Los Angeles Lakers: How have Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka done so far

(Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
(Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images) /

Last year Jeanne Buss entrusted the Los Angeles Lakers’ future to Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka. How have they done in their first year on the job?

Let’s look back at the transactions made by the new Los Angeles Lakers front office since Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka took control.

Lou Williams for Corey Brewer and Houston’s first-round pick (no. 28)
At the time of this trade, Williams was the Lakers top scorer and had one additional year left on his essentially below-market contract. Sweet Lou is a great shooter and scoring guard and a top 6th man. He was later traded to the Clippers, where he shined and was nearly chosen as an All-Star this season. He recently signed a contract extension.

Even though Brewer got limited playing time, he was a valuable voice of experience on a young Lakers team.

His request to be released this midseason was granted, and he signed with the Thunder, where he ended up starting alongside Russell Westbrook and Paul George for a playoff team. (Perhaps he can tell PG just how good the young Lakers nucleus is!).

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The Lakers traded the pick to Utah in exchange for two lower picks, which they used to select Josh Hart and Thomas Bryant. Hart got better and better as the season progressed. He is now viewed prospectively as an integral part of the Lakers future, possibly as a starter or as a deluxe 6th man. He is not the shooter or scorer Williams is but is a far better defender.

Bryant is a raw big with 3-point shooting ability who was a G-League all-star this year. His NBA future is promising but unpredictable. If he becomes a solid contributor, the trade will be a winner for the Lakers.

Marco Huertas for Tyler Ennis
This was a minor trade of backup point guards. The Rockets waived Huertas shortly after the trade and he no longer plays in the NBA. Ennis has been inconsistent in a backup role and may or may not return next season.

D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov for Brook Lopez and the no. 27 pick in the draft
Much has been written about this surprising deal. The Lakers had chosen Russell with the No. 2 pick of the draft just two years earlier. However, Magic wasn’t sold on his ability to lead the team. And Mozgov was substantially overpaid based on his actual contributions.

For the Nets, Russell had a promising start this past season before being injured and still has a bright future as a potential 20 points per game scorer. Mozgov did little for Brooklyn.

On the Lakers side, Lopez was a solid if a somewhat inconsistent big man and was an overall positive veteran presence on a young team. His contract expired, and although he will probably sign elsewhere, there is a chance he will return. The team also got salary cap relief by eliminating Mozgov’s contract.

Of course, the biggest plus of the trade for the Lakers was that they used the pick on Kyle Kuzma, who enjoyed an outstanding rookie season. He was one of three players to lead the team with a 16.1 PPG average (Julius Randle and Brandon Ingram were the others).

He was a threat from the 3-point line and was equally effective driving to the hoop. There is every reason to believe that Kuz, who became a fan favorite, will be even better going forward.

If the trade had simply been Russell-for-Kuzma, most Lakers fans would now probably be quite happy. Getting Mozgov’s contract off the books was icing on the cake.

Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr for Isaiah Thomas and Channing Frye plus the Cavs first-round pick in this year’s draft
This trade deadline deal came out of left field. It will take time before it can be fairly analyzed. The Lakers gave up two solid young contributors. In return, they received a still-not-fully-recovered Thomas and the veteran back-up Frye, both of whom will be free agents this summer.

IT wants a multi-year deal. If none is offered, he could return to the Lakers on a one-year contract. They might also re-sign Frye, if the cost isn’t too high, as an experienced reserve with a strong 3-point shot. It’s just as possible that neither one is with the team next season.

On the surface, it might end up looking like they traded Clarkson and Nance for only a draft choice. They can use that pick to replace only one of them, so what’s the sense of that? Of course, the trade had another layer to it. The Lakers created more cap space so they can potentially sign two prominent free agents this year and/or next. Whether the trade ends up being worthwhile will ultimately depend on how they use that cap money.

The 2017 Draft
Unquestionably, in their first draft, Magic and Pelinka hit a grand slam home run. With their four picks, they selected:

Lonzo Ball, who despite his shooting difficulties was impressive in all other areas and could be the Lakers starting point guard for the next decade

• Kuzma, who probably had the third or fourth best season of any rookie, and should only improve with experience
• Hart, who was so good in the second half that Magic said he wished he had “20 Josh Harts”
• Bryant, who was a G-League All-Star and has the potential to become an NBA rotation player

Free Agents
The goal last summer was to add a veteran on a one-year deal, which would preserve cap space. At first, the Lakers were fruitless in that pursuit as they watched their target free agents, such as George Hill, sign multi-year deals elsewhere. Later in the summer, they successfully recruited Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who proved to be an excellent backcourt fit.

KCP is now again a free agent and will likely sign a lucrative multi-year deal elsewhere. The Lakers, meanwhile, have their sights set on signing an elite free agent like Paul George and on re-signing Randle this summer. They may also end up signing either a guard (possibly Thomas) or a center (perhaps Lopez) to a large one-year deal.

As it can easily be seen, in their first year on the job the Lakers new front office team of Magic and Rob did very well indeed. The team’s young core represents great hope for the future. It is now up to Johnson and Pelinka to add in the right pieces through the draft and free agency, and possibly also through trades.

Next: 50 Greatest Players In Lakers Franchise History

Lakers fans can only hope they do equally as well going forward.