Was Magic Johnson still improving when he retired?

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Was Magic Johnson still improving when he retired? 

Post#1 » by D.Brasco » Thu Nov 25, 2021 1:41 am

Magic was only 32 when he retired and most say he was in his prime at that time. Had he continued to play deeper into the 90s are there any facets he might have actually added to his game or was he as he good as he would have ever been at that time? which of course was pretty amazing.

Would the shorter 3 point line years have benefited him?
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Re: Was Magic Johnson still improving when he retired? 

Post#2 » by ty 4191 » Thu Nov 25, 2021 2:15 pm

He had 3 consecutive seasons with 15 Win Shares to end his career. He had 8 VORP all three years. He even led in MP, 3PA, 3PM, AST, DRB in the 1991 playoffs.

He was still evolving by the time Dunleavy took over the team and totally restructured the Lakers game plan. He had become a very good/high volume (for that era) three point shooter and (I think- correct me if I'm wrong here)- took over the role of main scorer once Kareem really fell off a cliff (1988-1989).

I think given his career arc, he shoots a ton of threes through age 36, becomes the leader of the team offensively. He probably is moved away from point at he ages naturally and slows down/loses dexterity.

Without HIV, Magic likely ends up with outstanding longevity records (for that era) in addition to tremendous peak performance.

And, he ends up as Player Of That Entire Generation, easily.
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Re: Was Magic Johnson still improving when he retired? 

Post#3 » by No-more-rings » Thu Nov 25, 2021 3:57 pm

In some areas perhaps, but not as an overall player.
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Re: Was Magic Johnson still improving when he retired? 

Post#4 » by fanofthegreats » Thu Nov 25, 2021 4:29 pm

I think Magic continues to solidify his case as possible GOAT offensive player if he stays healthy. His basketball iq was on full blast at the start of the 90s.
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Re: Was Magic Johnson still improving when he retired? 

Post#5 » by ceiling raiser » Thu Nov 25, 2021 10:00 pm

I'm not sure about still improving as a player, but I think his improvements in terms of IQ (which was already GOAT level) and scoring skillset would've offset his athletic decline.

I know people don't like playing the what if game here, but I think Magic is one of several players for whom it makes sense. The plan was actually to return after the Olympics and avoid back-to-backs. I made a thread on this a while back. Even with *then current* knowledge of HIV, he could've played 2-4 (he said two more years at most, but since he loved basketball and played as late as 95-96, who knows?).

The only other players I'd make exceptions for are Rick Barry, Wilt Chamberlain, and Zelmo Beaty. All three switched from the NBA to the ABA, and had to sit out an option year. In Wilt's case, he never played again (though accounts are mixed on whether he intended to play for San Diego).
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Re: Was Magic Johnson still improving when he retired? 

Post#6 » by prolific passer » Fri Nov 26, 2021 1:27 am

Like others have said. His bball iq was at an all time high by 91. Pretty much adjusted his game throughout the game in whatever the team needed from him. He was a freight train when it it came to getting to the hoop at 6'9" and probably around 230 or so. One of the best ft shooters in the game during that time so you couldn't foul him. Won the mvp in 89 and 90 and finished 2nd in 91.
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Re: Was Magic Johnson still improving when he retired? 

Post#7 » by ty 4191 » Fri Nov 26, 2021 1:40 am

He really was trying threes, bigtime. I think the extremely shortened 3 point line (95-97) might have really have helped him. Even if he was old/a role player by this time.

And people say, well the franchise fell apart- well Showtime ended with Magic's announcement. And it did, figuratively, and, literally, in the book.

https://www.amazon.com/Showtime-Kareem-Angeles-Lakers-Dynasty/dp/1592408877/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=showtime+lakers&qid=1637890824&sr=8-1

But maybe with Magic still on the team after 91', the franchise doesn't fall apart. Maybe he could have essentially run the show (being like a son to Dr. Jerry Buss)...and help keep them excellent in the 90's...
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Re: Was Magic Johnson still improving when he retired? 

