With the Toronto Raptors winning the NBA Championship, the 2018-19 NBA season officially came to a close. The focus of the league has now shifted towards the impending offseason events, most importantly the 2019 NBA Draft. With free agency and the NBA trade window just around the corner, one simply cannot ignore all the NBA rumors doing the rounds.
One such dossier that managed to stay fresh in the rumor mills was the supposed intent of the Los Angeles Lakers to trade for and team up New Orleans Pelicans’ Anthony Davis with LeBron James in order to give the latter the much needed elite help to lead LA to a deep postseason run. While Rob Pelinka and Co. have managed to do the same now, it did come at a huge cost.
It was first reported last Saturday that the Pelicans had agreed to trade AD to the Lakers in exchange for Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and three first-round picks including the 2019 NBA Draft’s 4th overall pick. While the Lakers did acquire a generational talent in Davis, there are more downsides to this trade than what meets the eye.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. In trading away so many pieces, Lakers have several gaps to fill in their roster. They could have fallen back to the draft if they had any picks this year but they don’t. It all boils down to signing free agents to veteran’s minimum contracts and seldom do you find quality players willing to take pay cuts.
The one area that the Lakers really need reinforcements in is perimeter defense. Lonzo and Ingram are two elite defenders who cannot only lock down players but are also smart on defensive switches in order to prevent leaving a man open beyond the arc. Pelicans will surely be excited at the prospect of pairing the duo with Jrue Holiday who is also one of the best on-the-ball defenders in the league. The Lakers though have a lot to ponder about. While Anthony Davis does provide elite rim protection, having a watertight perimeter defense is imperative in a league that is moving closer to the 3-point game with every passing season.
Speaking of NBA Draft picks once again, it’s not just about this year. The Pelicans controlled the first round draft picks of the Lakers till 2021. While there’s no guaranteeing the quality of the picks given that the Lakers are expected to contend for a ring in the upcoming season, bigger dynasties have flattered to deceive in the NBA and nothing is guaranteed.
Even when you talk about the present scenario, once the trade is made official and we assume that AD decides against voiding his trade bonus worth $4 million, the Lakers will be left with a cap space of $23.7 million, which is simply not enough money to sign another elite star in free agency. While recent NBA rumors do suggest that the Lakers are trying to create more cap space by offloading 3 more contracts, only time will tell how that pans out. To think that if the Lakers had waited for another year, they could’ve held on to all their assets while potentially signing Davis for free.
No one in their right mind would doubt what Anthony Davis brings to the table. With him playing alongside LeBron James, the possibilities are simply endless. However, with this trade, the Lakers have taken a huge punt on the present by largely compromising on their future.