Timofey Mozgov? 16 million a year for four years? Really?
Although this off- season’s wheelings and dealings have been about as fruitful as good ol' Timofey was for the Cavs last year (the hiring of Luke Walton, drafting of Brandon Ingram, and Jose Calderon pick up have been the loan bright spots), this is just the latest blunder by Mitch and Co. for the purple and gold, who have for the most part been the epitome of a stellar front office, but nobody can be perfect all the time.
To go from the ShowTime Lakers of the 80s to the NoShow Lakers of the last five years (these last three in particular), you’re probably going to have to mess up, and mess up big, regardless of the current talent on the team. Don’t worry, Lakers got that covered. Although a good portion of this article covers goofs made in the “sh*% Kobe’s going to retire soon” era, there are a plethora of mistakes made prior that, had they been avoided, perhaps would have made them even more dominant. With their current streak of non-hits, this list is sure to continue, but who knows? Maybe Mozgov will turn into the next Laker great? Nah, he won't.
20 Drafting Elden Campbell Over Toni Kukoc
Although Elden Campbell had a perfectly adequate career in LA, Toni Kukoc was an immediate success when he joined the Bulls in 1993 after finishing his playing days in Croatia and was a steal as the 29th overall pick in the second round!
By 1990, when Campbell was drafted, the Lakers had just gone two seasons in a row with failing to reclaim their throne on the top of basketball mountain, with the Pistons stealing their glory both times--and in the ’89-’90 season failing even to reach the NBA Finals, where they had just won back to back titles in the ’86-87, ’87-’88 seasons. Campbell would finish his career with one ring: as a Piston in 2004, while Kukoc enjoyed a higher career scoring average, as well as back to back to back titles with the Bulls. Since no one saw this coming, I’m not faulting LA too much for this one. Also, he got to play with Michael Jordan.
19 Passing on Rashard Lewis in ‘98 Draft
In the early second round of the draft, the Lakers picked Shooting Guard Ruben Patterson out of the University of Cincinnati. There are a couple things wrong with this:
1) Seattle picked SF/PF Rashard Lewis immediately after, who ended up having a much better career and would have fit nicely on that current LA roster
2) Why would you pick a shooting guard when you already have Kobe (And Eddie Jones) on your team!
Granted it was early, selfish/air ball Kobe, but still, all the more reason to pick somebody who can make an impact from a different position while still being on the floor at the same time. Obviously that squad quickly found success once they got Shaq, but Lewis was one of the original “stretch 3's”who at 6’ 10”, could shoot the ball well and space the floor, which might have meant five championships in a row instead of a three peat.
18 Trade for Roy Hibbert
The Lakers didn’t really lose anything in this trade, just giving up a second round draft pick to the Indiana Pacers, but they didn’t really gain anything either. On paper, the deal wasn’t so bad, Roy Hibbert had been a two-time All Star and solid starter for Indiana, who had been playing some of their best basketball in recent years with him on the team. None of that however translated to his first (and last) year with the Lakers, averaging career lows in many categories, including just under 6 points and 5 rebounds per game, with a PIE (Player impact estimate) of 6%, meaning he contributed to about 6% of each game. Maybe it has something to do with playing in the West for the first time, or maybe he was never able to truly navigate the mess that was the Los Angeles Lakers team last year. Whatever the reason, LA fans are just glad it’s over.
17 Not re-hiring your own coach?!
After Jim Buss made the somewhat questionable decision to fire Mike Brown not even 10 games into the 2012-2013 season, the coaching vacancy inspired him to track down the zen master himself, Phil Jackson, who had moved away from the game after retirement following the 2011 season.
Word on the street is that Buss, who had recently inherited more responsibility after the death of his father, all but handed the contract over for Jackson to sign, before then going with former Suns head coach Mike D’Antoni instead. The change of heart was possibly due to the new acquisitions of both Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, with the hopes of restoring the Lakers to their Showtime status, however, it did not pay off, with D’Antoni’s squad exiting in the first round in his first year and failing to make the playoffs in his second, and last, season with the team. Jackson has 11 rings as a coach! 11!