Post#8 » by GSP » Fri Nov 26, 2021 2:38 am

His offensive skills were improving. His 3pt shot especially but his defense was getting alot worse.
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Re: Was Magic Johnson still improving when he retired? 

Post#9 » by D.Brasco » Fri Nov 26, 2021 3:53 pm

GSP wrote:His offensive skills were improving. His 3pt shot especially but his defense was getting alot worse.


Can you expand on this? From my understanding he never really defended the opposing guards, was he just slacking off more in general in the front court?
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Re: Was Magic Johnson still improving when he retired? 

Post#10 » by DQuinn1575 » Fri Nov 26, 2021 4:22 pm

No,
Virtually no one improves when they are 33. Yes he was one of the top players in the league, and probably would have been so for 2-4 years.
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Re: Was Magic Johnson still improving when he retired? 

Post#11 » by 70sFan » Fri Nov 26, 2021 4:27 pm

D.Brasco wrote:
GSP wrote:His offensive skills were improving. His 3pt shot especially but his defense was getting alot worse.


Can you expand on this? From my understanding he never really defended the opposing guards, was he just slacking off more in general in the front court?

Younger Magic wasn't a shutdown defender, but he was very active and had his value as a help defender. When motivated, he could really impact team defense and even though he was never very quick laterally, he could guard bigger guards and forwards fairly well.

Old Magic was clearly a negative on defense. He couldn't defend most guards, so Lakers hide him on non-scoring forwards but sometimes it wasn't possible. On top of that, old Magic was non-existant as a help defender.

The difference is clear and I can present it by a simple example - Magic guarded Julius Erving fairly often in the early 1980s. He didn't do a great job, but he wasn't smoked. I can't imagine 1991 Magic trying to guard prime Dr J.
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Re: Was Magic Johnson still improving when he retired? 

Post#12 » by prolific passer » Fri Nov 26, 2021 5:51 pm

Be interesting to see how the lakers build around Magic from 92-95 or 96. Most players during that time played till they were 35-36 years old. Some were able to keep going strong till that age. Magic I could see being one of those.
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Re: Was Magic Johnson still improving when he retired? 

Post#13 » by ty 4191 » Fri Nov 26, 2021 6:12 pm

70sFan wrote:The difference is clear and I can present it by a simple example - Magic guarded Julius Erving fairly often in the early 1980s. He didn't do a great job, but he wasn't smoked. I can't imagine 1991 Magic trying to guard prime Dr J.


1980-1985, including playoffs:

Doctor J vs. Magic: 23.3/7.8/4.6 on .576 true shooting.

Doctor J vs. Bird: 22.5/6.7/4.1 on .497 true shooting.
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Re: Was Magic Johnson still improving when he retired? 

Post#14 » by 70sFan » Fri Nov 26, 2021 6:25 pm

ty 4191 wrote:
70sFan wrote:The difference is clear and I can present it by a simple example - Magic guarded Julius Erving fairly often in the early 1980s. He didn't do a great job, but he wasn't smoked. I can't imagine 1991 Magic trying to guard prime Dr J.


1980-1985, including playoffs:

Doctor J vs. Magic: 23.3/7.8/4.6 on .576 true shooting.

Doctor J vs. Bird: 22.5/6.7/4.1 on .497 true shooting.

Bird didn't guard Julius though, at all...
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Re: Was Magic Johnson still improving when he retired? 

Post#15 » by ty 4191 » Fri Nov 26, 2021 6:38 pm

70sFan wrote:Bird didn't guard Julius though, at all...


Who guarded Bird those years, mainly? And vice versa, on the 76ers?
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Re: Was Magic Johnson still improving when he retired? 

Post#16 » by 70sFan » Fri Nov 26, 2021 6:48 pm

ty 4191 wrote:
70sFan wrote:Bird didn't guard Julius though, at all...


Who guarded Bird those years, mainly? And vice versa, on the 76ers?

Maxwell. Julius actually guarded Bird quite a bit, along with Bobby Jones.
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Re: Was Magic Johnson still improving when he retired? 

