After a turmoil-filled season loaded with injuries, drama, and franchise incompetence, the Los Angeles Lakers can finally say that they have another superstar in their prime to pair with LeBron James. Yesterday afternoon, the Lakers and Pelicans agreed to a deal that would send Anthony Davis to Los Angeles for Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, and three first round picks (including the fourth pick in Thursday’s draft). At first glance this feels like quite a lot for one player (because it is), but few players at Davis’s age and caliber are ever available in the trade market.
Anthony Davis is already on pace to be one of the greatest big men to ever play with some mind boggling career statistics. At the age of 20, he proved he was a sure thing, averaging 20.8 PPG, 10 RPG, and 2.8 BPG, with the numbers only going up from there. In Davis’s “lost season” with the Pelicans, he managed to put up 25.9 PPG, and career highs in boards (12) and assists (3.9), all while dealing with minutes restrictions in the second half of the season.
Finding players even comparable to Davis that have been traded is a tough task. He’s more valuable than 2017 Paul Goerge, four years younger than 2007 Kevin Garnett, and way less annoying than 2011 Dwight Howard (yes I’m still a salty Lakers fan). When it came down to it, the only traded players that felt comparable were Wilt Chamberlain in 1968 and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1975. To make the comparisons even more interesting, both big men were shipped to play in Hollywood in similar circumstances.
Both these trades ended up being looked at as unbalanced deals in favor of the Lakers, with the talent pools shipped in return never really reaching the same value as the superstar individuals. In both deals, the Lakers didn’t give away nearly as much as this current deal, but Davis is younger than both legendary big men, making the trade tax that much higher.
In 3 years when LeBron’s contract is up and all the young former Lakers are closer to their primes, it’s conceivable that New Orleans could look like the clear winners of this trade, but the dice had to be rolled. It’s not often that you get to opportunity to pair the greatest player of the decade with a first ballot hall of fame level big man. Just imagine how unstoppable their pick and roll will be.
To maximize on this superstar pairing, the Lakers front office needs to operate in free agency. With all the vets set for free agency and the young core sent to NOLA, the Lakers roster will only have six men under contract with 23.7 million in cap space. This is enough to bring in a 25% max contract player (i.e. D’Angelo Russell) and some ring chasing role players, but it’s about bringing in the right pieces. This is where my nervousness as a Lakers fan comes in. Can you really trust Rob Pelinka, Jeanie Buss, and *shakes head*…Kurt Rambis to make those decisions? My gut says no, but we will have to wait and see this summer.
After years of living through the pain that came with being a Lakers fan, this situation almost feels too good to be true. I remember the disappointment of the 2013 season that ultimately lead to the demise of Kobe’s prime with the achilles injury. I remember the dark cloud that followed the franchise for five years, with guys like Robert Sacre starting games. I will never forget the boneheaded decisions Magic Johnson made in the front office (DLo please come back). Now all I can hope for is that all that failure and pain leads to something special this season. If we can’t win one with AD and LeBron, we’re never winning again. This is championship or bust at the highest caliber.
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