Jim Buss or Jim Bust? Examining the recovery of the Lakers

Do you remember how you felt about the latest movie that came out, or maybe the newest album or video game? Most people would have some form of opinion on it.

Some will like it and some would dislike it. And some people will love it and some will hate it. The idea of forming a strong opinion goes for basically everything in life, as some people will like and dislike certain events, laws, and ideas. But this is especially true for sports.

Strong opinions have been the soup du jour now for years when it comes to sports. Most L.A. teams have a big fanbase, so plenty of opinions are being thrown around concerning them.

In the world of professional sports the term hot take is a used for describing strong opinions that are usually extreme. With the Lakers being the most successful franchise in Los Angeles, hot takes are a dime a dozen. Many of these hot takes concerning the Lakers are calling for Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss to be fired, as some blame them for the Lakers’ extreme downfall from being champions 6 years ago to being in contention for high lottery picks in the last 3 years.

But is it really their fault? Can you blame them for Mike Brown being ineffective early on in 2012, for Dwight Howard leaving, for Steve Nash breaking his leg and having multiple injuries, and for Kobe Bryant, who is known for being healthy, tearing his Achilles? Before the 2013 season they were expected to rival the Miami Heat, who were arguably one of the greatest teams in NBA history. They were being called a super team, and you can’t blame them for doing what 29 other franchises would do if in their place, which was trying to win Kobe one last ring.

Many can point out that a downfall was inevitable, and that is true. They mortgaged future draft picks in getting Nash and Howard and one of those picks could go to the Sixers next year if it falls outside of the top 3. Though that doesn’t mean Mitch and Jim have the Lakers in a bad spot. Quite the contrary is true, in fact.

They have a good young core of 2014’s seventh overall pick, Julius Randle, 2015’s second overall pick, D’Angelo Russell, a surprising second round pick in Jordan Clarkson, and Larry Nance, Jr. who is looking like a steal. To top it all off they could potentially draft Brandon Ingram, who most think is going No. 2 in this year’s upcoming draft.

While most scouts agree that only Russell, Ingram, and Randle have All-Star or better potential, many believe Clarkson and Nance, Jr. can be good role players. The Lakers have done a good job rebuilding and that shows in the quality picks that they have made.

By all standards, they have not been perfect. One opinion that most Lakers fans would agree with is that they have struck out on free agency every summer since 2013 when Howard left. They tried to land stars such as Dwight in 2013, Carmelo Anthony in 2014, and LaMarcus Aldridge this past summer. Each time, they failed at signing the next guy to push the Lakers to the playoffs, and in doing so Mitch and Jim missed out on mid-tier talent willing to sign with L.A.

The problem with some fans is that they think signing a star is easy, and every year fans of all 30 franchises want their team to sign a star, and Lakers fans are no different. They always want the front office to sign a superstar but if the star player signs with a different team those same fans will get mad at Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak for not signing the star and missing out on mid-tier talent. But Going after Kevin Durant will be different.

In past years, the Lakers only had enough cap space to sign one superstar and no one else due to Kobe’s large contract. That made it impossible to sign other players while the star they wanted contemplated his decision. Now with Kobe’s contract off the books, they have more than $60 million in cap space so they can attempt to sign Durant while still having enough cap space to sign other quality players such as Al Horford, Kent Bazemore and Nicolas Batum before KD makes a decision.

Some people will bring up bad coaching hires as a way to blame Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak. While the majority of the hires look bad now they didn’t at the time. Mike Brown and Byron Scott looked to be a quality hires at the time, and Mike D’Antoni looked like a great hire for the Lakers. He used to coach Steve Nash, and ran a great modern offense that made average players look great. Even though those hires didn’t work out in the end, they still ended up with a potentially great coach who will be a huge improvement over Byron Scott in Luke Walton.

Sure, they haven’t been the greatest front office. They’ve made mistakes and haven’t had good luck at signing free agents. But they haven’t done a bad job considering how bad of a roster they had just 3 years ago, when their best young talent on the team was Ryan Kelly. The Lakers have come a long way since then and have turned the team and franchise around into a successful rebuilding mode with great draft picks. For now there is no need for hot takes and overreactions. Mitch and Jim have set up a good future for the Lakers and it looks bright.

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