As important as May 16 is for the Los Angeles Lakers — that'd be the date of the 2017 draft lottery, when Magic Johnson's team will find out whether it keeps its first-round pick — it's important to keep in mind it's just the first step.
The Lakers have quite a journey back to respectability ahead of them. Yet believe it or not, they're on the right track already.
If the Lakers can stay patient, flex their muscle in ways others teams can't imagine, and stick to the plan, they'll be back to championship contention in no time.
So if we were in control of Los Angeles' front office, here are the five steps we'd take to save the Lakers.
Leverage your advantages in ways other teams can't touch
The NBA's salary cap levels the playing field between the Association's richest and still-rich-but-less-well-off teams — on the court, anyway.
But there's no limit to how much you can spend off it. Moving forward, the Lakers should be head and shoulders above every team in every professional sport when it comes to facilities, training staffs, sports science, scouting, and, well, everything else.
Remember when Mark Cuban was the toast of free agents across the NBA because he outfitted his locker room with everything a player could want? The Lakers should be the modern equivalent of Cuban putting PlayStations in the lockers, only with the added bonus of being in the greatest city in the country.
If you spend handsomely and spend intelligently, no one can touch you.
As for scouting? No team should know more about any prospect on the planet than you do. The Lakers need to approach building a roster like a small-market team searching for every marginal advantage, with all the resources in the world behind their process.
That kind of support staff is essential for a front office light on decision-making experience and long on charisma, to say the least.
Combine a state-of-the-art franchise with the mystique of the Lakers — yes, it's real; it's just not enough to attract free agents on its own — and Los Angeles would be right back in the driver's seat as the premiere destination in the NBA.
From there, it's time to start fleshing out the roster ...
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Understand what you have with the current roster -- and what you don't
Lakers haters will tell you there are no future stars on this roster.
They will tell you D'Angelo Russell is an undisciplined kid who just wants to be famous. They will tell you Julius Randle can't play defense. They will tell you Brandon Ingram's too skinny and not tall enough.
They are wrong.
I'm not saying all of the young Lakers will become future All-Stars. Each one has a very bright future so long as the team supports his development, however, which is more than most teams can say. Oh, and then there's the diamond in the rough, Ivica Zubac.
So in a best-case scenario, Los Angeles already has a starting center, a guard who can play either position, and at least one starting forward.
Taking stock of the current roster is important, because it tells you which pieces you need to add moving forward. Sure, in the draft, you can go with "best player available," but in free agency and on the trade market, it's important to target players with specific skill sets.
3-point shooting on the wing is crucial, as is a defensive stopper of some sort who can guard the opponent's top scorer on a nightly basis. If you can wrap up those two skills into one player, even better.
The goal shouldn't be to make the playoffs overnight, though. The real key is building a solid roster that's just one piece away from making the leap ...
Start laying the groundwork to sign Paul George in free agency
George is the ultimate prize for the Lakers in the near future: a versatile superstar who unleashes your team on offense and defense. In fact, one of the biggest concerns for this team is that it'll try to trade for George rather than let him sign in free agency.
Assuming the Celtics don't make their Godfather offer to the Pacers and start a bidding war, though, Los Angeles should make sure the roster is as appealing as possible for George next summer.
That doesn't necessarily mean going for broke with some of the big-name free agents this summer, but taking meetings with guys like Gordon Hayward and Chris Paul couldn't hurt. More likely targets include J.J. Redick (if the Clippers implode), Paul Millsap, Nerlens Noel, or P.J. Tucker — lower tier All-Stars and role players who can help you immediately.
And if you miss on all of those guys, so be it. It's not the end of the world, but treating free agency like your last resort can end in disaster.
The Lakers need to trust their process. Identify the players who can help you in the short- and medium-term, pursue them, and avoid breaking the bank until George is ready to come home, and this team will be back in the postseason in no time.
Then you can add Klay Thompson in a couple years, and you'll really be in business.
Embrace a defense-first persona
Although the Lakers will always be synonymous with Showtime, the other end of the court is the key to taking the next step in their rebuild.
After all, if Los Angeles can't get stops, the Lakers aren't going to win games. And as long as this team is focused on improving on offense, the defense is going to suffer. It's a vicious cycle that dooms the Lakers more than the Timofey Mozgov or Luol Deng contracts ever could.
A defense-first approach changes everything. You end up concentrating on players who actually help you win basketball games, rather than those who dazzle you with their offensive skills.
Scoring's not going to be a problem for a Los Angeles team with a ton of offensive talent up and down the roster. So if the Lakers really want to turn the corner as a franchise, they need to commit to defense throughout the organization.
It's not sexy, but it wins championships.
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Above all else, be patient
For all the panic in Los Angeles, the Lakers really aren't in that bad a spot. At the very least, they've been through the worst of it.
Yet we're talking about one of the NBA's proudest franchises — a team that wants stars and wants them yesterday. That temptation is the one thing that could undo any slow but steady progress still to come.
So any time the front office feels the urge to make a big splash of a trade, just remember: rock-bottom is never that far away.
What separates teams that rebuild successfully from the Orlando Magics of the world is a plan. If the Lakers can focus on a plan, execute that plan, and stick to the plan even when things go poorly, they'll be just fine.
And for the love of all that's holy, don't trade any more first-round picks.