If you were looking for any proof that the Magic Johnson era has begun in Hollywood, then look no further. It was no secret that the Lakers have been looking to offload the almost puzzling contracts of Timofey Mozgov (4-yrs/$64 million) and Luol Deng (4-yrs/$72 million) that were given by former general manager Mitch Kupchack during the 2016 NBA offseason.

It was also no surprise that Magic Johnson was not impressed by the Lakers 2015 first round draft pick from Ohio State, D’Angelo Russell. While there may have been writing on the wall of a trade revolving around one or multiple of the three players previously mentioned, the actual trade itself is extremely puzzling. The question that we now ask ourselves as basketball fans is: how did we get here?

2014 - 2015

To find out how we got here we need to go back three years ago to 2014. The 2014-2015 NBA season for the Los Angeles Lakers was arguably the worst season the franchise had faced since the 20th century. Forbes carried the story of the resignation of Head coach Mike D’Antoni following two horrific campaigns in charge of the team and former Cavaliers and Hornets head coach, Byron Scott was oddly chosen to try and lift the franchise out of the hole that both D’Antoni and incompetence put them into.

The reason why I say the hiring of Byron Scott was an odd choice by the Lakers is because Scott has a history of struggling with young teams. He has developed a reputation of only being able to succeed with veterans and on a team like the Lakers who only featured two players over the age of thirty (Kobe Bryant, Ronnie Price, & Carlos Boozer) which made the hiring of Byron Scott made in all honesty little sense.

The misery for the Lakers only continued going into that season as one of their main pieces during their most recent two title runs, Pau Gasol, left in free agency to sign with the Chicago Bulls.

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Following Gasol’s departure, the Lakers attempted to bring in NBA superstars such as LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony (to which both attempts were utter failures) and ended up acquiring Jeremy Lin from the rockets and through amnesty received Carlos Boozer.

Much like Kobe Bryant’s rapidly approaching end of his career, so was the end of what was one of the most dominant franchises of the last twenty years; the two seemed to go hand in hand with one another. When they finally got on the court the season for the Los Angeles Lakers seemed to take an early omen for the failure that was to come when 1st round draft pick Julius Randle out of the University of Kentucky, was injured during the season opener against the Houston Rockets and missed the entirety of his first NBA season. The Lakers started off the season at 1-9 that year and finished at 21-61. It was the first 60 loss season in the franchise's long history.

2015 - 2016

The 2015-2016 NBA season did not bring any additional joy to the Lakers fan base. In Kobe Bryant’s final season, the Lakers continued to suffer due to their inability to move on from a franchise legend. The Lakers during the 2015 NBA draft were the owners of the second overall pick. With it, they took what was going to be the franchise centerpiece of the new Lakers named, D’Angelo Russell. Russell, a 19-year-old shooting guard out of Ohio State University. He was a McDonald’s All-American in high school as well as a five-star recruit, and First-Team All-American in his only collegiate season: averaging nineteen points, six rebounds, and five assists per game for the Buckeyes.

While Russell did have his struggles during his first NBA season, he still averaged thirteen points, three rebounds, and three assists per game in just twenty-eight minutes per game. Russell also achieved the most steals per game of any rookie in basketball, as per NBA.com stats. He was youngest player ever to hit 130 three-pointers in a season, and finished the season earning NBA All-Rookie Second-Team honors.

The Lakers other offseason acquisitions were puzzling again at best: they traded for a once solid center in Roy Hibbert, signed veteran power-forward Brandon Bass, brought back forward Metta World Peace, and in what seemed like would be their best move in several years, signed the reigning NBA Sixth Man of the Year, Lou Williams.

These moves ended up being fruitless as the Byron Scott led team once again finished with their worst record in franchise history, 17-65. The most memorable part of the horrid season for the Lakers was Kobe Bryant scoring sixty points on fifty shots in the regular season finale at home against the Utah Jazz. As the 2015-2016 NBA season closed for the Los Angeles Lakers, so did the career of Kobe Bryant; a man who had been a franchise staple for most of the twenty seasons that he played for the purple & gold.

Bryant’s retirement signaled one very important thing to both the Lakers front office and fan base: it was time for a new generation of Lakers basketball.

