It's fair to say that NBA Hall of Fame great Magic Johnson has some pretty wild basketball takes. There was the time he thought Jimmer Fredette was the "real deal," or when he said he would take Brandon Knight with the No. 1 overall pick in a year where Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson and Kemba Walker were available, and of course him trying to recruit Kevin Durant, DeMar DeRozan and LeBron James to the Lakers -- that last one worked, though.
In fact, one of the reasons Johnson stepped down as the president of basketball operations with the Lakers in 2019 is because of the scrutiny he received for tampering with other players, which got the Lakers fined on several occasions, most notably a $500,000 fine for openly trying to recruit Paul George during an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Now that he's not working for an NBA franchise, though, he is free to recruit whoever he wants to the Lakers, and it appears he has set his sights on rising phenom Luka Doncic ... sort of.
During an appearance on ESPN's First Take, Johnson discussed why he wasn't worried about Anthony Davis leaving the Lakers this summer despite the fact he has a player option.
"Anthony Davis now is known across the world because of the platform of the Lakers, and then him and LeBron next season, they could repeat," Johnson said. "You don't want to leave here, and not have a guy like LeBron James playing alongside of you because the same thing that happened in New Orleans would happen to Anthony Davis again. They make each other better, and then last but not least, when LeBron retires, he just says, 'here Anthony Davis, it's your team now, you go on and lead the Lakers to the next five to six championships.'"
Just as Johnson finishes, Max Kellerman jumps in with a "just in time for Luka to get there," comment, and while Magic at first didn't understand what he meant by that, saying "we're not worried about Luka [and the Mavericks] right now," Kellerman clarifies in saying that the Lakers will need the next superstar to pair with Davis when LeBron retires. That's when the four-time NBA champion gets excited by the idea.
"Aye that's right, Luka come on to the Lakers, I like that," Johnson said.
While it was all said in jest, and in no way the focal point of their conversation, it is something that the Mavericks will certainly have to worry about as Doncic's star continues to rise. In just his first two years in the league, the 21-year-old prodigy has won Rookie of the Year, been named an All-Star starter, was selected to the All-NBA first team, and became the second-youngest player to finish in the top five of MVP voting in league history. He would've been the youngest to do that had the season ended on time in June.
During the Mavericks' first-round playoff series, Doncic played phenomenally, averaging 31 points, 9.8 assists and 8.7 rebounds, while shooting 50 percent from the field and 36.4 percent from 3-point range, both major improvements from what he was putting up in the regular season. He's leaps and bounds ahead of where most of his peers are at his age, and what's better, he has Dallas winning early in his career. His playoff performance, especially his game-winner in Game 4 against the Clippers, put the rest of the league on notice that he's the real deal. That's great for Dallas for the time being, as he's under contract for at least the next two seasons, and then will be eligible for a rookie max extension after that.
But looking even further into the future, you can bet that other teams will try to recruit him throughout his career. He can score at all three levels, is a technician when he's passing the ball, and his 6-8 frame allows him to crash the boards and come up with rebounds. He's a do-it-all offensive player, and in the postseason, he showed that he can be a passable defender, too. Doncic's style of play would fit any franchise and around any type of player, and similar to LeBron James, he makes his teammates better. Of course every franchise in the league would want to build a championship team around him.
All the Mavericks can hope for is that he has a bit of Dirk Nowitzki in him where he doesn't entertain playing for another team. In this era, though, where players switch teams for new opportunities or to chase a championship, it's hard to predict what any of these guys will do. Just as every general manager is cooking up a plan for how to convince Giannis Antetokounmpo to leave the Milwaukee Bucks next summer, the same strategizing will be in place years from now when Doncic becomes an unrestricted free agent.