- The Los Angeles Lakers are desperate to add a star player next to LeBron James, and their best chance may be trading for Anthony Davis.
- The Lakers have nine days until the trade deadline to get Davis.
- If the Lakers can’t make a deal by the trade deadline, they may lose out on Davis because other teams will be able to offer top draft picks in the offseason, and the Boston Celtics will be able to make an offer in July. The Celtics cannot make an offer now because of an obscure rule in the NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement.
- The timing may force the Lakers to offer all their young players and assets, a move that could be worthwhile to secure a young superstar such as Davis.
The clock may already be ticking for the Los Angeles Lakers to get New Orleans Pelicans center Anthony Davis.
Davis’ trade request on Monday ignited the NBA trade market, as the 25-year-old star big man indicated he won’t re-sign with the Pelicans and would like to be dealt to another team. Davis can become a free agent in 2020.
Virtually every NBA team would like a shot at Davis, perhaps none more so than the Lakers.
For the Lakers, trading for Davis may represent their best shot at finding a superstar teammate for LeBron James, and it may force them to offer almost anything and everything to the Pelicans in a trade.
The Lakers already missed out on other stars and might not have other prospects
In the last two seasons, the Lakers resisted making huge offers for Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, believing George might join them in free agency last summer and balking at the price tag the San Antonio Spurs set for Leonard. Instead, George re-signed with the Oklahoma City Thunder without so much as a meeting with the Lakers. Leonard was dealt to the Toronto Raptors, and reports indicate that he isn’t keen on signing with the Lakers when he becomes a free agent this summer.
In an increasingly star-driven NBA, the Lakers know they need another elite teammate to join James to have a realistic shot at competing for a championship, especially now that James is 34 years old. However, even armed with cap space this summer, the Lakers’ prospects aren’t wildly promising.
Kevin Durant, the top free agent of the class, did not exactly sound interested in playing on a team with James.
Kyrie Irving already demanded a trade away from James and had verbally committed to re-signing with the Boston Celtics (that could change, of course, but the Lakers don’t appear to be his second choice at the moment).
Jimmy Butler and the Philadelphia 76ers are reportedly interested in working out a long-term deal this summer, and Butler didn’t even have the Lakers on his list of desired trade destinations this year.
Klay Thompson and Kemba Walker are All-Stars, but either player probably wouldn’t make a big enough difference to put the Lakers over the top on his own. Their respective teams can also offer more money than the Lakers.
That brings us back to Davis. He is a rare superstar to become available. He’s an elite two-way talent and only 25 years old. On paper, he’s one of the more seamless fits with James on the court and could theoretically take the reins from James as James gets older.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, people in the NBA believe Davis will soon make it known that the Lakers are his top destination. Davis wants to compete for a title and craves a big market, and he also shares an agent with James – Rich Paul.
If the Lakers want to acquire him, they may have to act with gusto over the next nine days.
The timing of Davis’ request is a lucky break for the Lakers
The Lakers were lucky that Davis’ trade request came when it did because it eliminated their top competition – the Celtics. The Celtics can’t make a trade offer for Davis with Kyrie Irving on the roster, because he and Davis both signed “designated” contracts, and the NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement prohibits teams from adding two players on designated contracts. The Celtics can make an offer for Davis when Irving becomes a free agent and signs a new deal. (According to reports, the Celtics’ goal is to team up Davis and Irving, meaning they wouldn’t trade Irving to get Davis.)
The Celtics are believed to be able to make the best offer, thanks to their collection of young, talented players, like-size contracts (significant in trades), and future assets.
The Lakers have one more factor on their side. Other teams that may want to make an offer for Davis don’t yet have a key asset – the No. 1 pick in the 2019 draft. Teams like the New York Knicks reportedly want to get in on the action for Davis. Their 2019 first-round pick might be their best asset, as it could become No. 1. However, the lottery drawing doesn’t happen until May 14, and that may dissuade the Pelicans from accepting a trade for a deal. Likewise, trading Davis to one of those teams could help the other team win, thus devaluing the pick.
It’s a perfect window for the Lakers, and it means they have to blow away the Pelicans.
The Lakers have to throw the kitchen sink at the Pelicans
The Lakers offer figures to start with the four players that make up their young core – Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, and Josh Hart. None of them are considered top assets, but they’re young and talented, with untapped potential. They could be nice foundational pieces for a rebuilding team.
It was previously reported that when the Lakers were making offers to the Spurs for Leonard, their proposal included some combination of those assets. The belief now is that it may take all of them, plus more, to get Davis – merely a combination of them, such as Kuzma and Ball, for instance, won’t be enough.
One problem for the Lakers is that the value of their young players has dropped in recent months. Ball and Ingram have failed to make significant leaps this season and have both with James and without him over the last month that he’s been injured. Kuzma has had the best season of the three but has a less versatile game. Hart plays a complementary role but is not viewed as an elite prospect.
The Lakers may have to include draft picks beyond what they can comfortably offer. The Lakers own all of their first-round picks going forward, but because NBA teams can’t trade picks in consecutive years, the Lakers may have to offer multiple first-rounders, plus the option for the Pelicans to swap draft places with them.
Would three or four of their young players, plus multiple draft picks be enough to sway the Pelicans? If not, the Lakers may have to involve a third team or make another deal to get an asset that interests the Pelicans more.
The Pelicans could further inflict pain on the Lakers by making them take back more salary. The Lakers shaped their roster to preserve cap space for July 2019. The Pelicans could insist on including players like Solomon Hill (owed $US13.2 million in 2019-20) or E’Twaun Moore (owed $US8.6 million in 2019-20). That would force the Lakers to get creative to offload those contracts in July to get cap space, or to hold off on cap space until summer 2020 when those deals expire.
If all of that is too unappealing for the Lakers, they could go ahead with their roster, hoping to lure one of the top free agents in the summer. They would be left with the risk of leaving James stranded on a team that’s not good enough to contend for a title.
The Lakers do have some power in these negotiations, however. If Davis indicates that he wants to go to only the Lakers or would sign with them in 2020, it weakens the Pelican’s negotiations. Teams will be hesitant to make their best offers. Would the Celtics, for instance, include Jayson Tatum in a deal if it meant Davis would be a one-year rental? Would the Knicks offer a top draft pick for one year of Davis?
It may behoove the Pelicans to wait until the offseason to move Davis. It would allow for more offers and potentially better ones. If the Lakers wait too long, they risk losing Davis altogether. That thought could be enough for them to put together a monster offer, a package so compelling that the Pelicans simply can’t say no.
- Read more:
- The NBA’s recent history of trading superstars is a bad omen for the Pelicans
- James Harden is on a historic tear but his MVP case has a flaw
- 6 trades that make sense for an Anthony Davis blockbuster, ranked
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