If you have not read all three parts of Eric Pincus‘ interview with Lakers Vice President of Basketball Operations Jim Buss, you should. Pincus doesn’t try to play “gotcha” or spin Buss’ comments in either a positive or negative way, instead giving us Buss’ words directly for our own interpretation. It’s refreshing to hear what Buss says in this format, even if you don’t agree with what he’s saying.
In the wake of Pincus’ work, one of the more under-discussed topics is Buss’ slight hedge regarding the summer of 2016 and building through free agency:
What the Lakers didn’t accomplish this summer was to sign a major free agent.
“It’s just that it takes time to build a core that guys want to play with,” Buss said. “I understand a superstar doesn’t want to come in and say, ‘Oh, we still have two or three years of rebuilding.’ I think with Jordan Clarkson, Russell, Randle, even Hibbert … we’re getting a core of seven or eight players.”
With the NBA’s new national television deal kicking in next year, the Lakers could have up to $60 million to spend in July, enough to go after two max-level free agents, including Kevin Durant.
“If a big name or two came, we have the room. That’s the key,” Buss said. “We’ve kept our flexibility.”
Buss’ first quote gives us a bit more background into what he and the rest of the front office has learned through the past three years of free agent meetings and recruiting pitches*. From Dwight Howard to LaMarcus Aldridge (and even Greg Monroe), the Lakers saw their top targets sign with teams in better position to win games sooner. These results seem to have left a lasting impression.
Via his second quote, Buss seems to put it out there, if not directly than through implication, the Lakers remain hopeful of landing a big fish free agent and have positioned their roster in a way to be able to do so next summer. But a key part of this process isn’t just having cap space, it is to build up a talent base organically through the draft and via smart trades in order to create the type of soft landing spot top flight free agents are looking for.
Even in building this way, however, it’s also important to note what Buss says: “if a big name comes…” That if is pretty important and sets the tone for this entire discussion. When it comes to free agency there will always be uncertainty. And not just in the form of a player choosing you:
Saturday morning tidbit….Out of the 180+ projected FA's next summer only 45 are projected to start for their team this season (10 are RFA)
— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) August 29, 2015
Other note regarding next summer….23 out of the projected 45 Free Agent starters this year will be at least 30 years of old next summer
— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) August 29, 2015
From the depth of quality to the types of players available, there are more things to consider when Buss uses the word “if”. It’s not just if one comes, it’s if one is even available. It’s if that player fits into the same timeline as the other core players Buss discussed earlier in his chat with Pincus. It’s if that player even fits with the players in place and if it’s worth displacing a payer you like in order to acquire a new one. I could go on and on.
When forecasting out a year from now, these are the types of things to keep in mind. Per Buss’ statements, the Lakers sure are. Even if it seems they weren’t always doing so.
*Whether you think Buss and co. should have known this already is another story. One of the major hot takes from the time LeBron joined the Heat in 2011 was that he wanted it “easy” by forming a “super team”. Critics of James roasted him for teaming up with players the caliber of Wade and Bosh in order to give himself the best chance to win. What those critiques ignore, however, is that LeBron did was was best for him and gave himself the best chance to win championships in the process. Players since that time have shown a want to do the same. Remember, most of the top tier free agents are coming off their second contract. They are clearly in their prime and are at the point in their careers where they have little to prove as individual talents. Instead, goals become less about making an all-star team and more about making the finals with their everyday team.
Getting back on point, it’s fair to say the Lakers should have known that chasing max level free agents and trying to pitch them on joining a Lakers’ team with an aged Kobe and not much else was a losing hand. *Steps off soapbox*
Good post, and yes, I think it is pretty obvious that the Lakers FO should have known that if they didn’t as I and many others have said in various ways for the last few years. Basically, I think the hope now revolves around two possibilities:
1. The internal talent base develops and the Lakers score in the 2017 and 2018 FA markets.
2. The team is bad enough to pick Top 3 this year and snags a true franchise anchor.
One thing that worries me: I have doubts about Randle, so I hope his supporters are right about him.
I’m finding it a good sign that Jim Buss is finally opening up and speaking his mind. I now know that he’s much more astute and determined than most give him credit for.
