Good games, weird data

Magic Johnson pulls his latest illusion, leaves the Lakers in turmoil

The end of an odd and dramatic GM tenure.

Magic Johnson pulls his latest illusion, leaves the Lakers in turmoil
Photo credit: N/A (cropped by User:Noble Story) [Public domain]

While NBA fans celebrated the last home games of Dirk Nowitzki and Dwyane Wade, news broke quickly and unexpectedly. The president of basketball operations of the Los Angeles Lakers, the iconic Magic Johnson, announced his resignation. His impromptu press conference left Lakers fans stunned and non-Lakers fans giddy.

In the next few days, we’ll likely see an avalanche of coverage and scoops around the league’s most dramatic franchise. Reporters will pick through the tea leaves and anonymous sources, and even more will publish post mortems. In that spirit, let’s revisit some of the most important and unreported metrics of the Magic era.

Making the right decision on a franchise point guard

Magic infamously traded the now All-Star and then second-overall pick, D’Angelo Russell, after siding with Nick Young in his infidelity and needing both some cap space for free agents and to make room at the point for Lonzo Ball.

Critics claim that this move sold too soon on D’Lo, that the trade lost even more value when the Lakers failed to resign Brook Lopez and watched him become a stretch five of dreams for the Bucks. Yet, that’s a surface-level take. Siding with Lonzo ended up producing a league-leading result that gets far less publicity than it should:

Ensuring his own future and ours

Apparently, Magic missed complimenting players so much he quit to get back at it, marking the first time a powerful man lost his job for wanting to tweet nice things. Magic’s habit got him in hot water multiple times while running the Lakers, and in resigning, he’s drastically reduced my projections on future fines.

His work in the front office extends beyond the court and into the cultural zeitgeist. By thinking three steps ahead, and investing heavily in players the season before they head to China, Magic ensured that his team would be well-positioned to fail to trade for Anthony Davis and provide the weary LeBron some much needed rest. In doing so, he broke a streak that many analysts thought impossible.

They weren’t all hits

Seriously, why the hell did anyone sign off on that Ivica Zubac trade? The kid was a promising young big on a squad lacking depth or hope at the center position, and they dumped him to the crosstown rivals for a replacement-level big in Mike Muscala? Look at the average game score per month for both players, per Basketball Reference.

He gave up on a more productive and younger player for seemingly no reason. His resignation offered the same amount of clarity.

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Jamie Larson