NBA

How the Los Angeles Lakers can Still Bungle the Anthony Davis Trade

LeBron James and the Lakers got Anthony Davis, but they still might find a way to botch the trade.

Basketball fans around the world exploded when we all found out Anthony Davis was heading to the Los Angeles Lakers. After months of trying to force his way to the purple and gold, Davis and his agent Rich Paul were able to go to the destination they wanted all along. By the time the 2019-20 NBA season starts, Davis will have long since waved bye-bye to New Orleans and set up shop in Los Angeles.

However, there is growing worry within the organization that the deal may affect how the Lakers approach the rest of the NBA free agency period. We will go over the trade and how the Lakers front office may have screwed it up in the long run.

Details of the trade

In landing Anthony Davis, the Lakers shipped out Lonzo Ball (a former No. 2 pick), Brandon Ingram (also a former No. 2 pick), Josh Hart, and three first-round picks.

The picks included the No. 4 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, which New Orleans traded to Atlanta for more picks, a top-8 protected pick in 2021 that becomes unprotected in 2022, the right to swap first round picks in 2023, and an unprotected 2024 first round pick that can be deferred until 2025.

New Orleans essentially holds the Lakers draft stock for the next half a decade. 

How could the Lakers mess it up?

Rob Pelinka and the Lakers got Anthony Davis, but they still might find a way to botch the trade.
Rob Pelinka and the Lakers got Anthony Davis, but the trade can still go sideways for them. | Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

Now we will go into how the Lakers can screw this deal up. The trade can become official on July 6 when the free agency moratorium ends. However, due to salary cap management and the rules of the collective bargaining agreement, a trade that soon would count toward the Lakers’ salary cap, meaning they wouldn’t have an opportunity to sign other big-time free agents.

The Pelicans traded the No. 4 pick to the Hawks, but since the Lakers still owned the pick, they had to choose the player the Hawks wanted (Virginia’s De’Andre Hunter). The other option was picking for themselves, risk angering the Pelicans and Hawks, and having New Orleans cancel the deal altogether.

If the deal is pushed back until July 30, the Lakers can sign Hunter and trade him and his salary to the Hawks, which would clear his salary from their books. Los Angeles can then use the extra money to sign another superstar, allowing them to go over the salary cap to sign Davis to an extension. It’s a very delicate balance for the Lakers, and if they don’t handle it properly, it could sabotage their season. 

Oh, and it doesn’t help matters that Lakers’ general manager Rob Pelinka is essentially learning how to handle the salary cap on the fly.

Who else can they sign?

If the Lakers do get their wish and postpone the Anthony Davis trade until July 30, who else could they sign? 

The leading candidates at the start of free agency figure to be Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant. Durant was rumored to go to the Knicks, but his decision will be up in the air after his Achilles tendon tear in the NBA Finals.

Thompson went down with a torn ACL in the Warriors’ Game 6 loss in the NBA Finals, while there are rumors that Jimmy Butler will sign a max deal to stay in Philadelphia. 

Kemba Walker is the next big prospect, as shipping out Lonzo Ball leaves a giant hole at the point guard position for the Lakers. Walker had his best season to date in Charlotte, being named an All-Star starter in 2019. 

The big issue will be money, meaning Walker could be looking at an $80 million loss if he doesn’t sign a supermax deal to stay in Charlotte. We think he should leave based on the mediocrity of the franchise. It will be hard for him to pass up that amount of money, but if he wants to play for a potential championship caliber team finding a new team will be his best bet.

When will the trade go down?

Basketball can’t wait to see where Durant, Thompson, Walker, Butler, Kyrie Irving, and Kawhi Leonard end up in free agency. We’re all curious as to which players will be wildly overpaid on their upcoming deals, too. But one of the most compelling storylines of the offseason is how the trade for Anthony Davis shakes out. The Lakers, Davis, and LeBron James are big-time winners in the deal, but there are so many variables. Watching how it unfolds, whether it’s July 6 or July 30, will be fascinating.