When Magic Johnson took over as president of basketball operations for the Los Angeles Lakers a few weeks ago, he wasted little time in making a move, opting to trade guard Lou Williams to the Houston Rockets for Corey Brewer and a 2017 first-round draft pick. At the time, that was believed to be the best 2017 first-round pick made available to them in exchange for their leading scorer.
However, a recent (and revealing) piece by Ramona Shelburne of ESPN suggests otherwise. According to Shelburne, the Utah Jazz had also offered their pick, which currently sits three spots better than the Houston pick. The Lakers didn’t make a decision fast enough, and it cost them the opportunity to make the deal, and it may have been a small part of why Jeanie Buss ultimately decided to fire Mitch Kupchak and her brother Jim:
Several teams had already inquired about high-scoring guard Lou Williams and offered draft picks. At least one of those offers (from the Houston Rockets and Utah Jazz) included a first-round pick. Why, Jeanie asked, were the Lakers waiting?
Kupchak and Jim Buss were then let go, and Johnson took over, only to find that by then, Utah’s offer was no longer on the table.
And so his first day on the job was spent fielding trade calls. Utah’s offer of a first-round pick for Williams was off the table by then, so Magic told teams he was looking for a first-round pick and a player whose salary and time left on his contract matched up with Williams’. Magic told any team that didn’t offer a first not to call back until it was ready to do so. Rockets GM Daryl Morey offered a first and Corey Brewer. Magic told him he had a deal.
While we don’t know what other piece would have gone to the Lakers to match salaries, Utah does have Boris Diaw, whose $7 million deal matches Williams’ for this season and is non-guaranteed for next year. Had that deal and the cap space it could have created been included as well as their first round pick been in the deal, then the Jazz’ offer would have been vastly better than the one the Lakers eventually accepted.
Of course, that’s simply speculation about Diaw, and the Lakers did eventually make a solid trade for Williams, but one has to wonder just how much better it could have been for Los Angeles.