Shortly after we discussed the Lakers’ front office (and coaches) needing to find ways to improve for the organization to take a step forward this summer, reports have surfaced of changes within the front office which (they hope) will do just that. First it was Tim DiFrancesco resigning his post as strength and conditioning coach. Then came the resignation of director of basketball analytics Yuju Lee after the FO asked him to take on a reduced role.
And while these examples are “resignations” I would guess they are tied to a larger organizational shift being powered by Pelinka and Magic to revamp every area of the front office. I mean, the reporting on Lee already tells us the FO tried to demote him so it’s not hard to imagine DiFrancesco being presented with some marching orders he was not on board with and then resigning over them.
Anyways, what’s clear now is that the front office is not done. Far from it, actually. And it looks like the next area Pelinka and Magic want to impact is the scouting department. Bleacher Report’s Eric Pincus takes us inside the team’s plans:
Instead of operating with a single scouting unit, the Lakers will organize into four tiers: college, international, NBA and the NBA Development League (rechristened as the G-League as of the 2017-18 season).
The college scouting will remain primarily the same given the team’s recent track record with successful picks like Brandon Ingram, D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr.
“The college department was obviously our most prominent,” the source said. “Internationally, we only had one scout, who does an amazing job—Antonio Maceiras and he will continue in that role, but we will add in that department.”
Before his ouster, Kupchak credited Maceiras for the team’s drafting of center Ivica Zubac with the 32nd pick in the 2016 NBA draft.
The Lakers will likely add a couple of scouts focused primarily on studying current NBA players. Director of player personnel Ryan West will work on both the NBA and college scouting tiers.
Lakers co-owner Joey Buss will continue as the president and CEO of the D-Fenders (rebranded as the South Bay Lakers) with general manager Nick Mazzella.
The Lakers intend to add one to two scouts who are focused solely on potential call-ups, two-way contracts, training camp and summer league invites from among the NBA’s minor league ranks.
First of all, this is the type of plan I can support fully. As I’ve said consistently over the years (and specifically over the past weeks when the stories of change and needing to improve have become more relevant), the Lakers need to spend in areas which are not capped; they need to invest in areas which directly relate to player acquisition and player development in order to build and grow the best possible team. It’s clear to me that, based on the recent resignations and the ways in which the team is reportedly trying to restructure them, this hasn’t been the case to this point — or at least not to the extent it could have been.
Further, I specifically appreciate the idea of building up the individual silos of player scouting in order to optimize player acquisitions from every available avenue. I’ve long appreciated that NFL teams have two distinctly different and equally important scouting units — one focused on college personnel and one on pro-players. Because it’s one thing to be able to look at a college player and then project what they will be at the pro level and quite another to look at a current pro and then translate how that guy will operate in “our” schemes under “our” coaches vs. what they’ve done in their current situation.
The Lakers used to be a team that did this well under Jerry West (think of the Sedale Threatt and Ced Ceballos acquisitions as good examples) and again under Mitch during the Phil Jackson tenures (Ariza, Artest, Shannon Brown). But, in recent seasons, they’ve lost their way and been much more focused on 1). star chasing and 2). grabbing up role players who have some sort of cachet or pedigree that has either expired in value or was seen as being under-developed by other teams. And while there’s logic to both of these approaches in a vacuum, hindsight tells us how scattered this approach was.
And not to belabor the point, but some of these acquisitions also did not quite fit into the approach of the coaching staff, represented direct competition to other priorities already on the roster, or both. Be it making an amnesty claim on Carlos Boozer the same summer you drafted Julius Randle and signed Ed Davis to a 1-year contract or re-signing Nick Young to a 4 year contract the same summer you replace Mike D’Antoni with Byron Scott, too many times where was not a synergy between talent evaluation, priority, and fit within the roster these players would be joining
The hope is that the approach Pincus describes above will help clean up some of these issues and create better alignment between the scouts, the coaches, and the final decision makers in the front office.