UPDATE 4/9 9:24 PM ET: Magic Johnson called an impromptu press conference to announce that he is stepping down as the Lakers’ President of Basketball Operations. The piece below was written before this announcement.
The Los Angeles Lakers did a little bit of experimenting this season after acquiring LeBron James. In the past, James-led teams have been filled with 3-point specialists such as Ray Allen, Kyle Korver, James Jones, and Mike Miller. They’ve gone away from the traditional center and used stretch fours such as Kevin Love and Chris Bosh as their primary big man.
The Lakers went away from that type of team this year and surrounded James with more playmakers rather than shooters. That has led the Lakers to a sub-.500 record and caused James to miss the playoffs for the first time since his rookie season.
The roster was constructed with a bunch of one year deals, so many players on this season’s roster may not be on the team next season. Contracts that will end at the end of this season include Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, Javale McGee, and Tyson Chandler. Reggie Bullock and Mike Muscala, who the Lakers traded for at the deadline, also have expiring contracts.
This leaves the Lakers with about $42 million in cap space available to assemble a team for next season.
There have also been discussions in the past between the Lakers and a few upcoming free agents, like as Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler. Rumors have also circulated about DeMarcus Cousins, Kyrie Irving, or Kevin Durant signing with the Lakers in the offseason. The Lakers could benefit off a signing of Klay Thompson if the Lakers could lure him away from the Warriors this offseason.
Other notable unrestricted free agents in the upcoming offseason include Tobias Harris, Nikola Vucevic, Kemba Walker, Khris Middleton (player option), Al Horford (player option), DeAndre Jordan, and Ricky Rubio. A complete list of players can be found here.
The Lakers have a big decision to make this offseason. Should they give coach Luke Walton another chance and blame this season on the roster assembled, injuries, and trade deadline drama or should they look to hire another head coach?
Jason Kidd, Mark Jackson, and Ty Lue are a few of the names that have been thrown around as possible replacements for Walton.
Kidd was was most recently fired by the Milwaukee Bucks in 2018. Is the underachievement by the Bucks during Kidd’s tenure a huge red flag? The Lakers can’t afford to have another season like this season. Jackson was fired by the Golden State Warriors in 2014 when the Warriors were beginning their dynasty. Jackson has been a game analyst for ESPN since Lue was James’ coach in Cleveland when the the Cavaliers won the 2016 NBA Championship.
A head coaching job change is not a guarantee for the Lakers, but a change in the organization needs to happen quickly, or the Lakers might just ruin their days with LeBron. A total failure during the Lakers’ time with James would look bad for the organization, especially after giving up a couple of young players like D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle in the past.