With regards to free agents: Despite all the ignorance and glee from the haters, the Lakers have always in majority built championship teams via drafting, and trades.
I can see them doing it again, and the haters again discover that they will never laugh last.
Talking about the Summer of 2016 and KDs free agency. I saw this on ESPN about the Lakers chances. Of course we know he’s not coming.
The Delusionals: Los Angeles Lakers
Pros: Randy Newman’s “I Love LA,” awesome weather and the chance to add his name to the long list of Hall of Famers who have worn the purple and gold.
Cons: He’d be joining one of the worst-managed teams in the league, which will most likely be coming off three consecutive lottery appearances. Poorly coached, meddlesome ownership and we haven’t even established whether Kobe Bryant would still be around to “show him the ropes”.
Craig W. says
Randle was the 7th pick in the draft last year. Six players were picked ahead of him. That doesn’t mean he is the 7th best player in the draft, but it pays to remember the front office had six other teams picking players before they got the chance. The quality of the draft was questioned, but we were able to secure Jordan Clarkson with the 46th pick – so there is that. All this is to simply say the front office should be graded on what they did with the players available, not what we wish were available.
Now Russell was the 2nd player picked and the Lakers had their choice of all but one player in this year’s draft. That is a different scenario. For win now people, perhaps Oakfor would have been the better choice, but we were also drafting on long-term needs, fit, and star power – L.A. is, after all, a star-driven city and the NBA is a star-driven league.
IMO – that’s the problem with most free-agents. The create too much of a win-now mentality for both the player and the fans. We are rebuilding, not contending over the next few years. How few is what we are ostensibly arguing about.
IMO – that’s the problem with most free-agents. The create too much of a win-now mentality for both the player and the fans. We are rebuilding, not contending over the next few years.
Which is why many on this board were up in arms over Jim’s attempt to sign Melo and LA. So are you now saying that Jim’s strategy was ill advised?
It’s interesting that Jim’s recent comments are viewed as mature in light of the fact that his strategy was a failure and produced two and likely three of the worst seasons in history.
Yes, it’s a better late than never storyline. But there were opportunity costs associated with Jim’s ‘sign two free agents and all will be well with the world’ solution. As someone mentioned yesterday, this feels like Jim asking to change how his coursework will be graded after failing his midterm.
Ano: “meddlesome ownership” – To whom could they possibly be referring? By the way, could they at least add the celebrities, the beach, and beautiful women to our list of “Pros”. They are making us sound worse than we are : )
Craig: “win-now mentality” Jim Buss is the one who created this mentality. He made the promise. The chances of us being in the WCF (his promise) by 2016-2017 are not good in my opinion and I do not think we should target that. So I guess that makes me a patient, work for the long term, rebuilder.
Craig W. says
Got to admit you are right. That does not mean he can’t learn from his mistakes.
Just for the record, Jack Kent Cooke wasn’t exactly a ‘peachy keen’ owner and I had to wait quite a few years before he finally sold the club to Jerry Buss. I wouldn’t hold my breath for the Buss children to sell off the Lakers any time soon.
One of the problems with the learning curve argument is that one of Jim’s big selling points was/is that he has been around the Lakers for so many years, learning from West, Kupchak, and his dad. Sure, being the top guy is different, but Jim was supposed to be taking over as an experienced hand who had learned from the best.
As to Jack Kent Cooke, that was before my time, but I know he built the Forum, acquired Chamberlain, and owned the first LA champion, owned seven NBA Finals teams, and acquired Kareem . He also owned an NFL team that won three Super Bowls.
Baylor Fan says
7 NBA finals in 14 years, the Fabulous Forum, Forum Blue and Gold, Wilt Chamberlain, the 1972 Lakers: the comparison you are looking for is Ted Stepien.
Baylor Fan says
The Ted Stepien rule may have saved Jim from himself. With that rule in place the Lakers traded picks are spread out and not back to back. Without that rule, there would be no Randle or Russell.
P. Ami says
The mentality of players wanting established stars around them was set by LeBron and his move to Miami. The League is a copy cat league, and that is not limited to the front offices. Since LeBron set the trend, it has taken a few seasons for the full ramifications to materialize through other players doing the same as LeBron. I’m happy that Jim is finally willing to open up and admit to the facts of life since the Dwight saga. The team needs to establish itself as a near 50-win team on the rise before a super-star will ditch his team for us.
