On a fine Tuesday morning, Los Angeles Lakers legend and former executive Magic Johnson went on a media tour on ESPN blasting the team's roster construction. While there was a valid argument in his take about why the Lakers should've acquired DeMar DeRozan instead of Russell Westbrook, his lack of knowledge about how the salary cap works was embarrassing. Let's break it down:
No, the Lakers couldn't have DeRozan, Buddy Hield, and Alex Caruso.
Johnson guested on ESPN's "Get Up" and hopped on their 710 radio broadcast called "Keyshawn, JWill, and Max " The five-time champion went out of his way to say that DeRozan's agent reached out to him, and Magic suggested to Pelinka to get it done.
"I no-look (passed)! I said 'Hey, talk to Aaron (Goodwin, DeMar's agent), you guys work that out, I'm out of it now.' And it didn't happen. But they were negotiating. And then here comes this Westbrook thing out of nowhere," Johnson said.
Johnson did the right thing by helping Pelinka coordinate with DeRozan's agent. After all, he was probably right that the Purple and Gold should have chased DeRozan instead of Westbrook, especially since the former is having one of the best seasons in his career.
However, what's wrong in Johnson's segment was saying the Lakers could have had DeRozan and Buddy Hield while retaining Caruso and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (KCP)
"So that's what really hurt the Lakers, not making those two moves. And guess what. We get to keep Caruso! We get to keep KCP. Those were our best two on-ball defenders. Them guys lock up people. And I was on with Stephen A., I said, 'Man, they can't let Caruso go.' And what happened. They let him go. He was unselfish. Doesn't care about shots. He was top 10 in steals, deflections. That Caruso? He makes a difference. And taking charges. That turns a team around. That puts you in a position to be playing winning basketball," Johnson said.
These are inaccurate because of the following:
- If the Lakers had acquired DeRozan via sign-and-trade, they would've been hard-capped, which meant they couldn't sign Caruso or even use his bird rights.
- If the Lakers traded for DeRozan via sign-and-trade, they wouldn't have the salary cap room to also acquire Hield. Their only salary filler was Kyle Kuzma, who would've gone to the Spurs if the DeRozan trade pushed through. Nabbing DeRozan would have restricted their roster construction moves (because, again, they would've been hard-capped), which meant they couldn't keep both Caruso and KCP, who would've been included in them the trade for DeRozan anyway.
- What NBA cap space guidebook is Magic Johnson reading?
The only correct way to look at this is that the Lakers could've had DeRozan (who reportedly was willing to take a pay cut) and have kept KCP but not been allowed to trade for Hield. If this deal went through, L.A.'s roster would be built around LeBron James, Anthony Davis, KCP, Derozan, and less than $30 million to fill out the rest.
This also means that Los Angeles wouldn't have been able to keep Talen Horton-Tucker and would've had no rights to a mid-level exception asset.
Johnson has no idea what he's saying.
Johnson, who once supported the idea of the Lakers trading for Westbrook, has no idea how the NBA cap space works based on his takes. The fact that the NBA legend doesn't know that the Lakers couldn't have DeRozan and Hield should let the world know how serious his segment on ESPN was - or how competent he was to run the Lakers.
But ultimately, it's disheartening to know that many basketball fans rely on sports shows like ESPN for their daily information on all things hoops, and they have the audacity to air something like this. It's even more disappointing to realize that Johnson, who Lakers owner Jeanie Buss considers a consultant, looked like a hypocrite on air stating inaccurate facts.