Think the Los Angeles Lakers will add a third superstar alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis? Think again.
While it was reasonable to wonder after the Lakers reportedly agreed to acquire Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday whether Los Angeles would turn its focus to signing a high-profile free agent, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski explained Monday on “SportsCenter” why that’s probably not going to happen.
Basically, according to Wojnarowski, the timing of the Davis trade is important: If the deal is completed when free agency begins July 6, as expected, the Lakers will have just $23.7 million in salary cap space. However, if the teams waited until July 30 to make the trade official, the Lakers would have $32.5 million in cap space (enough to sign a max-level free agent).
“There’s no A-list star who’s going to take that kind of discount — really even any of the B-list stars,” Wojnarowski said Monday. “So right now it looks like they would probably want to break up that $23-24 million to bring in multiple players, and given how barren the rest of their roster is right now — they don’t even have a starting five — that’s probably the better route for the Lakers to go.”
In other words, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, Jimmy Butler or Klay Thompson probably isn’t walking through that door anytime soon.
The Pelicans reportedly acquired Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and three first-round picks, including the No. 4 overall selection in the 2019 NBA Draft, from the Lakers in exchange for Davis. Since the deal won’t be official before Thursday’s draft, the Lakers essentially will pick whoever the Pelicans want them to choose, and that player’s rights then will officially belong to New Orleans once the Davis trade is completed July 6.
Of course, there’s a chance the Pelicans will flip the No. 4 pick they’re set to receive from the Lakers to another team. Wojnarowski broke down this possibility Tuesday on ESPN’s “Get Up!,” explaining New Orleans has high aspirations.
“The Pelicans are out big-game hunting,” Wojnarowski said. “They want to turn those Laker picks, especially No. 4 overall in Thursday’s draft, into an established, young All-Star. If they can find one that they’re able to pry away somewhere around the league, that’s what they’ve spent the last few days doing. Even prior to the trade, when they had the chance to maybe do a three-team trade, they were shopping that No. 4 pick around to see what it could get them back. But now that they have the two future Laker picks, all of that is in play to see what they can come up with between now and Thursday.
“Now, they could keep the pick and draft there, they could move back in the draft — a team like Atlanta, who has three picks, could jump up. So, they’ve got a lot of options. They’re out exploring all of them.”
The Pelicans also own the No. 1 overall pick Thursday thanks to winning the NBA draft lottery last month. All signs point toward them selecting Duke phenom Zion Williamson, who figures to replace Davis as the face of the franchise for the foreseeable future, but it’ll be interesting to see what the rest of New Orleans’ roster looks like when the 2019-20 season begins.
Thumbnail photo via Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports Images