Timofey Mozgov signed a 4 year, 64 million dollar contract to play for the Los Angels Lakers. At 16 million per year, Mozgov isn’t the worst value in the word. He’s set to turn 30 in a couple of weeks, and is a season removed from being 7th amongst centers in defensive plus-minus. In a team that relied on Roy Hibbert to protect the paint, Mozgov should be a welcomed addition, but his signing spoke volumes on the state of the Lakers franchise.
Not too long ago, it was almost a given that any top free agent on the market would have his eye out to for the Lakers. The weather was great, the city is star-friendly, and they have a rich history of success. Recently, that hasn’t been the case. After the failed attempt of a big three lead by over the hill Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, and injured Dwight Howard, the Lakers have had three free-fall like seasons. In the age of social networking, stars are now more than ever enabled to grow their brands wherever they are. In 2000, a fan in Philadelphia wouldn’t know much about Giannis Antetokoumpo or Rodney Hood. Today, fans have all their latest highlights thanks to live tweeting, and an NBA writing community that’s robust with content.
So what does that mean for the Lakers? It means Greg Monroe picks the Milwaukee Bucks over you. It means Hassan Whiteside won’t even hear a pitch from you. It means Nic Batum won’t even meet you in person. And worst of all, it means Kevin Durant will meet with the Clippers before he even entertains the thought of wearing the Purple and Gold.
All isn’t lost in Laker land though. The team has an intriguing blend of young talent such as D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Brandon Ingram, Larry Nance Jr., and Julius Randle. They also have a solid young coach in Luke Walton– who’s been coaching the best team in the world for the last seasons. If the Lakers take a more slower approach, and allow their young kids to blossom, they could have serious free agent pitch to make in two-three years. With Kobe Bryant no longer taking up 30.7% of the Lakers usuage rates up, there will be a greater chance for their young prospects. Russell can handle the point more, Randle can get some post-touches, and Ingram will have a chance to do more than just stand in a corner. The future in LA has potential to be bright, but as long as ownership continues to apply unnecessary pressure to win now, the team will never reach it’s high ceiling. It’s 2016, the allure of the LA life is no longer a hard enough sell over a winning culuture. Stay low, build, and once the product becomes tangible, so will the attracted free agents.