Post#17 » by Doctor MJ » Sat Nov 27, 2021 9:24 pm

D.Brasco wrote:Magic was only 32 when he retired and most say he was in his prime at that time. Had he continued to play deeper into the 90s are there any facets he might have actually added to his game or was he as he good as he would have ever been at that time? which of course was pretty amazing.

Would the shorter 3 point line years have benefited him?


He was getting better in some ways and worse in others. I doubt we'd have seen a year better than '86-87, but I think there was good reason to think that Magic could have stayed at MVP candidacy levels for a long, long time.

Re: would shorter 3 point line have benefited him? I'm going to say yes, but it's a bit complicated.

First thing to understand I think is that there isn't any particular reason I see to think Magic needed a shorter line to thrive the way some other guys do. Outstanding shooter in general, pretty dang advanced as a 3-point shooter by age 30 for his time period, and super-tall for a shooter which means he wasn't relying on hops to get his bread & butter off the way other guys were.

So it may be that Magic would have actually benefitted more from keeping the line where it was - thus allowing him to get better and better at it where other guys couldn't have.

But with that said, you didn't want Magic camping out at the 3-point line, you wanted him to take advantage of gaps on the interior, so it might be for the best if Magic has the opportunity to shoot 3's from real estate that's closer to the fulcrum of the court.

In general, I'm going to bet on smart players adapting more adroitly to changes in landscape than other players, and so that means betting on Magic figuring stuff out while his opponents are still thrashing. No given, but a distinct possibility.
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Re: Was Magic Johnson still improving when he retired? 

Post#18 » by Doctor MJ » Sat Nov 27, 2021 9:37 pm

ty 4191 wrote:And people say, well the franchise fell apart- well Showtime ended with Magic's announcement. And it did, figuratively, and, literally, in the book.

https://www.amazon.com/Showtime-Kareem-Angeles-Lakers-Dynasty/dp/1592408877/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=showtime+lakers&qid=1637890824&sr=8-1

But maybe with Magic still on the team after 91', the franchise doesn't fall apart. Maybe he could have essentially run the show (being like a son to Dr. Jerry Buss)...and help keep them excellent in the 90's...


So, I'd object to this characterization because I think we saw in '94-95 that the Laker organization at that time was proving to be quite resilient despite not having any top tier superstars. Jerry West would of course have the GOAT Off-Season in 1996 and bring in 2 fresh knew superstars so we forget about it, but the Lakers did in fact get to the 2nd round of the playoffs with Cedric Ceballos as their lead scorer.

When I see a franchise falling apart, I look at franchises like the Cavs post-LeBron (either time), or how the Knicks, Timberwolves & Kings have looked in recent eras. When a franchise truly falls apart, they underperform their talent, and that's not what was happening with the Lakers in the era between Magic & Shaq.

By contrast, I think the Lakers franchise really did come very close to following apart in the '10s. People take it as inevitable that the Lakers will always get top tier superstars to come to their team, but I remember the s**tshow of that time period. If LeBron wasn't so supremely confident in his own ability to get players to join him there - if he'd been concerned about franchise competence at all - he probably doesn't go there.

And without a superstar coming there, you're talking about a team that had been really spinning their wheels for a while in part because they didn't keep pace with the rising tide of more analytical approaches to scouting and team-building. (Exhibit A: The Lakers deciding to make Mozgov their super-high priority free agent acquisition an old school big man who had been glued to the bench during the playoffs on the champion the previous year.)
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Re: Was Magic Johnson still improving when he retired? 

Post#19 » by ty 4191 » Sun Nov 28, 2021 3:52 am

Doctor MJ wrote:
ty 4191 wrote:And people say, well the franchise fell apart- well Showtime ended with Magic's announcement. And it did, figuratively, and, literally, in the book.

https://www.amazon.com/Showtime-Kareem-Angeles-Lakers-Dynasty/dp/1592408877/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=showtime+lakers&qid=1637890824&sr=8-1

But maybe with Magic still on the team after 91', the franchise doesn't fall apart. Maybe he could have essentially run the show (being like a son to Dr. Jerry Buss)...and help keep them excellent in the 90's...


