Last summer, after the Los Angeles Lakers missed the playoffs in their first season in with LeBron James on their roster, they traded Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and three first-round picks to the New Orleans Pelicans for Anthony Davis, a two-way superstar in the prime of his career.
At the time, the general consensus was that the Lakers gave up a lot for Davis, who can opt out of his contract and become a free agent in 2020. Even in hindsight, it’s not a bold claim to say the Pelicans got a haul for Davis. However, to say that would the Lakers gave up too much for Davis would be dishonest, mostly because of how incredible Davis has been for Los Angeles.
In the year that has passed since the Davis trade, the Lakers have gone from a sub-500 team to the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, and obviously Davis has played a big part in their success. Through 62 appearances in the regular season, Davis averaged 26.1 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 2.3 blocks and 1.5 steals per game. In the postseason, Davis has taken it to another level, with averages of 27.6 points, 10.9 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.1 steals per game.
Davis’s first season with the Lakers has gone better than anyone could have imagined — or should I say, anyone but Davis himself. After the Lakers’ 119-96 win over the Houston Rockets on Saturday, Davis said that this season has gone according to plan for him.
“It just feel like everything is falling into place,” Davis said. “When I got here obviously the goal was to win championships, and we’re eight wins away. It’s been a great process for me. It’s been great being around the guys that we have, obviously it’s been great being around ‘Bron, him helping me through it all.
“Obviously, at this point now, the Western Conference Finals is new for me, so that process is going to be fun, but it’s everything that I envisioned.”
Davis will make his first Western Conference Finals appearance of his seven-year career on Friday, when the Lakers are set to play whoever wins between the LA Clippers and Denver Nuggets. LeBron James will also be making his first Western Conference Finals appearance of his career, but he’s obviously played in and won a handful of Conference Finals and NBA Finals in his career.
The pairing of James and Davis has proven to be good fit in their first season as teammates, and Frank Vogel said the synergy between his two leaders has had a positive impact on the locker room.
“The fact that they’re so cohesive on and off the court really impacts our groups togetherness and our chemistry,” Vogel said. “It filters down to the rest of the guys. Both of them have dominant abilities on both sides of the floor. They’re both willing passers. They fit what we’re trying to build here in terms of being a team first team offensively and one that’s athletic and gifted and talented and committed on the defensive end.
“All those things are leading us to a success thus far and I’m looking forward to seeing how far we can take it.”
Davis has already shown enough to justify Los Angeles giving up the amount of assets they gave up for him. If he and James can bring the Lakers their 17th championship, the assets they gave up will be an afterthought.