The drama in the Big Easy is finally over.
Per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Lakers have acquired Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans in a blockbuster trade that will send Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, the 4th overall pick in this week’s draft, and two future first round picks to New Orleans.
Off the Bayou
Davis made it known in late January that he was unhappy with his situation in New Orleans and wanted to be with a franchise that had a chance to consistently win. Among the teams rumored to have been involved in trade talks for the Kentucky product were the Lakers, Knicks, Nets, Celtics, 76ers, and Nuggets.
Show Me The Money
After months of speculation and dialogues, Davis was granted his wish on Saturday. While Davis could sign an extension prior to next summer’s free agency period, it would behoove him to wait, as earning All-NBA honors would add money to the max contract he would already receive. The six-time all-star will become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2020. As for the contract that Davis will sign after his current deal expires, the annual cash flows will likely be as follows: $35.4 million (year 1), $38.23 million (2), $41.29 million (3), $44.59 million (4), and $48.16 (5).
The Glass Slipper
The 6’10” Davis fits quite well with the Lakers. He will be able to play his natural power forward position next to LeBron James, who can suck in double-teams and find Davis cutting for easy dunks. LeBron’s speed, size, athleticism, and skill make it a ‘pick your poison’ situation for defenses when the Lakers run the pick-and-roll (which will be quite often). If the help ignores Davis, he can pop out for a perimeter jumper. If Davis is able to turn the corner on a defender out of the screen, James can find him cutting for a finish at the rim. In transition, the Lakers will be lethal. LeBron’s court vision is superb, and Davis will be the beneficiary of multiple transition opportunities every game.
The Summer Ahead
With Davis’ $27 million salary for the upcoming season and a $4 million trade bonus, the Lakers will either have $27.8 million or $32.5 million in cap space to work with this summer. While that is not enough to sign a max free agent with 7-9 or 10+ years of experience (as categorized by the salary cap rules), they could sign free agents with 0-6 years of experience to max contracts, or they could convince free agents in the older categories to take a discount for a chance to play a huge role on a contending team in the ‘City of Angels.’
That is a huge decision for Jeanie Buss and Rob Pelinka to make — they can either attempt to sign another max free agent and have, quite literally, zero depth on their roster, or they can settle for the James-Davis pairing and build a strong supporting cast around them. If they asked me, I would recommend the latter. While the Lakers will be a very strong regular season team, they will likely fade late and meet their demise earlier in the playoffs than expected without adequate depth.