The talk of the NBA for the past week has been, will New Orleans Pelicans power forward Anthony Davis be a Los Angeles Lakers this season? The front office, fans, and LeBron all want to see Davis become a Laker.
It’s acquiring Davis that is the problem.
Davis is a once in a generation type of talent. He’s one of the best big men in the league and a top ten player in the NBA. Davis can defend, shoot, post up, rebound and block shots. On any given night, he could have a stat line of 20 points, 20 rebounds and 5 blocks.
It’s clear why the Lakers want Davis so badly. Pairing Davis and LeBron on the same court would be a nightmare for opposing defenses.
The problem currently facing Jeanie Buss, Rob Pelinka, Magic Johnson and the Lakers front office is whether to make the move to acquire Davis or not.
Davis is currently under contract until at least the end of the 2019-2020 season. Once free agency begins in the summer of 2020, Davis can opt out of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent, which will give him the freedom to join any team he chooses.
Davis becoming an unrestricted free agent makes the Pelicans trading him much more likely. The team would much rather trade him and get something in return rather than lose him in free agency and get nothing.
With Davis being under contract until next season there is no pressure on New Orleans to get a deal done this season. The Pelicans front office and head coach Alvin Gentry have both stated that Davis is currently not on the trading block and will not be moved this season.
This is where things become difficult for the Lakers. Being that the Pelicans are unwilling to trade Davis this year, the Lakers would have to offer New Orleans a massive deal to entice them enough to make a trade.
The Lakers would have to give up many of the teams promising young players to make the Pelicans consider dealing Davis. At the very least, New Orleans would most likely ask for some combination of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and Kyle Kuzma. Three of those four as well as a draft pick or two would be more than enough to get Davis to LA.
The Lakers front office however, must decide if getting Davis is worth giving up multiple young players that all have been in the league for less than four years. The clock is ticking and the Lakers must make a decision prior to the February trade deadline, or they could lose out on Davis entirely even with his impending free agency.
A player like Davis is someone every team in the league would want. So naturally there are other teams making moves to acquire him. One team that could steal Davis away from the Big Easy is the Lakers arch rival the Boston Celtics.
The Celtics have more and better-quality draft picks as well as better established young players to offer New Orleans in a trade. Unfortunately The only thing keeping them from doing so is Kyrie Irving.
The reason the Celtics cannot make a deal for Davis now is because of the designated rookie extension also known as the “Rose Rule”. The Rose Rule is a rule in the CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) named after point guard Derrick Rose who was the first player to sign one of these extensions.
This rule allows players coming of their rookie-scale contracts to earn 30 percent of the salary cap rather than the usual 25 percent. To earn this players must achieve one of three accolades during their first four years in the league; MVP, Defensive Player of the Year or two All-NBA selections.
When Irving and Davis signed their deals in 2014 and 2015 respectively, players only needed two all-star selections rather than DPOY.
The CBA does not allow teams to trade for more than one player who signed an extension under the Rose Rule. So until Irving signs a new contract (which he has indicated he will sign next summer) the Celtics cannot trade for Davis.
This puts more pressure on the Lakers to get a deal down now because next year the Pelicans will be much more willing to deal Davis due to fear of losing him in free agency and getting nothing in return. Since Boston has better assets then LA, the Pelicans would be more willing to do a deal with Boston rather than a team in their own conference.
The Lakers missed out on trading for Paul George last year and now he’s happily in Oklahoma City with Russell Westbrook. They could have traded for Kawhi Leonard this offseason to join LeBron and didn’t. Now he’s with the Toronto Raptors who are currently first in the Eastern Conference.
Kawhi could leave Toronto after this season in free agency, but the word around the league is Leonard might prefer the Los Angeles Clippers as a better fit for him than the Lakers.
Another thing working against LA is that many players in league do not like the idea of playing alongside LeBron. Kevin Durant of the Golden State Warriors just a few weeks ago spoke at length about the cons of pairing up alongside LeBron both on the court and off it.
The Lakers are not what they once were. The allure of being a Los Angeles Laker no longer exists. LeBron is first big name free agent to join the Lakers since Shaq in the late 1990’s.
To put it simply, there’s no guarantee the Lakers can get anyone, let alone who they want. Just like Paul George, Davis could get traded and decided to re-sign with another team.
It’d be would be very hard for Davis to turn down joining Kyrie and Gordon Hayward in Boston if the Celtics were able to acquire him next season.
The Lakers need to decide NOW what is best for this team’s future. It’s either stick with the young guys and hope that they can mature and become key players, or strip the team down to the bare minimum, acquire Davis and build around him and LeBron with other role players and free agents.
LeBron’s championship window is short and with teams like the Warriors, Rockets and Thunder all fighting to represent the Western Conference in the NBA Finals, it won’t be easy getting to the Finals let alone win.
LeBron may have signed a four-year contract, but his Laker tenure and the future of this team for the next decade could all come down to what happens in the next few months.