The Los Angeles Lakers haven’t had much success on the free agent market in recent years, missing out on superstar targets and ultimately signing Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng to questionable deals. If they hope to reclaim their spot on top of the NBA, failing to land talent in free agency is a trend that will have to change quickly.
New general manager Rob Pelinka aims to do just that. During Pelinka’s introductory press conference, President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson shared that the new GM is already plotting strategy for not just this summer’s free agent class, but the next five years as well (via Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times):
Rob Pelinka charted out potential free agents for the next 5 years, Johnson says. Who would be available, how much they could make.
— Tania Ganguli (@taniaganguli) March 10, 2017
Pelinka, who formerly was an agent, hopes that the relationships that he has built around the league will help him in his efforts to bring the club back from the brink. While many saw the hiring of head coach Luke Walton last summer as a sign that the Lakers want to mimic the success of his previous employer, the Golden State Warriors, Pelinka asserted that he wants the team to forge their own identity (via Lakers Nation reporter Serena Winters):
Pelinka: "We’re not trying to replicate anything, we’re trying to create our own identity here."
— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) March 10, 2017
Pelinka has some young building blocks to work with, including Julius Randle, Brandon Ingram, D’Angelo Russell, and Ivica Zubac, but the Lakers will still need plenty of help if they are going to return to the top of the NBA mountain.
Pelinka and Johnson certainly have their work cut out for them, but so far they have said and done the right things. The real test will begin this summer when they will have to navigate the always-tricky NBA Draft and free agency period.