In January, Anthony Davis requested a trade from the Pelicans and the Lakers always seemed the most likely destination. The Celtics and Knicks popped up in trade rumors, but in the end, Davis is heading to Los Angeles. He joins up with LeBron James to form the NBA’s latest super team. This deal and long-term injuries to Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant in the Finals have flipped the upcoming season upside down. The Lakers still have the cap space to land another superstar with names like Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker and Jimmy Butler all entering free agency in two weeks.
Here’s how the deal broke down according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
Los Angeles receives: Anthony Davis
New Orleans receives: Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, No. 4 overall pick in 2019 NBA Draft and two additional first-round picks
WHAT THE TRADE MEANS FOR LOS ANGELESAfter a disappointing season in which the Lakers miss the playoffs for the sixth consecutive year, they are back on the map. This was assumed to be the case after signing LeBron James last offseason, but injuries and a lack of help for James were too difficult to overcome. The expectations will be sky high and the team is almost certain to make another splash in free agency. Per Bobby Marks of ESPN, the Lakers will have either $27.8M or $32.5M left in cap space depending on when the deal is officially completed and if Davis waives his $4M trade bonus. The Lakers will likely be among the favorites to win the NBA Championship by the time the season starts.
In Anthony Davis, the Lakers are getting one of the best players in the NBA. Last season, he averaged 25.9 points and 12 rebounds in 56 games. While great, these numbers aren’t indicative of how dominant he can be. The Pelicans’ season fell apart after AD asked to be traded, leading to limited minutes and rest games down the stretch of the season to ensure his health. The six-time All-Star has been on the All-NBA First Team in three of the last five seasons. Most importantly for the Lakers, he’s an elite defensive player with three nominations to NBA All-Defensive Teams. Davis should bolster a Lakers’ defense, which was a letdown at throughout last season.
Davis figures to fit in perfectly alongside LeBron. AD can play off the ball, but also became more of an adept passer last season. He averaged a career-high 3.9 assists and is also becoming a better shooter as he gets older. While not great, Davis shot 33.1% from three-point range last season on 2.6 attempts per game. He should get more uncontested looks from deep playing with James. AD could see lower usage playing with another star, but this isn’t necessarily bad for his production. His usage dipped slightly playing alongside DeMarcus Cousins two seasons ago and AD finished among the league leaders in efficiency. Davis shot 53.4% from the field with a 61.2% true shooting. As for LeBron, I expect his fantasy production to dip a bit from the 54.6 DKFP he averaged last season. He’s going to be sharing usage with Davis and the Lakers will likely want to reign him in from the 35.2 minutes he played per game.
This is an all-in move for the Lakers. Surrendering future picks and most of the young core needed to be done with LeBron turning 35 next season. He played 55 games last season, the least of his career and bringing on another star figures to ease his workload. In an interesting part of today’s deal, Chris Haynes of Yahoo is reporting that Davis will not sign a contract extension and will test free agency after the 2019-20 season. Ultimately, most people expect he will be with the Lakers long term, but this opens the door for interesting scenarios, should the Lakers fail to live up to their potential next season. Davis could walk leaving the team barren on talent, youth and future draft picks. This adds a bit of risk to the deal and I think the downside is worth the potential reward.
WHAT THE TRADE MEANS FOR NEW ORLEANSWith this trade, the Pelicans have one of the best young cores in the NBA. Adding Zion Williamson (-5000 to go first in the draft) is all but a done deal and they added the fourth pick in the draft. There is some speculation the fourth pick could be on the move if the right deal presents itself, but if keeping the pick, I think it is in the best interest of New Orleans to add perimeter shooting. While there is reason to like Hart, Ball and Ingram as young players, all of them shot well below-average from distance last season. At 29, Jrue Holiday is the lone veteran of the squad. He’s a great playmaker and perimeter defender, but at 32.5% from deep last season, he isn’t exactly a marksman either. Adding two future picks round out a nice haul for New Orleans since it didn’t have much leverage in negotiations. In a best-case scenario, those picks could convert into extremely valuable assets should the unlikely happen and AD leaves the Lakers in free agency.
The next chip to fall in New Orleans is Julius Randle. He has a $9 million player option, which he is almost certain to decline, making him a free agent. Randle has defensive shortcomings, but these could easily be overcome playing alongside Zion. For all the accolades about the incredible athleticism and playmaking of Williamson, his most immediate impact could come on the defensive end. He’s a tremendous help defender and he has the closing speed to swat shots of open shooters on the perimeter when he starts from underneath the basket. It wouldn’t surprise me for Williamson to make an All-Defensive Team in his first season.
Ball also has the ability to be an elite defender when healthy, while Holiday is already on that level. Floor spacing is going to be an issue and could limit this team on offense, but this could be a defensive stalwart next season. The Pelicans were 24th in defensive efficiency last season and one of the best teams to target in DFS, allowing the second-most fantasy points of all teams, trailing only the Hawks. This should be a stingier defense next season, although they could still allow a fair amount of fantasy points since they played the second-fastest pace in the league and retained Alvin Gentry as the head coach, meaning the style of play should be similar.
*DKFP = DraftKings Fantasy Points
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