After firing Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak and elevating Magic Johnson from “advisor” to President of Basketball Operations, the Lakers are reportedly close to filling their vacant GM position.
Lakers are finalizing a multi-year agreement with agent Rob Pelinka as general manager, league sources tell @TheVertical. He'll start soon.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) February 21, 2017
Pelinka, a player agent, famously repped Kobe Bryant for most of his 20 year career and has a long list of current players as clients, including Chris Bosh, James Harden, Trevor Ariza, Eric Gordon, and Andre Iguodala. According to multiple NBA people, he has a fantastic reputation within the agent ranks, good relationships with GM’s and players, and has a good eye for talent.
I’ve dealt w/ Rob Pelinka a lot covering the draft. Very smart. Excellent talent evaluator. His clients love him. Good hire for Lakers.
— Chad Ford (@chadfordinsider) February 22, 2017
Beyond that, at least one of his current clients think he’ll do well.
Trevor Ariza on Pelinka: "I think he'll be unbelievable in that role. He knows basketball. He has a really, really good eye for talent."
— Calvin Watkins (@calvinwatkins) February 21, 2017
Those things are nice to hear, of course. What’s also nice is that while a move from the agent ranks to front office is rare, it is not unprecedented. The most famous example is current Warriors GM Bob Myers. Myers was a top associate at Wasserman Media Group and was brought up under Arn Tellem before moving on to the Warriors in 2011 as Assistant GM. He was promoted to GM in 2012.
Pelinka carries a similar pedigree to Meyers and one can only hope he makes a similarly successful transition to the front office as his now Pacific Division Rival.
Beyond anecdotes about his path to this point and similarities to a guy like Myers, though, there’s very little we know about how Pelinka will operate in his new role. We can talk about his experience as a deal maker, in negotiating contracts, in seeking out and recruiting talent. These are needed skill sets for a GM and I am interested in seeing how those skills translate from the agent’s side of the table to the front office’s. I think it’s fair to say a person who has achieved at the level he has should be given the benefit of the doubt, just as I think it’s fair to say he has no experience in the role he’ll be occupying and why that leads to skepticism.
That said, I can say I like this hire. Not just because Pelinka is familiar with the Lakers (besides Kobe, he represented former Lakers Derek Fisher, Ed Davis, and Carlos Boozer), but because he surely has a vast network of already established relationships around the league in both organizations and on the players’ side. The hope, of course, is that he can leverage those relationships into the type of recruiting and deal making to help push the Lakers forward.
I won’t pretend to know that he will actually be able to accomplish these things. I also will not ignore that the Lakers moving on him so quickly speaks to some pretty evident backroom conversations which, on some levels, make me uneasy. Add this to a pretty “closed” process of moving forward with him as the final choice without opening the search to a larger pool of candidates and I can certainly understand reservations about how this has all played out.
Ultimately, though, I can say that I am more than a bit intrigued. While I don’t like how Mitch/Jim were let go, the idea of having a tied in person like Pelinka handling negotiations, a duo of Ryan West and Jesse Buss overseeing scouting and player development, with Magic Johnson being a “front” person who fills the role Dr. Buss had as the final decision maker who brings gravitas to the room is a formula which offers some potential for real success. Of course, it can all go sideways and downhill too.
But that is the risk which comes with the types of changes the Lakers have made. As I have been saying, I’m willing to give this some time to see how it all plays out.