There is only one way to justify the price the Los Angeles Lakers paid to acquire Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans last week. And that’s to conclude Davis is a transcendent talent, something comparable to Lebron James in his prime or Kevin Durant before the walking boot.
Of course, that’s impossible to accurately quantify. From a statistical standpoint, Davis is an NBA first-team player. But from a cost-analysis perspective, he is worth the salary the Lakers will play him once combined with the generous package (Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and three picks, including the fourth overall in Thursday’s draft) they granted.
The Lakers obviously believe pairing Davis with Lebron will not only invigorate James, but provide the powerful nucleus other stars will hitch their wagons to during the ensuing rebuild.
The pundits immediately referred to the deal, which can’t be made official until July 6, as one of the most impactful made in NBA history. And we would agree.
In fact, the only other trade we can think of in the history of professional sports that rivals it was the one that sent Herschel Walker from the Dallas Cowboys to the Minnesota Vikings in 1989.
The Cowboys received a bundle of players and draft picks in the deal. And by the time the time the dust cleared, historians eqauted it with the start of the Cowboys Super Bowl run – they plugged Emmitt Smith into Walker’s spot – and the demise of the Vikings organization.
Only time will tell if this deal helps elevate New Orleans, which is expected to follow it up with the selection of Zion Williamson first overall. And one can only assume the Lakers have a blueprint to overcome the loss of so much peripheral personnel and so many future picks.
The first step in the process for the Lakers is financial. Davis, who has been begging to be traded to the Lakers since the first of the year, has the right to accept to accept a 15 percent trade bonus ($4 million). If he does, the Lakers will have just under $24 million in cap space to chase Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson with.
It’s more than likely Davis will sign a long-term deal to stay with the Lakers before he becomes a free agent in 2020. He will wear gold and purple long after Lebron has left.
Let’s just say, for example, the Lakers can sign Leonard, Irving or Walker. Who’s to say that wouldn’t immediately transform them from laughingstock into the favorite to win the Western Conference next season. The Vegas wise guys have already installed them a 7-2 favorite to do just that.
As for the Pelicans, all you can do is genuflect in praise of their negotiating skill. They were in a corner and they punched their way out. And now it’s always a possibility someone will offer them a wonderful package for the No. 4 pick and if that happens they should be set for a long time. Maybe they’ll listen to trade offers for their great point guard Jrue Holiday.
Among the future picks the Pelicans received for Davis is a 2021 pick they will receive if it falls within in the top eight in that year’s draft. They also include a pick swap in 2023, which is unprotected, and an unprotected first-round pick in 2024 the Pelicans can defer until 2025.
So we ask again: Is Davis worth it? Well, ESPN’s stats crew tells us he’s one of the top three players all time in player efficiency. Davis has averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds a game for six straight seasons. No other player has a streak longer than three. And he already has 99 30-point, 10-rebound games, 25 more than the next closest player, Russell Westbrook.
Still, the 2018-19 season was a lost one for Davis. His playing time plummeted during the 16 games he played after Jan. 18 after the Pelicans sat him for 21 games so he wouldn’t suffer what Durant and Thompson did. Of course, that killed the Pelicans season, but ultimately got them enough Lottery equity to land the No. 1 pick.
The bottom line is this was something both teams needed to have happen. The Pelicans had to rid themselves of Davis, who would have dragged them down emotionally in 2019-20 with his sulking and disinterest. And the Lakers needed it to survive.
In Lebron’s first season, the Lakers limped to a 37-45 record and the year was followed by internal dysfunction highlighted by Magic Johnson’s surprise resignation as team president on April 9.
Now the Pelicans have a fresh start and the Lakers have a combination of great stars to rival Wilt Chamberlain-Jerry West, Magic-Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Kobe Bryant-Shaquille O’Neal.
Everyone is happy – for now. We’ll check back next June for an update.