Lakers Name Vogel as Head Coach
May 16, 2019
To outside observers, the Los Angeles Lakers look like a trainwreck. A bad basketball team and a bad soap opera. The sudden resignation of Magic Johnson, Laker legend and President of Basketball Operations, only helped to reinforce this image.
The bungled head coaching search, which led to the Lakers losing their top two head coaching candidates, made the Lakers head coaching search look like a circus act. Despite the comedy of errors, at the end the Lakers got it right with the hiring of Frank Vogel as head coach.
As USC football fans will tell you, Pete Carroll might not have been the first choice for head coach, but he was the right choice. The hiring of Vogel as the new head coach, along with the hiring of Jason Kidd as the lead assistant coach, was a good move.
Vogel is a proven NBA head coach, a coach that stresses defense and has won in the NBA. Kidd will be a good addition in the development of the younger players, particularly Lonzo Ball. The real issue for the Lakers going forward is not the coaching staff.
The real issue is the roster. It would not matter if Phil Jackson or Greg Popovich were coaching the Lakers. The talent on the roster is just not competitive with the rest of the Western Conference. Currently, there are eight players on the Laker roster under contract for the next season: Lebron James, Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Moritz Wagner, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart, Isaac Bonga and Jemerrio Jones.
Outside of LeBron James, the roster is very young. James will be 35 in December, in his 17th season. Everyone else on the roster is 25 or younger. The Lakers will add another young player from the 2019 NBA draft, after moving up to the #4 spot in the draft through the NBA draft lottery.
This is the only pick the Lakers have in the upcoming draft, as they do not have a 2nd round pick. James is an aging superstar, but still very effective. James led the Lakers in scoring at 27.4 points per game, in assists at 8.3 per game and in rebounding at 8.5 per game. He needs help.
The real key for the Lakers will be adding quality free agents. The Lakers will need to add at least one more NBA star to help James. The NBA salary cap for 2019 is $109 million. The Lakers have $67 million committed in salaries for next season, which gives them plenty of money to add an additional star to the roster. There should be enough money to also add a veteran rebounder and a quality shooter.
The roster put together last season lacked shooters. The Lakers were 29th out of 30 teams in three-point field goal percentage at 33.3 and 29th in free throw percentage at 69.9. The real issue with the Lakers is not the coaching, it is the management of the roster.
The leadership team of Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka made several poor roster decisions. Trading DeAngelo Russell to Brooklyn was a disaster. The decision to let restricted free agent Julius Randle walk and sign with New Orleans turned out very well for New Orleans.
The decision to trade center in Ivica Zubac to the Clippers for shooter Mike Muscala only exasperated their roster issues. Zubac is only 22 years old and has a bright future. Dealing him at the trade deadline in a desperate attempt to improve the shooting and make a run at the playoffs failed miserably. The Clippers gained a starting center for a journeyman shooter.
The 2019-2020 season will be huge for Rob Pelinka, now that Johnson has left. If he can add another star to help James, along with the development of the young players, the Lakers should be a playoff team. He needs to add shooters to the Lakers roster as well.
Pelinka has already set the standard for next season, stating in an interview that: "We want to be good next year. We want to be really good." Since the Lakers have gone six straight seasons without making the playoffs, being "really good" next season can only be defined by making the playoffs.