16 The Dwight Thing
The intention of the Dwight Howard situation in Los Angeles made sense, but it just didn’t really work out the way anybody wanted it to. When the Lakers got Dwight Howard from Orlando, he was already a six-time All Star and NBA megastar. Pair that with Kobe and Steve Nash in his last ditch effort to win a ring? Can you say 82-0?
How about 45 and 37? Not bad, but not worth the hype, the price, or the player, who agreed with perhaps a good amount of the fans in not wanting to see him in a Lakers jersey anymore, leaving for James Harden and money with the Rockets. He put up decent numbers, averaging to 17.1 points and 12.4 rebounds per game, but if they were going to do anything in the west, with guys like Tim Duncan and Marc Gasol playing excellent front court basketball, he was going to have to do more. Maybe he wasn’t used to being the second banana?
15 Hiring Byron Scott?
When the Lakers hired Byron Scott to take over the reins after Mike D’Antoni’s subpar stint as the team’s decision maker, they were basically flailing at this point, calling out to anyone to help salvage the legacy of what was quickly becoming one of the league’s worst teams. Kobe was bound to retire soon and it seems as though they just needed someone who had been around long enough not to let Mamba usurp the man in charge and take 70 shots a game. Other than his ability to maintain a head coaching position in the NBA, and his prowess as a player and Laker great, he didn’t really bring too many things to get excited about. A 13 year coaching career with two seasons with 50 or more wins? Two Finals appearances over 10 years ago? Well, he stayed for two years and won a grand total of 38 games. Wonder if they wish they would’ve went with Phil now.
14 Gasol for Gasol
Don’t get me wrong, Pau Gasol was a tremendous Laker and an enormous reason why they won back to back titles during the ’08-’09, ’09-’10 seasons. However, had they known how good of a baller little bro would turn out to be, I’m not sure they would have made the trade that gave Marc’s draft rights to the Grizzlies, a team Pau had spent eight years with. Marc has some of the best hands in the game, and while he and his brother’s assist numbers are pretty similar, Marc is doing it from the center position and passing to guys like Tony Allen, while many of Pau’s are on fast breaks, or to one of the top ten players of all time. The Grizzlies haven’t seen a fast break since Jason Williams was there. Having baby Gasol on the team would have opened up the floor for guys like Trevor Ariza and Lamar Odom, and would have made Kobe’s job even easier. What could’ve been.
While he was far from the only piece in the trade, he's by far the largest.
13 Kwame Brown? Really?
In one of the biggest head scratchers in recent memory, the Lakers traded emerging talent Caron Butler and Chucky Atkins to the Wizards, for Kwame Brown? Butler, who was just coming off his best season and averaging 15.5 points per game, for Brown, who averaged 4.9 rebounds and 7 points per game in the previous year as a Power Forward? What were they expecting?
To Brown’s credit, he didn’t play any worse than he had in the past, but apart from a few more rebounds per game, he didn’t really play any better either. Maybe Mitch was hoping to find the gold inside that Michael Jordan saw when he drafted Brown straight of high school as the number one pick in the NBA draft, or maybe he really wanted a middle of the road center to perform just as he had in his first four years in the league. Whatever the reason, it didn’t work out, and Brown was gone after two years.
12 Timofey Mozgov
Okay, this one doesn’t really count because it has yet to come to fruition, but on paper this is just an egregious deal. Timofey Mozgov only averaged 17.4 minutes per game last year and played only 25 total in the Finals when the Cavs realized they were BETTER WITHOUT HIM, and is a bit of a health risk, as he's battled injuries throughout his career. Does that sound like something worth $64 million over four years? No. The salary cap did go up and everyone is getting paid boatloads of money, but this wasn’t the person to give it to. He definitely shouldn't have been the first person to give it to, as he was the first big signing in the summer’s free agency period. But the Lakers, fearful again (see number 9 below) that they wouldn’t land their most sought after choices like Kevin Durant or Hassan Whiteside, settle for whatever they could get. Settled big.
