This offseason has been a positive one for the Los Angeles Lakers, who not only landed Lonzo Ball in the NBA Draft but also managed to secure the services of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in free agency.
Last summer, however, did not go quite as well. Shortly after the free agency period began, then-general manager Mitch Kupchak and vice president of basketball operations Jim Buss gave massive, four-year deals to aging veterans Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng, and apparently even team president Jeanie Buss wasn’t sure what the thinking was on these signings.
Last summer, the league went on a spending spree thanks to a massive spike in the salary cap. Many teams gave out massive deals to players who probably weren’t quite worth that much, but even in that context, the Mozgov and Deng deals were difficult to justify.
According to a recent article from Bill Oram of the Southern California News Group, Buss herself didn’t understand why the team was making those moves:
Within the walls of the Lakers headquarters, Jeanie’s grand corner office had begun to feel like a cell. She could not make sense of the strategy employed by her brother and Kupchak. They had cycled through four coaches in five seasons and under their watch the Lakers won a combined 63 games in three full seasons. Last summer, they spent $136 million of precious cap space on veterans Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov, who made little sense for the direction of the team.
“I just didn’t understand what the thought process was,” she said, “whether our philosophies were so far apart that I couldn’t recognize what they were doing, or they couldn’t explain it well.”
While Mozgov and Deng have some merit as veteran mentors and can still provide something on the floor, their contracts were absolutely shocking, especially since the Lakers had spent years hoarding cap space to chase stars. They abruptly shifted their plans, and now the team is paying for it.
With Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka hoping to chase max players next summer, they had to include former second overall pick D’Angelo Russell in order to convince the Brooklyn Nets to take on Mozgov’s contract. Deng’s deal figures to be just as difficult to move, but the team may need to bite the bullet if they can convince stars to come back to Los Angeles.