There’s been a lot going on lately in the NBA as we approach the trade deadline. The New York Knicks traded away their potential future cornerstone Kristaps Porzingis to the Dallas Mavericks in efforts to clear up cap space and focus on free agency. Rumors are swirling around Kyrie Irving on whether or not he will re-sign with the Celtics this offseason or bolt somewhere else.
Then there’s Anthony Davis, who is one of the most talented basketball players in the league. He and his agent Rich Paul came out and said he is unhappy with his current situation in New Orleans and wants out. Now, teams are scrambling trying to create a trade package enticing enough to land Davis.
However, there’s a lot to take into account with Davis. First off, he clearly wants to play for a contender, so it doesn’t seem to be about money, though I’m sure that still plays a huge factor in his decision making. So it wouldn’t be wise for a rebuilding team to just dump their assets in a trade for Davis. They would have a year and a half to convince him that they are worthy of contending, or all of their assets traded away would have been for a year and a half rental.
Davis has recently made things more interesting by saying he isn’t interested in going to Boston. Boston were one of the teams that could offer one of the more appealing offers for Davis, including players like Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier, or even Kyrie Irving, along with numerous first round draft picks. But now it really looks like Davis has his eyes set on the Lakers.
If Davis is determined about going to the Lakers, then why should the Lakers trade for him? Wouldn’t they just be wasting assets for a player they’ll get in two seasons? Well, children, let me remind you of a cautionary tale that happened not too long ago.
Let’s rewind a few seasons ago when Paul George was unhappy with his situation in Indiana and wanted out. There were reports that he would like to go to the Lakers, which makes a lot of sense since he is from California, too. Well, in come the Thunder, who trade away Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis (which, by the way, I still feel turned out to be one of the more even trades in recent memory) to land the star wing. George had one year left on his contract, so essentially OKC had one season to convince George to sign long-term, and risked losing him next offseason in free agency. Fast forward to now, where George has signed a multi-year contract with the Thunder and is playing at an MVP-like level.
The moral of the story is that the Lakers probably had a chance to make a trade for George, but since he stated he was interested in the Lakers, they stood idly by and ended up missing out on him. The Lakers can’t make that same mistake and strike out again. Yes, this offseason there will be plenty of big name free agents to lure to Los Angeles, but those are no guarantees. The Knicks are all-in on this offseason, so they will be able to throw some big money at players. The Lakers can too, but the point is that there isn’t any guarantee in banking on a player to come to you in free agency.
Here’s a scenario I’ll lay out for you: let’s take a look at the Raptors. They are actually in a similar situation now where they’ve traded away their star player for Kawhi Leonard, who was also unhappy in San Antonio. Leonard seemed to have intentions to play out West, but the Raptors are the best team in the East right now, and they may have convinced him to stay. What could be even more convincing is if they could bring in another star player to play alongside him. The Raptors could create a package revolved around Pascal Siakam, who is a candidate for this year’s Most Improved Player award, and is still on his rookie contract. Add in either Serge Ibaka or Jonas Valanciunas, throw in Fred Van Fleet and/or O.G. Anunoby and a pick or two, and they would have a nice package setup for the Pelicans. The Pelicans don’t want to let Davis walk for free, and if the Celtics realize they are out of the picture and the Lakers are determined on getting him in free agency in 2020, could this be the best realistic trade offer for the Pelicans?
This is why the Lakers can’t afford to take a chance on Davis coming in 2020. They need to strike now. Yes, obviously it hurts losing some young pieces and draft picks, but Davis is arguably a top-five player in this league, and pairing him with LeBron James would be the best player he’s ever played with. We’ve seen what Lebron has been able to do with players lesser than Davis, just imagine what these two could accomplish. We’ve seen LeBron miss five weeks as of late due to a groin injury, so this may be a sign that his body is finally starting to catch up with him. How many years of LeBron-like seasons does he have left in the tank? They can’t miss their window based on the fact that they think they’ll land him in a year and a half. The Lakers should try to keep Kyle Kuzma, because he’s really shown to be a great player since LeBron’s absence, but he may have to be included with players like Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram to get the trade completed, which they should still pull the trigger on anyway.