Well, it finally happened. After months of speculation, some of the most contentious and public trade negotiations the NBA has ever seen and changes at the top of both team’s management structure, Anthony Davis has finally gotten his wish and will join LeBron James on the Los Angeles Lakers, with L.A. sending Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and three future first-round picks to to David Griffin and the New Orleans Pelicans in return.
Here are the official trade details, per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
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
Along with the three picks, the Pelicans will also be able to swap picks in 2023 and other benefits:
Can confirm the Lakers are sending New Orleans the No. 4 pick this year, a top-8 protected pick in 2021 which becomes unprotected in 2022, an unprotected swap in 2023, unprotected first in 2024 and an unprotected swap in 2025, as @TimBontemps reported.— Tania Ganguli (@taniaganguli) June 16, 2019
A clarification on the haul of draft picks heading the Pelicans' way. The 2021 pick goes to New Orleans if it's in the top eight, if not they'll get an unprotected first in 2022. Swap in 2023. Unprotected first in 2024, with a right to defer to 2025.— Tania Ganguli (@taniaganguli) June 16, 2019
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
That’s a steep price to pay, but the chance to pair Davis with LeBron James is probably worth it. Davis is just 26 years old — only three years older than Kyle Kuzma — and can not only serve as the perfect partner to help James stave off any decline by taking on some of the Lakers’ workload, but is also young enough to serve as a bridge to the next era of Lakers basketball.
But with Davis, the Lakers don’t have to wait for that next era anymore. Even when James signed last summer, almost as much of the discussion about the Lakers revolved around the future as it did during prior, lottery-bound seasons, owing to the fact that Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka’s vision still didn’t seem fully executed in pairing James with some promising (but still developing) kids.
Now the Lakers have fully shifted into win-now mode, sacrificing players who were originally sold as part of the future to create what should ultimately be a pretty amazing present, championships or no. Davis may still have room to improve given his age, but unlike the young core players shipped out for him, he’s already one of the best players in the NBA right now.
Davis is your NBA 2K MyPlayer with all the sliders turned up, a video game cheat code who can shoot, pass, defend fours and fives, protect the rim and do just about anything else on the basketball court. He can handle the ball, post up and space the floor while serving as a walking mismatch teams have to account for. His pick-and-roll artistry with James is going to be a sight to behold, and result in countless dunks for both.
It’s also worth noting that despite all the talk of the Pelicans being better without Davis down the stretch of the season, the team was actually 8.6 points per 100 possessions better with Davis on the floor than off last season (second on the team only to the perpetually under-appreciated Jrue Holiday). Now that Davis will be shifting into a co-starring role with LeBron where defenses can’t devote their entire attention to either player, both should be made more devastating, and potentially doubly so when considering that both will be highly motivated after missing the playoffs with their respective teams last season.
Now James and Davis are teaming up to make sure that doesn’t happen again, and the main real threat to that goal will now be that the Lakers are lacking in young, cheap depth with upside. L.A. will still have close to max cap space heading into free agency, with Davis and LeBron as powerful recruiting chips, but we have to see who they get to evaluate just how well this (assuredly pretty amazing regardless) team will do next season.
Still, young prospects are a price worth paying to pair (at least) two top-five to top-ten players for the next several years, and the opportunity to keep one of them as a cornerstone for the next era. Teams rebuild and acquire assets like the Lakers’ youngsters in the hopes that one will develop into a player like Davis, or give them a chance to acquire one.
And while it’s understandable for fans to have emotional attachment to a promising young core they were so heavily sold on, but this was always sort of the expected path as soon as James was acquired, and this deal removes any doubt: The Lakers want to win now, after so many years telling fans that their young core had next. Those players may blossom elsewhere, but it’s doubtful any of the guys in this deal reach Davis’ level. You can argue with how the Lakers negotiated, the price they paid, and the effects their negotiations clearly had around the trade deadline, but now it’s time to see if they can make all of it pay off.
They might not! This gamble is far from a guarantee the Lakers. This front office has said they want to win titles, and Davis and James surrounded by flotsam and jetsam won’t get that done on their own. Pelinka (and Kurt Rambis?) have their work cut out for them to build a full roster moving forward. But the Lakers have a really good hand to start with now, and while that might not result in a winning bet every single time, they’re going all in with a 19 at the blackjack table.
We’ll see how many chips they walk away with.
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