it clear that the team is very happy with Luke Walton as its head coach.

What can we expect they will do about the rest of the roster? As all fans know, the Lakers want to add a superstar to their roster, most likely via free agency. However, Pelinka said the team is not “wed” to the idea that it must happen this season, that it’s okay if they wait a year.

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The most likely star free agent candidate that Magic and Rob might land this July is Paul George, but he may opt to remain in Oklahoma City.  Johnson is also interested in LeBron James, who may not be the best fit, and who is more likely to stay in the Eastern Conference.

Over the past decade or so, most prominent potential free agents wind up staying put. Those that sign elsewhere almost always move to an already-established contender. Look no further than Kevin Durant to Golden State, LaMarcus Aldridge to San Antonio and Gordon Hayward to Boston.

The biggest exception occurred when James left Miami to return to Cleveland. That was in large part an emotional homecoming for him. Also, the Eastern Conference offered a path of far less resistance to the NBA Finals than the Western Conference did, and still does.

So there’s a fair chance that Magic and Rob don’t sign any elite free agents this offseason. And Johnson said he will not throw money around just for the sake of signing someone (as the previous regime did when it doled out four-year, lucrative contracts to Luol Deng, the fifth player under contract for next season, and since-traded Timofey Mozgov).

If they don’t sign free agents, or even if they do, what’s the rest of the plan?