The NBA moratorium is over, and the Lakers will finally execute their most important piece of basketball business this offseason: trading for Anthony Davis.
To recap, the trade, which has expanded significantly since its original iteration, sends to New Orleans: Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, the 2019 no. 4 pick, a top-8 protected 2021 first-rounder that becomes unprotected in 2022, a pick swap in 2023, and an unprotected 2024 first-rounder that can defer to 2025.
The trade will also send Moe Wagner, Isaac Bonga, Jemerrio Jones, and a 2022 second-round pick to Washington.
The Lakers get Anthony Davis. He gets to wear no. 23, and has waived his 15 percent trade kicker.
This is the most critical team-building move the Lakers will make this summer. Davis is a generational talent who is a six-time All-Star, has been named first-team all-NBA three times, and is perennially in the running for defensive player of the year. The Lakers needed a star to pair with LeBron James after forcing him to bear an unnecessary burden last season, and getting Davis delivers on that promise. Perhaps no superstar in the league fits more naturally with James than Davis; the two will be a fearsome combination for opposing teams to contend with.
However, looking at the title contender that has been constructed across the hall in Staples Center, it’s worth considering what the Lakers had to give up to acquire Davis. The Lakers gave up essentially every asset they had in the war chest that they had built up over six lottery seasons. Only Kyle Kuzma remains. A great burden now rests on Davis’ supremely broad shoulders.
The Lakers had to make this trade. With the disaster of 2018-19 punctuated by Magic Johnson abruptly resigning, something needed to be done to revamp this team and give James a better roster to work with going forward. Now that we know how free agency has panned out, it’s even more clear that the Lakers had to pursue other paths to getting star talent.
Davis may have only one year left on his current contract, but make no mistake, he is the future. LeBron James was theoretically willing to defer to Kawhi Leonard had he chosen the Lakers, and he will need to make similar concessions to Davis to ensure that the 26-year-old stays in Los Angeles for the remainder of his prime.
The Lakers now have a one-two punch that rivals anyone in the league. However, there is a cost of doing business with New Orleans, especially doing so in a way that enabled the Lakers to still have hopes in free agency. This team has no depth. Even though the Lakers have stylistically attacked this process the right way to maximize Davis’ skillset, the talent pool dissipated from July 1 to July 6. Beyond James and Davis, this isn’t a team that inspires tremendous fear.
Danny Green and DeMarcus Cousins are fine signings. Rajon Rondo and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, less so. The Lakers have some interesting pieces, and should be able to stave off some inevitable rest for their two stars, but three weeks after this trade was originally consummated, this isn’t where the Lakers hoped to be. They wanted to be a behemoth that wrecked through the rest of the league. Instead, they’re one of several teams that fancies itself a title contender.
Davis had to have known the risks when he asked to come to Los Angeles. He knew what the Lakers would have to give up, he knew the enormity of the stakes in this city, and he knew the target that would be on his back by making this move. Yes, there is a tremendous burden on Davis to deliver, and to deliver now, but he chose this path. The Lakers chose this path.
Winning wasn’t easy for Davis in New Orleans. Living up to his new expectations in Los Angeles won’t be simple either. But this is the course the Lakers have set for themselves by making this move. The onus is now on Davis to rise to the challenge.