Before the sun even rose Monday morning on the West Coast, Anthony Davis and agent Rich Paul shocked the NBA world by officially requesting a trade from the New Orleans Pelicans.
The request itself isn’t a surprise. Rather, the timing of it, as it came just 11 days before the trade deadline, which is at 12 p.m. PT on Feb. 7. And almost immediately, the Los Angeles Lakers were mentioned as one of the top suitors.
The other team that has shown interest in Davis for years is the Boston Celtics. However, due to the “Rose Rule,” it would be impossible for the Celtics to get Davis before July 1 without including Kyrie Irving in a trade.
So the situation is simple: the Lakers now have a ticking clock to make a trade for Davis, completely unimpeded by Danny Ainge and the Celtics. Otherwise, all signs point to Ainge doing whatever it would take to acquire the five-time All-Star.
The Celtics are likely the only team in the NBA who has something better to offer than the Lakers, namely Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown and a treasure chest of high draft picks.
If the Lakers are to trade for Davis, the Pelicans reportedly would seek a return that at minimum includes Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Ivica Zubac and a first-round draft pick.
Unlike the Kawhi Leonard and Paul George situations, the Lakers cannot afford to wait it out and see what unfolds in free agency. Davis will not be a free agent until the summer of 2020, and LeBron James is now 34 and soon will be coming back from the worst injury of his career. When a player of James’ caliber is on the roster, the team is in win-now mode.
To make the trade work financially, the deal would also have to include Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. This deal is an absolute steal for the Lakers, even if it’s some variation of Ball, Caldwell-Pope, Kuzma, Zubac and a draft pick(s).
Yes, Ball was playing the best basketball of his career before the ankle injury. And yes, Kuzma is perhaps the Lakers best young prospect at this moment. And yes, Zubac is on a tear. But this is Anthony Davis.
This might be the first time in NBA history that a top-three NBA player at age 25 is actually on the trading block. An opportunity this good will likely never come again, and if the Lakers want a real shot at winning a title in the James era, they must act now.
Davis is on his third straight season of averaging at least 28 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks. Oh, and he has the third-greatest PER in NBA history, behind only Michael Jordan and possible future teammate James.
For context, he is one of two players in the last 20 years to average 28 and 11 while shooting greater than 50 percent from the field. The other is Shaquille O’Neal. Davis is the only player in NBA history to average 20 and 10 before age 21.
He’s basically a championship away from being a Hall of Famer, and he’s not even 26 yet.
At this point, keeping any one of the core four of Kuzma, Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart would be icing on the cake if the return was Davis. But even if those youngsters had to go, the Lakers shouldn’t hesitate to do it.
At the end of the day, if the Pelicans asked for Kuzma, Ball, Hart and Ingram in exchange for Davis, the trade should still be made. If Davis ends up on the Lakers, they will have two of the NBA’s three best players, and would be a challenger to the Warriors as early as this year.
And as a consolation prize, the Lakers could still navigate it so they have approximately $30 million in cap space heading into this summer. That would be useful for Kyrie Irving and Klay Thompson, both of whom would have interest in a Lakers roster that includes Davis.
And in case the Lakers do make so sort of monster offer and the Pelicans turn it down, at least the Lakers will be able to say they did everything they could. And it’s something that might stick with Davis when he becomes a free agent in 2020.
Remember, Paul George said he ended up not choosing the Lakers because they didn’t extend to the necessary measures to complete a trade.
There are a million reason why the Lakers should do this trade, and almost none for why they shouldn’t. If the Lakers want to win right now, and have their future cornerstone, they must try to trade for Davis before the deadline rolls around.
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