A half a year after making their initial push, the Los Angeles Lakers finally landed the piece they’ve been searching for: Anthony Davis. On Saturday, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the New Orleans Pelicans were shipping Davis - who had requested a trade over the winter - to the Lakers, giving LeBron James the superstar teammate he’s been craving.
The Pelicans have agreed to a deal to trade Anthony Davis to the Lakers for Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, and three first-round picks – including the No. 4 overall in 2019 Draft, league sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 15, 2019
The haul is rather sizable. Not only did the Lakers part with three young players in Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Josh Hart, but they also sent off a wagon full of potential picks.
Can confirm these are the picks as @TimBontemps had earlier & @taniaganguli just put out:— Andrew Lopez (@_Andrew_Lopez) June 16, 2019
2019 No. 4 pick
2021 pick goes to NOLA if top 8, L.A. if 9-30
2022 pick to NOLA unprotected if pick doesn't confer
2024 unprotected first BUT Pels get right to defer pick to 2025
For the Lakers, the chance to acquire one of the best players in the league was simply too good to pass up.
Davis’ awkward season - one in which requested a trade, seemingly wished to stop playing for the Pelicans, and then played sparingly before shutting it down - at times swallowed the memory of just how good he is.
Still just 26 years old, Davis is only a year removed from a season in which he averaged 28.1 points, 11.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.5 steals, and 2.6 blocks per game, while finishing third in both Most Valuable Player and Defensive Player of the Year voting.
One of the two players who finished ahead of him for the MVP award? His new teammate, James.
Now the two superstars are paired, and all signs point towards their skill sets being tremendously complementary. James is one of the greatest passers in NBA history; Davis is one of this generation’s elite roll men. James has fallen off defensively, but Davis has the skills on that side of the court to cover his new teammate. They’re two of the sport’s most captivating athletic specimens, capable of making jaw-dropping plays in transition, or beating opponents in the half court.
This will be fun.
It’s unclear how much the conclusion of the 2018-19 season impacted the Lakers willingness to shove all their chips into the center of the table. Long-term injuries to Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson have knocked the Golden State Warriors off their clear spot atop the Western Conference throne. A new champion in the Toronto Raptors - led by a Finals MVP in Kawhi Leonard who is a free agent - has only added to the uncertainty of the league’s hierarchy.
The 2020 title is there to be taken. In the next nine months a few teams will emerge as clear favorites to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy. Los Angeles has a chance to become one of those teams, and they’re attempting to run with it.
Still, it remains to be seen how the Lakers plan on making their run. James and Davis is nearly as good of a two-headed dragon as you can create in this league, but the Lakers have almost literally nothing else. Kyle Kuzma remains under contract, and that’s it, as far as NBA-ready players.
Making matters worse, the timing of the deal may keep Los Angeles from achieving the requisite cap space to make a run at another star, such as Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, or Jimmy Butler.
If Pelicans and Lakers waited until July 30 to complete trade, Lakers could’ve had $32.5M in cap space --- enough to pursue a max level free agent. By waiting 30 days, Lakers would be acting like a team over the cap and thus allowed to use 4th overall pick in draft as salary. https://t.co/BdKtxFtvai— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 16, 2019
Los Angeles still has hurdles to overcome if they wish to cement themselves as favorites in the upcoming season. As tremendous of a foundation as their duo represents, when you account for injuries (they both lost notable amounts of time last year), and James’ wear and tear (34 years old, entering his 17th season), the Lakers may not have the best duo in the league.
Steph Curry and Draymond Green is still pretty darn good, and that’s before accounting for the potential returns of Durant and Thompson in the playoffs. Kawh Leonard and anyone is still excellent, as is Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton. There’s James Harden and Chris Paul, and Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons (and potentially Jimmy Butler).
The Lakers can make a run, but they’re still a long ways away from placing a crown on their heads. It starts by making better free agent signings then a year ago, when they let Brook Lopez walk, and renounced Julius Randle, all so they could sign Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, and Michael Beasley.
But for now, they’re interesting. Really, really interesting.
And that’s good for the league.