GM Mitch Kupchak Has Cost The Lakers In Free Agency

Magic Johnson, who was recently hired as a special advisor to Lakers co-owner Jeanie Buss, has heard from agents and executives around the league that GM Mitch Kupchak‘s management style is frustrating to deal with and it has cost the team in free agency, according to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com. Shelburne names Isaiah Thomas, Kent Bazemore, Kyle Lowry and Pau Gasol among the players who have signed elsewhere because of the GM.

“He’s the only GM in the league who won’t engage at all before 9:01 p.m. [PT] on the first night of free agency. Then when he calls to express interest, there’s no stickiness to it,” an anonymous player agent said of dealing with Kupchak.

Of course, speaking with players before the opening of free agency technically qualifies as tampering, though Shelburne notes that there are ways of gathering information on free agents without breaking the rules, so that the team doesn’t begin the process behind the competition. The Lakers aren’t operating like other franchises and it has contributed to the lack of success in free agency. Kupchak’s decision to chase stars has also been problematic.

Thomas told ESPN’s Zach Lowe back in 2014 that he always envisioned himself playing for the Lakers, but the franchise was “waiting on Carmelo Anthony and other moves” when he was a free agent during the summer of 2014. In the same summer, the Lakers were interested in signing Lowry, but they told him they would prefer to wait until Anthony made a decision. Anthony never came to the Lakers and both players signed elsewhere.

During the 2015 offseason, Los Angeles told Bazemore to wait on an offer while it unsuccessfully chased LaMarcus Aldridge, Greg Monroe, and DeAndre Jordan. Bazemore ended up becoming a free agent again after a successful 2015/16 campaign with Atlanta. This time, the Lakers went after him more aggressively, presenting him with an offer that was more lucrative than Atlanta’s. However, Bazemore decided to be loyal to the team that gave him an expanded role and re-signed with Atlanta.

According to Shelburne, Kupchak rarely communicates with Jeanie Buss because he believes that he only reports to her brother Jim, who handles the team’s basketball operations. She handles the business affairs and mostly stays away from transactions on the court. Buss has often said that she learns of the on-court decisions through the news or texts from her brother.

Johnson is keeping an open mind when evaluating whether or not Kupchak should stay on as GM. As an advisor, he doesn’t have decision-making power, but he is expected to help Jeanie Buss reassess the basketball operations side of the franchise. Kupchak has been in the organization since 1986 when Johnson was a player on the team.

After the All-Star break, Jim Buss, Johnson, and Kupchak will meet to discuss the team’s moves over the last several seasons.

“I’m taking Magic at face value, that he’s here to help,” Jim Buss said. “He’s one of the greatest basketball players of all time. Who wouldn’t value his opinion? I’m excited to work with Magic for years to come.”

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17 thoughts on “GM Mitch Kupchak Has Cost The Lakers In Free Agency

  1. Formerlyz

    This is interesting b/c I seem to remember something similar being mentioned about Jim Buss at some point in the last year or so

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  2. aarongill

    Very interesting, I’ve always like Mitch and blamed Buss for the failures but This piece on Mitch changes that both are to blame. We need a house clean.

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    • Dretorade

      I felt the same about Mitch. but if this is an accurate article. Mitch needs to go too. Let magic attempt to convince free agents to come to LA

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  3. Ok the title of the article doesn’t really fit what is actually written. It should say Lakers Lost Key Free Agents Waiting On Old Stars To Deny Them. Having said that of the guys mentioned, the only two I wish the Lakers had were Thomas and Lowry, and even then we’d never be able to see what becomes of D’Angelo. The Deng and Mozgov contracts are terrible, but beyond that the Lakers are full of cheap efficient players. I think they’ve drafted well with their lottery picks and are only a season or two away from making the leap to playoff team, especially when you look at the relative age, salary cap and contract situations of other teams around the West. I think Magic coming in will help alleviate many of the organizational concerns, having a youthful coach in Walton, and the core getting better will now attract players back to LA

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    • Pihc123

      I love Walton as a coach. As a Cavs fan I wish he’d have stayed in Cleveland to coach. He’d have been much better than mike brown again. IMHO put Magic in the drivers seat to go get players and make trades.

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    • Sure they might be a season or two away from making the playoffs, but that doesn’t mean they’re a serious contender. They’re still another two to three years (after making the playoffs with their core players) before they can actually become serious contenders. Are the fans content with waiting 4-5 years for a possibly serious contender?

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      • Yes, rebuilding a team takes about 10 years. How long did it take from Magic, Worthy, Kareem era too Shaq, Kobe, Fisher era.

        It’s also foolish thinking that we can compete with the San Antonio Spurs, Cleveland Cavalier, Golden State Warriors over the next 3 years but in 4-6 years things will shift in our favor.

        Go Lakers, let’s build our team so we can kick some butt, Lakers 2020 + Will be our time to shine.

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  4. Reflect

    So it sounds like Mitch is being criticized because he did not try to unethically bypass NBA rules and recruit players before free agency started? I’m no defender of any of these Laker clowns but this time it seems like the criticism is unwarranted. Blame the other 29 GMs who aren’t playing by the rules, or the commissioner who is allowing this trend to continue.

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  5. I myself won’t question kupchak’s ability.
    Clarkson and Zubac are nice gets.
    I think people forget that we had to deal with franchise recognition by backing kobe.
    That alone changed their short term scope of drafting; I’m sure.
    MK did for the franchise what was asked of him.
    Hard to lay immense blame on him just because he was and is the GM during all of this

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  6. Jim Buss has to go and I wouldn’t mind a team supporting Jesse Buss evaluating talent. The younger Buss has proven to be much better at this basketball thing than big brother Jim, with late first round pickups lie Zubac, Nance, and even picking up Clarkson in the second round.

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  7. sorayablue

    Convince Jerry West to come back even if only as an advisor! Please!!!!

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  8. liamsfg

    Well any chance of competing went out the window with the Deng and Mozgov contracts.

    With so many cheap young players on the Lakers, they blew all their money on two big men who are now coming off the bench , instead of playing smart.

    Now they’re out for the count on any decent free agents that would have taken that Mozgov contract or less but are much more valuable players. Dumb move, dumb GM simply put.

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  9. expertatgame

    Mitch, one of the great GM’s in the league. Has picked up some great young players and is a true leader. Lakers are on the right track, no worries. Probably a player away and a year or two away to a championship. Plus, no easy assignment running that front office, lol

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  10. expertatgame

    also, great scouts,,,,really Ryan West and Kevin Grevey

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  11. expertatgame

    West and Grevey are as good as it gets, as far as im concerned. lucky to have them

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