How Mitch Kupchak Could Have Saved the Lakers

Matt DeNicolaCorrespondent IJune 2, 2007

IconIf his record proves anything, it's that Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak managed to pretty well destroy the dynasty that Jerry West built in Los Angeles. 
And yet he didn't lose his job.  How has he managed to keep it? 
Also be sure to check out Matt's take on How Mitch Kupchak Ruined the Lakers.
Maybe it's because of his draft day prowess. Here is Kupchak's draft history, and the players still available when he made his picks:
  • 2002: Kareem Rush, Chris Jefferies.  Still available: Carlos Boozer, Matt Barnes.
  • 2003: Brian Cook, Luke Walton.  Still available: Josh Howard, Leandro Barbosa
  • 2004: Sasha Vujacic, Marcus Douthit.  Still available:  Chris Duhon, Anderson Varej o
  • 2005: Andrew Bynum, Ronny Turiaf, Von Wafer.  (He may have done a good job here.)
  • 2006: Jordan Farmar (to complete the Shaq deal), Danilo Pinnock.  (Too soon to tell.)
The Lakers would be sitting much prettier if Kupchak had drafted Boozer, Howard, and Duhon instead of Rush, Cook, and Vujacic.  And yes, I realize that every team passes over some players who end up being good, and that you can't judge a GM by the draft alone. My only point is that Kupchak is certainly no draft-day genius—at least not to an extent that might justify keeping him around.    
So maybe it's his amazing offseason acquisitions that have kept Kupchak in the driver's seat.  Let's see...Vladimir Radmonovic, Shammond Williams, Aaron McKie, Vlade Divac. 
Hmm.  No, it couldn't be that.
Aha—I have it!  Kupchak's secret must be his intelligence in signing quality foreign players to keep up with teams like the Spurs. 
Sasha something— That's all he has found? 
I'm running out of ideas here.
Does anyone really need more clarification as to why Laker fans think Jerry West would be able to pull off a deal that Mitch Kupchak couldn't? Simply put, most Lakers fans correctly assume that they themselves would have fared better as Lakers GM than Kupchak has. 
It doesn't necessarily need to be West at the helm—it just needs to be ANYONE besides Mitch Kupchak.  He has proven time and time again that he's incapable of making the Lakers better.  And it isn't like he would've had to swing a miracle.  Here are some OBVIOUS deals that Kupchak has missed out on over the last few years: 
Carlos Boozer
First of all, the Lakers could have just drafted him—but people have forgotten how close Boozer was to coming to LA before he landed in Utah.  Many sources even reported that the terms were in place: Boozer for Caron Butler, Vlade Divac, and Devean George. 
It would be bad enough if Kupchak hadn't tried to make the deal.  It's more pathetic that the deal was pretty much settled...and he still couldn't get it done. 
Baron Davis
Davis has always wanted to play in Southern California.  He went to UCLA, hosts a charity basketball tournament in LA, and is great friends with Magic Johnson.
Back in 2005, Davis was traded from the Hornets to the Warriors for Speedy Claxton and Dale Davis.  Are you trying to tell me that Kupchak didn't have equivalent pieces to move?  If Kupchak were a good GM, he could have packaged Brian Grant and Chucky Atkins. If he were a stupid GM, he could have packaged some combination of Atkins/Caron Butler and Chris Mihm/Devean George. 
But Mitch Kupchak?  He didn't even try.
Allen Iverson
Denver gave up next to nothing to get AI: Andre Miller, Joe Smith, and two first-round picks.  If the Nuggets pulled it off with a weak package like that, you'd think the Lakers could have done it with some sort of Farmar/Walton/Kwame/draft picks combination.  In any event, it DEFINITELY could have been had by adding Odom or Bynum to that mix. 
But no.  Not Mitch Kupchak.
Chris Webber
This one is just plain nauseating.  Not because Webber is all that special—but because it was such a no-brainer. 
After Webber became a free agent, Kupchak wouldn't have had to give up anything to get him.  Nothing. Free.  All he had to do was offer him money.  That's it.  No trades, no risk.  The Lakers were even on Webber's "Wish List"...and they were struggling at the time, with two starters on the injured list. 
When the Lakers didn't pull the trigger, I was sick to my stomach.  I wasn't even counting on Kupchak to look toward the future I just thought he'd be able to address present needs, by making a remarkably easy deal. 
Vince Carter
In December 2004, the Nets got Carter for Alonzo Mourning, Eric Williams, Aaron Williams, and two first-round draft picks.
Kupchak would have had to TRY to put together a package that weak—he literally would have had to acquire players inferior to the ones he already had.  To be honest, I don t even know who Eric Williams is. 
I can't for the life of me understand how Kupchak didn't make a deal here...especially with Kobe begging him to turn the Lakers into contenders.  ANY combo of Laker players would have been enough.
Jason Kidd (and Carter again)
Word has it Bynum would have gotten the deal done this year.  At this point, though, Lakers fans would have been kidding themselves to believe that Kupchak was even THINKING about pulling the trigger. 
Not with his history of utter ineptitude.  
To make it even more worse, these deals weren't mutually exclusive, meaning a competent GM could have pulled off more than one of them. Of course, Mitch Kupchak isn't a competent GM.
The truth is that it shouldn't matter whether Kobe asks for a new GM or not—Kupchak needs to be fired. It's addition by subtraction. 
The actual deal the Lakers ultimately make is anyone's guess.  Acquiring Kevin Garnett would be a dream. If you pair a guy like that with a guy like Kobe, the sky's the limit. 
That said, a reasonable GM wouldn't put all his eggs in the Garnett basket which suggests that the Lakers should plan on signing Rashard Lewis. At least then a deal for Jermaine O Neal, Jason Kidd, Ron Artest, or Pau Gasol doesn t look like settling if the Lakers can't get KG...and the team has some pieces to potentially move for an even bigger name. 
Provided, of course, that Kupchak isn't still running the board.