11 Not Going After Phil Jackson
After the debacle that was the “let's make an offer to Phil Jackson—wait, no let's get Mike D’Antoni” that pissed off Jackson, it didn’t seem likely that he would take any coaching offer from the Lakers seriously for a while. But what about a front office position? When rumors started to circulate about Phil Jackson possibly rejoining the New York Knicks as the president of basketball operations, people started to speculate about that possibility in LA. He’d finally get the decision making control that he always wanted, yet wouldn’t have the stresses of dealing with coaching again. Not surprisingly, as the Buss family had been, has been, and looks to continue to be in control of the Lakers from an operations standpoint, no offer was made. Jackson however took the job in NY, where he’s made moves like getting Derrick Rose and drafting Kristaps Porzingis. And the Lakers… (see thr previous entry)/
10 Letting Gasol Walk
Despite what was mentioned earlier about how much better the Lakers might have been with Pau’s brother on the team, they certainly made the most out of the Gasol they had, who spent seven great years on the team, three years as an All Star, and helped lead them to two titles. This was a guy that they needed to keep. But, for a lot of little reasons, Gasol began to feel unhappy with his role on the team and bolted to the Bulls for less money, but what he felt was a better opportunity for him to win a championship. It also wasn’t a secret that Mike D’Antoni’s approach to the game didn’t quite mesh with a big man like Pau, who was playing on a team more focused on “small ball” than pounding it into the post. Walk he did.
9 Losing Out On LaMarcus Aldridge
It wasn’t just missing on the best power forward not named Tim Duncan in the game that was disappointing for the Lakers, it was just how they didn’t get him. It was apparently down to two teams for one of the most sought after free agents of the summer of 2015, San Antonio and Los Angeles, so the Lakers were in great shape to scoop up the then four-time All Star. Apparently, although during their pitch they did include a good amount of enticing items like Kobe’s thoughts on how he saw Aldridge as a good fit for the team, the Lakers spent too much time talking about Hollywood and Branding, and not enough about basketball. Did they think it was 1976? Even if opportunities to brand himself and be on TV were important to Aldridge, the world is a lot flatter now, and he could be in a movie if he really wanted to. So Aldridge had another All Star year with the Spurs and they got Roy Hibbert…
8 Lakers Resign Nick Young For Four Years
Oh, Swaggy P. The player most known for once being engaged to one of the world’s most divisive female rappers and challenging Kobe for shot attempts signed a four year deal worth $21 million in the wake of Pau Gasol’s exit in 2014 and the Lakers likely regret it now. The deal was relatively cheap, at just under $5 million a year, but that means Nick Young has to be on your team for four years. Since his signing he’s had two seasons shooting well under 40 % from the field and from 3, one of which he was still able to average 20 points. You know what that means? He took a tremendous amount of shots! Young just hasn’t been the right fit for this team, especially in the last couple years, as they have tried to build around their young core. Maybe he can make up for it next season.
7 Drafting Javaris Crittenton? (Over Aaron And Arron)
This is another one that isn’t really a bonehead mistake, but more of a “man what could’ve been” type move. With the 19th pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, the Los Angeles Lakers selected Javaris Crittenton out of Georgia Tech, when there were two soon to be stand out above average guards, Aaron Brooks and Arron Afflalo yet to be picked up. This move didn't affect them short term because although the Lakers won titles soon after, but Javaris Crittenton didn’t do much of anything for the purple and gold, only playing in 22 total games, with much of the PG duties thrown to Sasha Vujacic. Could you imagine the Lakers’ backcourt against the Celtics in the ’08 finals with one of the quickest players in the league like Brooks or a solid shooting guard like Afflalo? Instead they got minimal production out of Sasha and a good, but aging Derek Fisher. What could have been, indeed.
6 Not Landing CP3 And The Aftermath That Followed
I know, this isn’t really the Lakers fault but there has to have been something they could’ve done differently. The proposed trade of Chris Paul from the then league owned New Orleans Hornets to the Lakers, that would have sent Paul Gasol and Lamar Odom to the Rockets and Hornets respectively, could have propelled the Lakers into a championship winning contender and solidified Jim Buss as a rightful successor to his father Jerry, but instead, it was vetoed by commissioner David Stern for “basketball reasons.” Since that failed attempt, the Lakers have yet to go back to the conference finals and perhaps subconsciously have been trying to heal the wound by going after other big names like Dwight Howard, but mostly swinging and missing on guys like Carmelo Anthony, LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Durant. Paul went to the Clippers and they’ve been the best team in LA Since.
