clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Magic Johnson says he built this Lakers team off of last season’s playoffs. Not everyone’s convinced.

New, comments

Among other things, Johnson said during the Summer League Finals, “I watched every series, so I built this team based on what happened in the playoffs.”

Clemson v Kansas Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

In a dull Las Vegas Summer League championship game between the Trail Blazers and Lakers, it was LA team president Magic Johnson who stole the show.

Johnson sat down for an interview with Mark Jones and Chauncey Billups on ESPN’s broadcast, and he said he molded this year’s Lakers team after what he saw work in last year’s playoffs. Specifically, Johnson said he drew from the success both Houston and Boston enjoyed, each advancing to and forcing Game 7s in their respective conference finals. He also said he built the Lakers this summer based on what happened in last season’s playoffs.

“[We already know] what the bar is, and that’s Golden State,” Johnson said. “For us. We’re just trying to have a great season, get into the playoffs, and then we’ll see what happens. You’re not gonna out-Golden State Golden State. Everybody’s talking about the Lakers don’t have shooting. Oh, we have shooting. But we saw all the teams in the playoffs that had shooting; they got beat. Let’s break it down: Philly had two great shooters, but Boston took the shooters out. And who ended up winning? Boston. And they had a lot of guys that can break defenses down, and shoot. And they were committed to the defensive end. That’s why Boston advanced all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals, and they did that with two of their best players out.

“I watched every series, so I built this team based on what happened in the playoffs. You don’t build a team just for the regular season. You gotta build it for the playoffs, as well. And then we saw what Houston did. Houston didn’t have a bunch of great shooters. They had some shooters, but they had a lot of guys who can handle the basketball, and break the defenses down, and create their own shot. And so they go all the way, take Golden State to 7 games. And then, Houston had tough guys. Boston had tough guys. So what did I bring in? Tough guys. So that’s how I’m building it. I took a lot from watching Boston play, watching Houston play, then advancing, and they beat all the teams that had all the great shooters.”

Twitter had a field day with the “I watched every series, so I built this team based on what happened in the playoffs” line.

But he’s not wrong about everything

Magic is right. You’re not gonna out-Golden State Golden State. The Rockets stuck to their iso-ball, signed some tough defenders and came a Chris Paul injury away from beating the Warriors. The Celtics started with defense, shared the ball on offense, and probably would have been in the NBA Finals had Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward been healthy.

But the roster he threw together this summer isn’t Houston, and it sure as hell isn’t Boston. The Lakers landed LeBron James, re-signed Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, then added Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson and JaVale McGee. They also drafted a stretch four in Mo Wagner and will probably sign rookie shooter and Summer League standout, Svi Mykhailiuk, to a contract, too.

Just how good are the Lakers?

Earlier in the same interview, Johnson said this year’s Lakers are one of the better teams in the Western Conference. Let’s start with teams they’re not better than: Golden State and Houston.

Next? How good are the Spurs with DeMar DeRozan replacing Kawhi Leonard? Probably just as good as Oklahoma City will be with Russell Westbrook and Paul George running it back. The Jazz and Trail Blazers will probably both be in the mix for top-four seeds again next season, too.

The Lakers probably fall somewhere in this range. They’ll be better than the Pelicans, who lost Rondo and DeMarcus Cousins in free agency. And they’ll probably be in the mix with the Timberwolves and Nuggets, fighting for wins in the competition between seeds No. 4-8.

Los Angeles is definitely a playoff team. If you expect LeBron James to miss the playoffs in his first season in a Lakers jersey, you’ve gone mad. But we don’t know how good they’ll be just yet.