Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard that the Los Angeles Lakers jumped from the 11th spot all the way up to fourth in the NBA Draft during Tuesday night’s lottery.
If you have been living under a rock, welcome back!
The Lakers have until June 20 — the date of the 2019 NBA Draft — to figure out what they’re going to do with their pick. There are a few ways they can go with their pick and I took the liberty of breaking a few of those avenues down.
Are these scenarios realistic? It’s debatable, but they are possible, if not probable, which makes them worth talking about. So, let’s talk about them.
Trade the pick for Anthony Davis
Things went just about as well as they could have for the Lakers and their Anthony Davis dreams in Chicago on Monday. Not only can they add a top-five pick to their trade package for Davis, but their biggest threat for Davis — the Boston Celtics — fell out of the top-10 completely. Meanwhile, the New Orleans Pelicans won the lottery, so the playing field between the New York Knicks and Lakers is fairly even.
Landing the No. 4 pick also gave the Lakers a much-needed salary ballast in a potential Davis trade. If timed properly, Los Angeles can use the roughly $7.1 million the fourth overall selection will earn during the 2019-20 season in a salary-matching trade package for Davis. This would theoretically allow the Lakers to keep one of Lonzo Ball or Brandon Ingram, or both Josh Hart and Kyle Kuzma.
To put that into perspective, the Lakers could feasibly put together a roster of Kyrie Irving, Hart, James, Kuzma and Davis under the cap. Without the No. 4 pick, Los Angeles would have had to surrender everyone not named James to land Davis and an All-Star free agent.
Does that mean the Lakers are shoo-in to get Davis and an All-Star free agent this summer while keeping core pieces of their existing roster? Probably not, but it’s possible, which is more than they could say before the lottery.
Keep the pick
Sometimes the best thing to do is nothing at all, and the Lakers are in a good position to do that with their pick.
Even with the $7.1 million the No. 4 pick will add to their books, they’ll have enough money to lure an All-Star free agent to Los Angeles. Granted, it will be roughly $155,000 less than the full, 30 percent max that Kawhi Leonard and Kyrie Irving are sure to demand, but that’s a hurdle they can clear fairly easily.
In the event the Lakers don’t land a superstar free agent, they’ll still have $32.5 million to fill out their roster with players that complement James and the team’s young core, which features Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart. If the Lakers can add someone like Texas Tech’s Jarrett Culver or Vanderbilt’s Darius Garland to that core, they’ll be set up nicely for the future.
After all, if they strike out in free agency and fail to land Anthony Davis, the future is ultimately be where the Lakers will be building towards.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Why in God’s name would the Lakers trade down after they stumbled their way into a top-five pick?” In short, because they can.
For the last month or so, the Lakers have been focused on evaluating prospects that could reasonably fall to the 11th pick in the draft. If during that process they fell in love with a prospect that they believe can contribute right away like Gonzaga’s Brandon Clarke or Virginia’s DeAndre Hunter, they could try and move down a few spots and get an asset in the process.
For example, if one of the draft’s top point guards like Ja Morant or Darius Garland fell to the fourth pick, the Lakers could try and get guard-hungry Phoenix Suns to offer them their own first-round pick (sixth overall) and a future first-round pick. Remember, it costed the Dallas Mavericks two first-round picks to move up two spots last year.
They could then use those picks to make a splashy trade during the summer or at the trade deadline. All in all, having multiple first round picks is almost never a bad thing.
Trading down would also save them a few bucks this summer. Specifically, the nearly $1 million they’d save from trading down would eliminate the need for them to trade or stretch Isaac Bonga. These are all good things, however, it bears repeating that this would only make sense if they’re absolutely sold on someone later in the draft.
It’s a lot to take in, but the best thing about all of this is that the Lakers have options! Can the people in the front office be trusted to make the most out of these options? That’s a different conversation, and one that will be revisited on June 20.