With Jeanie Buss meeting with Magic Johnson this week to get his opinion on the direction of the Los Angeles Lakers franchise, many have started to speculate whether the team president is ready to part ways with Jim Buss as the vice president of basketball operations.
Jim’s self-imposed timeline to the right the ship in Los Angeles is about to expire. Buss promised to step down from his position if the team wasn’t back in contention for a title at the end of the 2016-17 NBA season. Although the team has shown promise at times this season, the Lakers are nowhere near contending with a few more years needed with this young core intact to see what they’re capable of doing in the future.
As speculation continues to build regarding a potential shake-up in the Lakers front office, we decided to go with the following topic for our Lakers Nation Roundtable:
Is it finally time to move on from Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak?
Here is what our panel of experts had to say:
Trevor Lane (@Trevor_Lane)
We can expect the buzz around Jim Buss’ infamous deadline to grow as the season progresses, and the recent report that Jeanie Buss is asking for opinions about the future of the franchise isn’t going to help the situation. A divorce from Jim and Mitch Kupchak would be messy considering both have extremely deep ties to the franchise, not to mention the unpleasantness of Jeanie having to fire her brother.
That said, the Lakers’ current record of 15-31 clearly doesn’t live up to the promise that Jim made, and while the hiring of Luke Walton does appear to have set the franchise on a better path, the contracts given to Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov are fairly damning. That’s not to say that Mozgov and Deng don’t serve a serve a purpose, but the cap flexibility that the Lakers gave up to sign them will act as an anchor for a franchise hoping to get set sail sooner rather than later.
There is such a thing as a bad team tax, as had the Lakers offered Mozgov and Deng their fair market value they almost certainly would have signed elsewhere, but eating up precious cap space by overpaying a veteran and then compounding the problem by doing it twice just may be an unforgivable sin. They grossly misread the market, which was a huge mistake for a franchise that absolutely could not afford to make any more. Just as Walton’s arrival brought a fresh mind to the lead the team, it may indeed be time for a new regime in the front office as well.
One caveat: the Lakers shouldn’t part ways with Mitch and Jim unless they have a replacement already in mind. They need someone with vision and purpose, and those types of people don’t grow on trees. No reason to go through all of the drama that a front office shake-up would bring unless they have someone lined up who would be a clear upgrade.
Corey Hansford (@TheeCoreyH)
This is a very difficult question to answer for me. I do feel like Jim Buss has gotten an unfair amount of criticism for all of the things that have gone wrong with the Lakers, but there have been some mistakes along the way as well as successes from both him and Mitch Kupchak.
In hindsight, the Kobe Bryant contract extension was a wrong move and definitely set the team back. It was simply too much money to give to him at that stage of his career. Giving away the number of draft picks that they did (in trades for Dwight Howard and Steve Nash) also hurt the Lakers and continues to do so as they aren’t guaranteed a first round pick this year.
That being said, I really don’t blame them for the failure to attract free agents as the top guys really wanted to win immediately, and the Lakers didn’t offer that opportunity. They never had a chance. Buss and Kupchak also deserve plenty of credit for their drafting ability. Julius Randle, D’Angelo Russell, and Brandon Ingram all have excellent potential, but more impressive have been their selections outside of the lottery. Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., and Ivica Zubac all look like future contributors for this franchise, and they have proven that their ability to spot talent is still top notch.
If I had to choose I would say that the Lakers need to move on. The Lakers have a great foundation, but it’s simply time for some new voices in the front office to push them over the hump. I do not believe the Lakers should bring back Phil Jackson, but bringing in someone who will click with head coach Luke Walton and give the Lakers a clear path to the future is necessary.
Eric Avakian (@EAvakian5)
When it comes to a checkpoint for the Los Angeles Lakers organization, Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak, many would think that the results would be based on the wins and loss column. However, the decision to hire Luke Walton over the offseason certainly comes with some leeway. Walton is in his first season, attempting to help mold this young core into a competitive, playoff team.
Kupchak has proven on multiple occasions that he is capable of making superb transactions and is among the best general managers in the NBA. The situation regarding Jim Buss is different, considering those around the Lakers bring up the three-year window.
If the organization and Jeanie Buss want to move on from Jim Buss, it would make more sense to wait until the end of the season. The Lakers still have half the season to prove that they are capable of significant improvements.
If the team can hit a stride and show signs of vast improvement, it will take the pressure off of the organization. Jeanie Buss made recent statements saying that any speculation now would be wasted time, but the discussions will come up if the Lakers trend downward. While we shouldn’t ever rule out an organizational shift, it doesn’t seem as likely to happen anytime before the end of the season.
Daniel Starkand (@DStarkand)
It is no question that the past few seasons have been the worst stretch in Lakers history, and a lot of that can be attributed to how Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak have run the team.
Buss has not always put the organization first, for instance when he decided to hire Mike D’Antoni over Phil Jackson in 2012 for what we all knew were personal reasons.
Kupchak has also made some questionable decisions, with the worst in my opinion being trading four draft picks to the Phoenix Suns for Steve Nash, who only played 65 games with the team. They are still dealing with the repercussions from that trade as they will lose their first-round pick this year if it does not fall in the top three.
While I think it would be justifiable if the Lakers decided to move on from both, I believe that the Lakers should only get rid of Buss and keep Kupchak.
It seems as if Jim’s sister, Jeanie, has a better understanding of how their father Jerry ran the team, so I think she should take over the role of executive vice president of basketball operations.
Kupchak has made some questionable decisions, but I still believe he is capable of putting a championship team together the way he has in years past. He hasn’t lured any big free agents to Los Angeles the last few offseasons, but that is tough to do when there is not much talent on your roster.
I think he should be given some more time to see if the young players he drafted can develop into stars, and if that is the case, then Los Angeles will again become attractive to free agents.
Nick Torres (@Nickotee)
The Lakers are currently in a rebuild, and Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss are leading the way.
With the way the team has performed the past few seasons, many fans have expressed their frustration. As much as I appreciate the work they both have done for the team; I believe that it is now time to move on from both.
The hiring of Luke Walton over the summer signaled a new beginning for a franchise in need of a direction. Do not get me wrong, Kupchak has been tremendous for the Lakers during his tenure, but the league has become more innovative in finding new ways of maximizing player potential.
The inability to attract premier free agents hasn’t helped their cause either. I understand that the Lakers have not helped themselves with their on-court production, but the future vision of the franchise should have been the focus during meetings to potential signees instead of dwelling on the past. I believe a new regime would further energize a fan base craving the taste of postseason success.