With the end of the 2018-’19 season at most only two games away, the focus will finally fully shift to the personnel movement that will shape the NBA over the years to come. This summer’s likely first domino will be Anthony Davis, and Los Angeles Lakers fans are probably going to like the latest update on various teams’ standings in the race to acquire him.
Adrian Wojnarowski sat in on SportsCenter and was asked who has the right combination of assets and willingness to get Davis, given everything that has taken place over the course of the last couple months. His answer was simple (h/t: @JacobRude):
“The Lakers. Because they have the leverage of knowing the Anthony Davis wants to sign with them in free agency in 2020, and the rest of the league knows that, and that there is some risk in trading for Davis. But what the Lakers are going to have to do, and what David Griffin has instructed teams to do, is he doesn’t see a pathway to a one-on-one deal with any team. He’s going to need a third team involved. A fourth team...”
Woj went on to talk about the various scenarios, but the main takeaway here is that the Lakers are still seen as the frontrunners to land Davis, even given how poorly negotiations went back at the trade deadline.
Now, the key — as we’ve said before — is for Rob Pelinka not to overplay this hand. Leverage is extremely fickle and can swing quickly, so there’s no point in pissing off Griffin or Gayle Benson by thinking the Lakers’ standing is greater than it actually might be.
Already, it seems Griffin is willing to let this play out so that he can squeeze as much leverage from this situation as possible. As an example, there are reports that he would prefer to have a trade finalized before the draft, but he said himself that he sees no such deadline to get a deal done.
As Woj points out, Griffin is now asking all teams to bring in a third team so as to net him the assets he wants. These all feel like stalling tactics given how the situation has played out in front of him. Brooklyn sent picks that could have gone to New Orleans to Atlanta to open up free agent money. Boston seems reluctant to trade anything of meaning seeing as they are likely going to lose Kyrie Irving to Brooklyn. And who knows what impact Kevin Durant’s injury might have on all of this.
Unfortunately for Griffin, this situation has played out about as poorly as it could have. So he’s trying to make the best of an extremely difficult spot, but has very few means to do so.
Maybe he actually would prefer the kind of player that future Lakers picks could land to the picks themselves, even if they convey after LeBron James’ contract is up in a few years. Or maybe he’s making things more complicated as a means to buy himself some time. It’s frankly impossible to say, but if the Lakers play this right, they might start the offseason with a major win. All signs are certainly pointing in that direction, so long as the Lakers don’t do anything too dumb.