5 Kobe’s Two-year Exten$ion
This was honestly a tough spot for the Lakers. How do you keep the guy who’s been the face of your franchise for almost 20 years happy? Does he still produce like he used to? No. Is he 100% healthy? No. Do we even know if he will play after this season? No. Okay, how about $48.5 million for two years? What?!
Even if he didn’t get hurt and played more than six games during his first year under the new contract, that’s more than $24 million per year, which makes it extremely difficult for the front office to do anything in terms of trying to get other players to come to the team after the inevitable departure of number 24. Instead of trying to build for the future, the Lakers were stuck with basically waiting for Kobe to leave. But hey, he scored 60 points in his last gamem so it all worked out.
4 Not Re-signing Big Shot Rob
Robert Horry, one of the most decorated NBA players of all time, and hitter of countless clutch shots, including some of his biggest during his seven years as a Laker, became a free agent in the summer of 2003 following Los Angeles first season since 1999 not to walk away with an NBA title. At 32 years of age, it was understandable not to make a huge push to re-sign Horry, however, he was a never a big scorer, he just did so when his team needed him most. So what happened in the next few years? The Lakers lost to the Pistons with veterans Karl Malone and Gary Payton, and Horry joined a Spurs team where he continued to do what he does best, hitting enormous shots, keeping the Lakers out of the Finals and helping San Antonio win titles in 2005, as well as in 2007.
3 Passing Torch To Jim Buss
Jim Buss, the president of basketball operations for the Lakers and decision maker of many of the mistakes already listed, has some huge shoes to fill. That’s not to say he won’t ever do it, but he hasn’t done it yet.
His father, the legendary Jerry Buss, was in charge of much of the basketball decision making throughout the Showtime era and Shaq and Kobe powerhouse teams that dominated the 80s and early 2000s respectfully. He created a culture of championships and winning, and it just isn’t an easy thing to do.
You can’t fault Jim for trying. He’s definitely gotten his hands in there and tried to shape the Lakers into a team that contends for titles every year, trying to add to the 16 they already have in the bag, but it just hasn’t happened yet. What he hasn’t done is nothing, so maybe the "something" he does in the future will finally pay off.
2 Inability To Salvage Kobe/Shaq Feud
This one hurts. This one hurts even Laker haters. This one hurts even casual basketball fans who’ve only heard of Kobe and Shaq because of the impact they had on the league. Has there ever been a better duo? If Batman and Robin played against these guys, it’d be a close one. Again, this bruise was not really the Lakers fault, but they were certainly involved and it did not heal easily. While most people know that Shaq and Kobe didn’t exactly see eye to eye off, and sometimes on. the court, this also occurred during a time when Phil Jackson wasn’t quite seeing eye to eye with the Lakers and wouldn’t be coming back to coach the team the following year. A little coaxing by Buss or Mitch and who knows, maybe they would’ve gotten Phil and Shaq back, and who can count how many more rings? They got three total separately, how many would they have gotten if they stayed together?
1 Not Doing Anything In The Jordan Era
By the time Showtime ended, perhaps capped by the Bulls defeating the Lakers in the ’91 NBA Finals, the Michael Jordan era was already been upon us and there wasn’t much anybody could do about it. However, the Bulls were in the East and that was the only time Los Angeles reached the finals that entire decade! Tough as it was to beat MJ, the Lakers didn’t even put up a fight and were a middle of the road playoff team in the Western Conference. Perhaps dealing with the tough task of rebuilding after Magic Johnson was forced into early retirement, the Lakers were pretty much a no show season after season, building around young guys like Nick Van Exel and Eddie Jones. Jerry West, who was the vice president of basketball operations at the time, finally stepped in when he got Kobe over to LA in a draft day trade from Charlotte. I guess it worked out.