LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and a third star of the Lakers choice. That’s the thinking of nearly every NBA fan after the Lakers and Pelicans agreed to a deal that will send Davis to Los Angeles.
With all eyes on what the Lakers next move will be, the lack of attention toward the haul of assets the Pelicans received in return for Davis is dangerous.
The Lakers will send Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, and three first-round picks including the 4th overall selection in this years NBA draft in exchange for six-time All-Star Anthony Davis, according to multiple reports. The pick count can grow to five effective picks, as the Pelicans also receive the rights to swap picks with the Lakers in two additional seasons.
The Lakers are mortgaging their future and attempting to achieve immediate glory by winning a 17th Larry O’Brien Trophy. However, their window of opportunity to win a championship is closing by the minute. LeBron James will be 35-years-old next season, coming off of a year in which he only played 55 games due to injury.
Going all-in by trading three first-rounders sounds all too familiar. There are many similarities between this blockbuster deal and infamous Nets and Celtics trade, which involved Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, made back in the summer of 2013. The trade that is widely known as the worst-trade in the history of basketball.
It seems like the Lakers refused to learn from the Nets mistake.
The other-first round picks the Pelicans will receive are a 2021 first-rounder that will go to New Orleans if it lands in the top 8 and if it doesn’t, it will become an unprotected pick in 2022. They will also receive an unprotected 2024 first-rounder, with the right to defer to 2025, and they get the right to swap picks with the Lakers in 2023.
By the time 2022 rolls around, LeBron will be 37-years-old in the final year of his contract with the Lakers. That’s only the beginning of future first-round picks that will roll in for the Pelicans. And as the Pelicans have seen, it’s far from certain that Davis can carry a team to relevance all on his own.
By the time the Pelicans wrap up collecting picks from the Lakers, LeBron James’ 14-year-old son could be entering his rookie-season in the NBA.
There is legitimate reason to believe the Lakers could be an awful basketball team by the time New Orleans cashes in on these future selections in the NBA Draft. Without knowing it, Los Angeles could have just traded multiple high lottery picks, which is exactly what the Brooklyn Nets did in 2013.
The reason the Nets trade became so infamous as time passed is the lack of success the team saw after it traded three first-round picks, among other things, in exchange for Pierce, Garnett and Jason Terry — and who those picks eventually became.
Brooklyn’s 2016 pick became the 3rd overall pick in that draft, which the Celtics used to draft Jaylen Brown, and their 2018 pick became the 1st overall pick. The Celtics used that pick to trade down to select Jayson Tatum, and receive more assets.
The package the Lakers sent to New Orleans has the potential to be astronomically worse than the Brooklyn and Boston deal. On top of the first-rounders, the Pelicans received three-valuable young players, two who are equipped with star potential. Brandon Ingram, drafted in 2016, and Lonzo Ball in 2017, were both the 2nd overall picks in their drafts.
While Ball has struggled on the offensive end of the floor in his first two-NBA seasons, he’s been an elite defender, with playmaking ability that could unlock the full potential of any player around him. This will likely bode well for New Orleans as they hold the first-pick in this years draft which they’ll likely use on Zion Williamson, who will need a player to create him opportunities.
Ingram on the other hand, has shown he can be a menace on the offensive end of the floor. In just his third NBA season, the 21-year-old averaged 18.3 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 3.0 assists, he was arguably the Lakers best player not named LeBron.
Should the players traded by Los Angeles unlock their full potential, dethroning the Nets in basketball trade history is not out of the question.
The Western Conference has suddenly become wide open with the Warriors literally falling apart. The Lakers saw the opportunity and attempted to capitalize on what will be the weakest Wild West we have seen in years, and in doing so, they have made themselves the odds-on favorites to win the NBA Finals.
Should the Lakers win a championship in this short window of opportunity, all three of those picks could become the next Michael Jordan, and it wouldn’t matter. However, if Los Angeles is unable to cash in with a team led by LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the repercussions could be limitless.