So, I'd object to this characterization because I think we saw in '94-95 that the Laker organization at that time was proving to be quite resilient despite not having any top tier superstars. Jerry West would of course have the GOAT Off-Season in 1996 and bring in 2 fresh knew superstars so we forget about it, but the Lakers did in fact get to the 2nd round of the playoffs with Cedric Ceballos as their lead scorer.

When I see a franchise falling apart, I look at franchises like the Cavs post-LeBron (either time), or how the Knicks, Timberwolves & Kings have looked in recent eras. When a franchise truly falls apart, they underperform their talent, and that's not what was happening with the Lakers in the era between Magic & Shaq.

By contrast, I think the Lakers franchise really did come very close to following apart in the '10s. People take it as inevitable that the Lakers will always get top tier superstars to come to their team, but I remember the s**tshow of that time period. If LeBron wasn't so supremely confident in his own ability to get players to join him there - if he'd been concerned about franchise competence at all - he probably doesn't go there.

And without a superstar coming there, you're talking about a team that had been really spinning their wheels for a while in part because they didn't keep pace with the rising tide of more analytical approaches to scouting and team-building. (Exhibit A: The Lakers deciding to make Mozgov their super-high priority free agent acquisition an old school big man who had been glued to the bench during the playoffs on the champion the previous year.)


1980-1989 they Lakers won 4 Finals and lost 3 Finals.

1990-1999 they won 0 Finals and lost 2 Finals.

That's a precipitous drop off, IMHO.
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Re: Was Magic Johnson still improving when he retired? 

Post#20 » by Doctor MJ » Sun Nov 28, 2021 3:58 am

ty 4191 wrote:
Doctor MJ wrote:
ty 4191 wrote:And people say, well the franchise fell apart- well Showtime ended with Magic's announcement. And it did, figuratively, and, literally, in the book.

https://www.amazon.com/Showtime-Kareem-Angeles-Lakers-Dynasty/dp/1592408877/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=showtime+lakers&qid=1637890824&sr=8-1

But maybe with Magic still on the team after 91', the franchise doesn't fall apart. Maybe he could have essentially run the show (being like a son to Dr. Jerry Buss)...and help keep them excellent in the 90's...


So, I'd object to this characterization because I think we saw in '94-95 that the Laker organization at that time was proving to be quite resilient despite not having any top tier superstars. Jerry West would of course have the GOAT Off-Season in 1996 and bring in 2 fresh knew superstars so we forget about it, but the Lakers did in fact get to the 2nd round of the playoffs with Cedric Ceballos as their lead scorer.

When I see a franchise falling apart, I look at franchises like the Cavs post-LeBron (either time), or how the Knicks, Timberwolves & Kings have looked in recent eras. When a franchise truly falls apart, they underperform their talent, and that's not what was happening with the Lakers in the era between Magic & Shaq.

By contrast, I think the Lakers franchise really did come very close to following apart in the '10s. People take it as inevitable that the Lakers will always get top tier superstars to come to their team, but I remember the s**tshow of that time period. If LeBron wasn't so supremely confident in his own ability to get players to join him there - if he'd been concerned about franchise competence at all - he probably doesn't go there.

And without a superstar coming there, you're talking about a team that had been really spinning their wheels for a while in part because they didn't keep pace with the rising tide of more analytical approaches to scouting and team-building. (Exhibit A: The Lakers deciding to make Mozgov their super-high priority free agent acquisition an old school big man who had been glued to the bench during the playoffs on the champion the previous year.)


1980-1989 they Lakers won 4 Finals and lost 3 Finals.

1990-1999 they won 0 Finals and lost 2 Finals.

That's a precipitous drop off, IMHO.


Okay, but that's not a realistic barometer for the long-term health of a franchise.

The reality is that the basketball culture of the Lakers remained very strong through the '90s in a way it didn't in the '10s, and to me that's the more meaningful distinction.
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