The Pelicans have agreed to trade Anthony Davis to the Lakers for a package that includes Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hard and three first-round picks, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
If the deal goes through, it would ends the season-long drama surrounding Davis and the Lakers. After requesting a trade to last season, Davis publicly tried to force his way to the team. In the aftermath of the trade, the young Laker core fractured, with reports circulating that the players resented LeBron James for such public lobbying for them to be traded.
Pairing Davis with James makes the Lakers an instant title contender after missing the playoffs this past season, particularly with Kevin Durant (Achilles) and Klay Thompson (ACL) out for all or the majority of next season. The rest of the roster is a question mark, as many of the players on last season’s team were under one-year contracts, but the Lakers did retain sharpshooting forward Kyle Kuzma in the reported deal, which had been a sticking point for the team.
The Lakers are not done yet, either. The team plans to pursue Kemba Walker hard in free agency, according to the New York Times’ Marc Stein. Walker had previously stated that he would take less money than the supermax contract he can receive from the Hornets in order to stay with the team, presumably to help build a contender. Under that premise, an offer to play with LeBron James and Anthony Davis would seem appealing. And James’ time with the Heat and Cavaliers has shown, past-their-prime veterans are willing to take the veterans’ minimum for a chance to win a title with him as well.
For the Pelicans, the deal would pair Ball and Ingram with certain No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson and incumbent starter Jrue Holiday, giving the Pelicans a young core that could contend within a few seasons, and enough pieces to swing a trade for a veteran if it turns out Williamson is good enough to carry a playoff team before the other young players are.
Pelicans boss David Griffin is not done yet either. Wojnarowski reports that several teams have shown strong interest in the No. 4 pick, and it’s possible the Pels can flip it in the next few days for a young All-Star level player. The Wizards’ Bradley Beal comes to mind.
The trade is a disaster for the Knicks and other teams that had pinned their hopes to landing Davis, like the Celtics. With the 2019 free agent class crushed by injuries to Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, and with Walker and Kyrie Irving reportedly leaning toward other destinations, trading for Davis had become an increasingly appealing option for the Knicks, who own the No. 3 pick in next week’s draft, compared to Los Angeles’s No. 4, which is included in the deal. The Knicks have been reported to be targeting Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, but he is strongly linked to the Clippers due to his affinity for southern California, and values well-run organizations, such as the Raptors. Both strikes against the Knicks.
The Celtics, meanwhile, are likely to lose Irving in free agency, and have held onto assets for years in hopes of landing Davis in a trade. Passing on deals for players like Paul George, Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler only to see him land with their historic rivals is a massive blow to Danny Ainge’s hopes of building another champion in Boston. According to the Times’ Stein, Ainge refused to include Jayson Tatum in the deal, which pushed the Lakers over the top.
It was a longshot for the Nets to come out on top in the Davis dogpile, but it was at least a notion. With him out of the picture, the team will have to return to deciding how to handle Irving’s reported decision to sign with the team and the restricted free agency of All-Star point guard D’Angelo Russell. After moving all-in with a salary dump for this offseason, they have room to maneuver for other free agents, such as Philly’s Butler and Tobias Harris, or a trade for a player like Beal.