2016 - 2017

For the second straight draft in a row, the Los Angeles Lakers had the 2nd overall pick. With it, they took small-forward Brandon Ingram of Kingston, North Carolina and Duke University. With the selection of Ingram the Lakers suddenly found themselves with a nice young core of Ingram, Russell, Randle, and Nance off the bench. The future suddenly had a light at the end of the tunnel for the Lakers. Unfortunately, the patience of the Buss family was about to be set to zero.

Prior to the season starting, Byron Scott was fired as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers after two seasons and was replaced by rookie head coach, Luke Walton. Then, halfway through what was going to be the sixth straight season that the Lakers would miss out on the NBA postseason, more changes came.

The Washington Times reported that on February 21st, the Lakers fired general manager Mitch Kupchack. They also fired the head of basketball operations, Jim Buss. Buss was replaced by NBA Hall of Famer and Los Angeles Lakers legend, Earvin “Magic” Johnson. Mitch Kupchack was replaced by Rob Pelinka.

Then on March 27th Jeanie Buss, daughter of former Lakers majority owner Jerry Buss, was then appointed as the majority owner of the team by the board of trustees.

The Lakers showed a bit of improvement during the season finishing with a record of 26-56 and on top of that, young starlet D’Angelo Russell continued to improve eventually average sixteen points, four rebounds, and five assists per game in the same roughly twenty-eight minutes he got the previous year. The Lakers even had an eight-win improvement from the previous season and a five-win improvement from the year before the prior one.

It did not matter, it was not good enough.

Since the 2017 NBA Finals concluded, people expected big moves to be coming. With the decision of NBA superstar Kevin Durant to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder for the Golden State Warriors last offseason the era of “super teams” had officially begun.

The reality in this league after witnessing the Warriors complete a 16-1 postseason concluded with the dismantling of the 2016 NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers in five games, that the only way to defeat this warrior team is to assemble a team consisting of at least three superstars themselves. While this strategy is something necessary for competing teams now like the Cavaliers, Celtics, Spurs, Grizzlies, and Jazz, young and rebuilding teams should not be lured into the incentive that they need to compete now and cannot continue to rebuild for another season or two.

Unfortunately for Lakers fans, the Lakers are one of those young and rebuilding teams who are trying to rush development. By yesterday’s decision to trade a potential franchise centerpiece in D’Angelo Russell, along with a big man with a bad contract (Timofey Mozgov), and a first-round pick for what is presumably one year at twenty-three million dollars of Brook Lopez (a big man who cannot rebound). It has become abundantly clear that “Magic” Johnson is in win now mode with the Lakers.

Paul George

It is also believed that the Lakers are pushing to make a trade for Indiana Pacers small-forward, Paul George before tomorrow’s draft as it was recently revealed that George informed the Pacers front office that he will be leaving after the 2017-2018 NBA season and reportedly prefers to play for the Lakers, according to a report by SBNation.

While Paul George is a very good player, I do not believe he is a good fit for the Lakers. Besides the obvious point that Paul George will command a max contract, he is not the franchise leader that the Lakers dream he is. Paul George has shown that he cannot be a Lebron James, Kawhi Leonard, or Kevin Durant is that can by themselves win at least two playoff series every year.

George’s Pacers were swept in the first round this past season and lost in seven games in the first round the year before that. While George is still a very good scorer and would be the 2nd or 3rd best player on a superstar team, that is all he is: he is not someone who can change the culture of a franchise that the Lakers are looking for.

Lebron James

Another rumor that has been released over the last few days is that the Lakers are going to make a run next season at free agent, Lebron James. I do not believe this signing would be very beneficial to the Lakers either.

The reality is Lebron James will be 33 next summer and no matter how amazing and physically gifted he is, all his miles and age will catch up to him sooner rather than later at this point. Even if Lebron has three or dominant years left in him when he becomes a free agent next summer, the Lakers still need a team to put around him.

Is a team whose superstars are Lebron James and Paul George really a better team than what the Cavaliers have now in Lebron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love?

The last issue that the Lakers would face with James is, where will he play? The Lakers already have a small forward: his name is Brandon Ingram, he is about to be 20.

In my opinion, the Lakers have done everything right on the path to reviving the once great franchise they featured up until yesterday when they traded what might be one of two young and blooming superstars already on their roster. My message to the Lakers and to “Magic” Johnson is, do not mortgage the future for a three-year window. The Warriors may be a monstrous roadblock now but they will not be here forever. Do not destroy what could be ten to fifteen years of dominance for three.

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