The Los Angeles Lakers sit in a particularly interesting position this season.
After a highly underwhelming 3-10 start to the 2022-23 campaign along with the never-ending slander of former MVP Russell Westbrook, Laker fans might need to brace themselves for one major blow which would sure be rejoiced by the New Orleans Pelicans fanbase.
Victor Wembanyama, the 7-foot-2 France native, is widely regarded as the go-to prospect in next year’s NBA Draft. The 18-year-old features an electrifying offensive arsenal with a jaw-dropping, shot-making ability from all areas of the floor, garnering some of the most hype — and rightfully so — seen in a prospect within the past few years.
However, thanks to a past blockbuster between the Lakers and Pelicans, Wembanyama could potentially take the floor next season alongside Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram as teammates.
In 2019, the Pelicans dealt now eight-time All-Star Anthony Davis to the Lakers in exchange for Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and Brandon Ingram along with three first-round draft selections — including the right to swap 2023 first-rounders plus an unprotected 2024 first-round pick which New Orleans can defer to 2025.
While the Lakers got what they sought out, notching their franchise’s 17th NBA title in 2020, it would appear that the pendulum could swing in favor of the Pelicans when considering the early season trend thus far in Los Angeles.
Prior to the start of the season, the oddsmakers listed the Lakers’ odds at +1800 to win the NBA Finals — eighth behind the Los Angeles Clippers (+550), Golden State Warriors (+600), Boston Celtics (+600), Brooklyn Nets (+700), Milwaukee Bucks (+800), Phoenix Suns (+1200) and Philadelphia 76ers (+1500), according to DraftKings Sportsbook.
Yet, the outlook has since changed. With 13 games in the books and the Lakers entering their Friday contest against the Detroit Pistons as the 14th place in the Western Conference — just a game ahead of the dead-last Houston Rockets — those odds have drastically shifted downward.
Prior to tipoff against the Pistons, the Lakers’ title odds have fallen to the 18th-best at (+7000), according to DraftKings. Just to make an appearance in the Finals is a long shot as well with oddsmakers having placed the Lakers at +4000 to win the Western Conference.
So, what does this mean for the Pelicans?
Well, it’s pretty simple. Potentially, dealing away Davis — who in recent years, has been a shell of his prime self — could pay dividends for the Pelicans in the long run. With the Lakers headed for the bottom of the barrel in the standings, New Orleans just needs to sit and wait. Wembanyama will be 19 years old by draft night in 2023.
Through seven games played for Metropolitans 92 of the LNB professional league in France, Wembanyama has averaged 21.3 points per game with 8.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.9 blocks.
The Lakers reportedly have acknowledged the possibility, which they fear, of rewarding the Pelicans with Wembanyama on a silver platter as a result of their lackluster play on the floor.
“There is already a palpable fear inside (what I still like to call) Staples Center that the Purple & Gold are careening toward a draft in June which the New Orleans Pelicans are gleefully positioned to swap picks with L.A. as a condition of the Anthony Davis blockbuster deal in July 2019,” according to Marc Stein.
This would a worst-case, nightmare scenario for the Lakers, while simultaneously serving as a once-in-a-lifetime golden ticket for the Pelicans.