Our guys have plenty of work to do before they become complete players. This coming off-season is probably not the one we should be getting too excited about. We need to be thinking 2017. Before that, we should keep the powder dry and see what may speed up the process. Until then, develop the kids we got. The true moment of truth comes when we see if the basketball gods touch us once again and allow a 30-35 win team to skip over worse teams and land us a top-three pick. The Cavs showed, get a few high picks and play it smart, a top-tier free agent may come along. Until then, enjoy watching the young guys develop and pray that B-Scott is possessed by the ghost of Red Holzman. Maybe Larry Brown wants to coach in LA again for a couple of years. I don’t know, I just think the B-Scott, placeholder, bobble-head, we have right now is not a good move.
james katt says
What the Lakers forgot of late in failing to get a superstar free agent to sign with them is: You can only attract top free agents if you have a good team. Previous Lakers teams had good teams in place, the recent Lakers teams were dirt bad.
“He had minutes on his mind that he felt he could handle, and I felt he could handle a little bit more, and I felt he was right,” Scott said. “Obviously when we talk heading into (the season), I’ll ask him again what he thinks minutes wise, and I think this time I’ll take his word for it instead of going with my own gut, because he was absolutely right.”
Coach scott on kobes minutes last year (quote from nba.com)
Renato Afonso says
Just to make sure it’s written, I believe Okafor was a better choice to win now as well as for the future. Randle was a great pick, given the available players. So far , my beef with the FO was the hiring of MB and MDA that led to the alienation of good players and those blunders will be felt even three or four years from now…
Randle was the 7th pick in the draft last year. Six players were picked ahead of him. That doesn’t mean he is the 7th best player in the draft, but it pays to remember the front office had six other teams picking players before they got the chance.
Of course, MDA screwed that draft by winning too many games down the stretch — presumably with the FO’s blessing. The failure of Jim’s FO is the cumulation of not only the big mistakes but the little ones as well.
Jim’s reliance on the power of the Lakers brand was delusional. His poor management was stripping away that power and he didn’t even know it.
Renato: Wow – you and I are on the same page. Okafor (and yes – both short and long run), and the complete mistakes of MB and MD that will impact us for years. Hopefully Russell will work out and Scott will maintain Laker pride until the next coming of Riley/Jackson.
Craig: It’s all good. I will comment on your distaste for Cooke. Let’s look at the ownership history. Bergen/Chafen owned the team for 9 years, won 5 titles in 5 tries and made the playoffs every year. Then came Bob Short. He owned the team for 8 years, never won a title, but made the Finals 4 times and only missed the playoffs once. Now for Cooke. He owned the team for 14 years, won 1 title and made the Finals 6 times. His teams made the playoffs 12 times. And to add “context” which many like, Cooke took over a team that had not won a title for 11 years. Then comes the legend – Jerry Buss. He owned the Lakers for 33 incredible years, winning 10 titles in 16 trips to the Finals. He made the playoffs 31 times. That leads us to the current ownership team, which has owned the team for 3 years, has no trips to the Finals and has already missed the playoffs as often as any other owner did during their entire tenure (soon to be greater than any owner). So after reviewing my stats perhaps you could reconsider? You could lighten up on Cooke, or if you prefer to maintain your high ownership standards, you could join me in my quest : ) No issue though – I have a special distaste for Del Harris as a coach. I need to rethink that given recent performances as well : )
rr/Baylor: You are correct. Jack Kent Cooke was not in Jerry Buss territory, but he is one of the best owners in sports history. He won an NBA championship and three Super Bowl titles (has anyone else done that as the top owner?). He built the Forum, and obtained Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul Jabbar on his watch.
I had no problem with the Randle pick; based on what I know, I would have preferred Vonleh, but Vonleh was in the DLeague last year, is still in his teens, and may never amount to much (he did play well in Summer League). But I think there is also a pretty good chance that Randle is nothing special, either, and I don’t think the Buss FO can afford that. But I do not think Randle was a bad pick.