Last night was a great night to be a Lakers fan. Byron Scott, the worst coach in franchise history was relieved of his duties to the delight of every young player on the roster. Now the Lakers have an amazing opportunity for the future, a fresh start, that this organization hasn’t had in a long while. This season was one to forget, a franchise low 17 wins, finishing the season last in team defense and second to last in defense. The Mamba helped us forget all of the disappointments, the benching of D’Angelo Russell during fourth quarters, Lou Williams being on the court at any point this season. The overall lack of development for the young core was far and away the biggest failure of Scott’s tenure as Head Coach, but luckily that is all over. The opportunity at hand is one that many franchises would love to have, a young core ready to expand their roles, a top 3 pick in the draft (fingers crossed) loads of cap space, and the chance to select a fresh young coach from a great slate of candidates. The last two years have been tough for the franchise and that fans, strikeouts in free agency, a deteriorating Mamba, and having to watch a coach with an offense from the 90’s. All of that is over, it’s time for a fresh start.
As soon as the news was broken that Byron Scott was going to be playing a lot of golf this summer, the Lakers fan base rightfully rejoiced, and then turned quickly into a list of candidates that the Lakers should pursue. Before pointing out a perfect candidate we first must look at the problems facing the team as they head into the summer and the atrocity that was this season.
The biggest thing the Lakers lacked this season was lack of development for the young players and future of the franchise, having a track record of development for young player would be a huge positive for whoever takes the reins from Ole Byron. On the court the Lakers were last in defense and second to last in offense. On offense the Lakers were stagnant, ranking last in assists per game, 16th in pace, last in EFG% at 46.0%. On defense the Lakers were 26th in rebound percentage, last in defensive efficiency and 27th in opponents points per game. All of these statistics lead to one conclusion about what the problems on the court are for the Lakers: EVERYTHING.
The problems within the front office are more difficult to diagnose. The front office seemingly dysfunctional, unable to sign marquee free agents, and hiring coaches only to fire them two years later. This is a perfect time for the front office to come together, the egos of the Buss siblings need to shrink for the good of the franchise. Mitch Kupchak does a good job of taking his time and making well thought out decisions, even if it causes Lakers fans to panic for weeks at a time, which is what a team would want in a GM. The last two summers have been difficult to watch, consistently striking out on marquee free agents, some of this could be due to the way the team had to pitch LA to the big names; a great city with great fans and great business opportunities. This pitch obviously didn’t work for LaMarcus Aldridge or Carmelo Anthony, each for different reasons. Los Angeles becomes a real power house in free agency once you combine the qualities listed above with a competitive roster. It is also important to remember that the Lakers haven’t built their championship teams through free agency alone, they have used the draft and trades at the draft to get marquee guys like Kobe and Magic, and Trades to acquire starts like KAJ, Pau and Chris Pa…oh wait. All these problems are fixable, and with all of the assets and cap space the Lakers have it could be a quicker turnaround than we all think.
The first step in fixing the Lakers is a change in perception. To get the mojo back behind the Lakers name the front office needs to reinvent the way things operate or are perceived to operate. Right now the thought around the league is that the Lakers are stuck in the past, with a small almost invisible analytics department up until this year, and a coach more worried about telling the media how much he hates his young players rather than allowing them to develop throughout the season. The first step in getting the “Lakers Mojo” back is the coaching search. The is a couple of logical roads the Lakers could take with this selection. The first obviously being Luke Walton; it makes too much sense, Former Laker, Southern California ties, gets raving reviews from Kerr and entire Golden State organization. He will be coming from a place running a free-flowing offense with great ball movement and player movement. This would be a great system for the young Lakers with D’Angelo in command and Clarkson becoming a better play maker and creator for everyone else on the floor. Another option with more experience is Ettore Messina; He is a euro league legend with a total of four championships. Messina could bring a level of experience and an understanding of X’s & O’s that the Lakers need to help the young players develop. Other options David Blatt, San Antonios Ime Udoka (my personal choice), and UCONN’s Kevin Ollie. These are all intriguing options with pros and cons to each, with Walton, Ollie and Udoka are all fresh faces which can lead the franchise into a new era. Messina brings experience and championship pedigree to a franchise full of young players that are ready to be guided. As with every slate of coaching candidates there are a few of what I like to call, Untouchables. This includes retread coaches who are overrated with the fan base. This year there is one major untouchable, Mark Jackson. I understand that he is fun, or unbearable depending on how you look at it, to listen to on ESPN, but this guy has no business being the coach of the Lakers. With a front office that seems to be dysfunctional, why would they hire a guy who was fired for being stubborn with the front office. Another disqualification for the Lakers job, Personnel Control. It doesn’t matter if you are Tom Thibodeau, if you want personnel control you are not getting the job in LA, it’s that simple.
UPDATE: THE LAKERS HIRED LUKE WALTON
All things considered the Lakers are in a much better spot then they were last summer. With a chance to hire a coach for the future, one that has a vision for the future of the young core. This is the fresh start we’ve all been waiting for.