The New Orleans Pelicans rebuffed the Los Angeles Lakers’ attempt to trade for Anthony Davis during the regular season, but the summer brings another opportunity for the teams to strike a deal.
It’s important to note, however, that not all things are equal, for better or worse.
The Pelicans fired general manager Dell Demps and since have hired former Cleveland Cavaliers GM David Griffin as their new president of basketball operations. The Lakers, meanwhile, are dealing with the loss of Magic Johnson, who stepped down last week as president of basketball operations, while also trying to find a new head coach after parting ways with Luke Walton.
The Lakers have time to figure out everything. They can’t execute a blockbuster trade for Davis before July 1 due to roster restrictions and expiring player contracts for the 2018-19 season, and the Pelicans probably prefer to wait a bit anyway to see whether the Boston Celtics and New York Knicks, among others, will put together competitive offers.
But what would a hypothetical Lakers trade for Davis look like just months after Los Angeles seemingly showed a willingness to deal anyone besides LeBron James for the perennial All-Star?
Bobby Marks, ESPN’s NBA front office insider, broke down the situation in a piece published Monday on ESPN.com. He suggested the Lakers’ offer now should be “limited to” Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball, their 2019 first-round pick (a lottery pick) and a 2021 unprotected first-round pick.
The Lakers will enter next month’s NBA draft lottery at No. 11, giving them a 2.0 percent chance of landing the No. 1 overall pick and a 9.4 percent chance of moving into the top four.
Here’s what Marks wrote about the Lakers’ pursuit of Davis:
Because the Lakers are using cap space as a buffer, their room would be reduced from $36 million to $21 million. Despite the eliminated max slot, the Lakers roster would consist of James, Davis, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram, Moritz Wagner, Isaac Bonga and $27 million in room to build out the roster in free agency. That cap space would only increase to $30 million if James and Davis are all that’s left on the team.
Marks, who spent five seasons as assistant general manager of the Brooklyn Nets, explained the Lakers can’t allow their pursuit of Davis disrupt their approach to free agency. Several superstars are set to be available on the open market this summer — including Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and Kyrie Irving — and waiting too long for the Pelicans to sift through trade offers for Davis could do Los Angeles a disservice as the organization looks to build a championship-caliber roster around James following a tumultuous 2018-19 campaign in which the Lakers missed the playoffs.