In one of the most confusing resignations you will ever see in an NBA front office, Magic Johnson relieved himself of his duties as President of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Magic had the aura to sign multiple free agents, and landing LeBron James was just the start of something big for the Lakers. However, a rough first season with LeBron resulted in the Lakers missing the playoffs again, and Magic abruptly left the team at the end of the season. With the Lakers hunting for a new head coach after firing Luke Walton, there will be a lot of changes for the franchise before the NBA draft.
That leads us to the question who will become the new president of the Lakers, if anyone? The person taking on this role will also hire the next head coach so having an eye for coaching talent will be important.
Here are our five leading candidates to replace Magic Johnson as President of the Lakers.
Masai Ujiri, Toronto Raptors
Adding Ujiri would bring good and bad to the Lakers. It would be good because Ujiri is an excellent talent scout and knows how to make the most of his draft picks. The Raptors are full of late selections that have been key players in their current playoff run. Pascal Siakam looks like a steal and could be an All-Star someday.
The bad is he has made some questionable decisions from a professionalism standpoint. The first was firing former head coach Dwane Casey after the Raptors were eliminated in the Eastern Conference semifinals last year. The second was the shocking trade of star DeMar DeRozan to San Antonio for Kawhi Leonard.
Getting Leonard was a definite upgrade. He is a better player on both ends of the floor compared to DeRozan, but DeRozan felt Ujiri could have been more honest with him about his future with the team. That could spell doom for any potential free agents, as he may be deemed untrustworthy by players.
David Griffin, New Orleans Pelicans
Adding Griffin would be smart on two fronts. First, he’s always been in good graces with LeBron, and adding him to the front office would help keep the superstar happy.
Second, he is a revolutionary thinker even though some of his moves have been misses. Coach David Blatt didn’t work out with LeBron James in Cleveland, but if they put him in a rebuilding scenario, then the Cavaliers could have become a solid club in a season or two under his offensive style.
Griffin would have no problem making moves to bring Anthony Davis to the Lakers. That will be the standard for the next leader in the front office as Anthony is the one player who has verbally stated he wants to be in Los Angeles. Teaming up Davis with James would give the Lakers a good shot at the playoffs, if not the Western Conference finals. Expect Griffin to be on Jeanie Buss’ radar before the first round of the playoffs are over.
Neil Olshey, Portland Trailblazers
Portland president Neil Olshey built a perennial contender around Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, and the Trail Blazers have been the three-seed in the Western Conference the last two seasons. Olshey’s eye for talent would be an excellent fit with the Lakers young core. He has also had a great eye for coaching talent, and Los Angeles hasn’t had an elite coach since the Phil Jackson years.
Lawrence Frank, Los Angeles Clippers
Hiring Lawrence Frank might be a little out of left field, as he is under contract with the Los Angeles Clippers, but it could help the Lakers in free agency. The former coach and current Clippers president has doggedly pursued Kawhi Leonard in the past, and Leonard is a free agent in 2019. Frank going to the Lakers could lead to the possibility of Leonard going to the purple and gold, but even if they miss on him as a free agent target, Frank has been a great talent evaluator for the Clippers and would instantly boost the Lakers.
Sam Presti, Oklahoma City Thunder
Presti has been with the Thunder since their Seattle Supersonics days, and he probably is a longshot to head to the Lakers. But you won’t find a better NBA front office executive than Presti outside of Gregg Popovich or Pat Riley that can evaluate talent, make the most out of whatever position he is in for the upcoming draft, and has a strong eye for coaching.
It’s doubtful Presti will leave Russell Westbrook and Paul George to join LeBron in Los Angeles, but the Lakers will try to throw as much money as possible at Presti to get him to leave.
Which other executives might make the list?
We’re sure you are wondering why Pat Riley isn’t on this list. The former Lakers head coach would be an excellent choice to bring the team back to its glory days, but we don’t think he would give up his power in Miami. Plus, he is very loyal to ownership of the Heat. With San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich nearing the twilight of his career, might general manager R.C. Buford think about moving on to the next challenge? We’ll know more as the offseason unfolds.