The New Orleans Pelicans just pulled off a robbery.
After requesting a trade from the New Orleans this past season, power forward/center Anthony Davis was dealt (in principle) to the Los Angeles Lakers for a haul that included Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and a trio of first-round draft picks.
At first glance, you may think the Lakers couldn’t pay enough to make this deal happen. Davis, who was sick of losing with New Orleans, now gets to team up with Lebron James in pursuit of the Lakers first championship since 2010. Davis is entering his prime and can take attention off of the aging James.
With the move, the Lakers are now favorites in Las Vegas to win the 2020 Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy.
I’m not too convinced.
New Orleans won this trade in many facets, and it’s easy to see once you look past the loss of a superstar player like Davis.
It’s been public knowledge for months that Davis wanted out of New Orleans. He was mentally drained from years of rebuilding and team turnover. He was also entering the final year of his contract and was expected to walk at the end of next season.
Because Davis would have been gone in free agency anyway, any return would have benefited New Orleans long-term.
And boy, did they get one.
To get Davis, the Lakers gave up three young talents, first and foremost. However, that’s not the worst part.
Although the players the Pelicans received have all-star potential, the real prize lies in the draft pick haul. Those picks include tonight’s No. 4 selection, a pick in 2021 (if it is a top-eight selection) or a 2022 pick (if it isn’t), a chance to swap 2023 picks if New Orleans chooses to and a choice of the Lakers’ 2024 or 2025 first-round picks.
The Lakers surrendered their future for a player that might move on to another team after the 2020 campaign. Davis has already said he will play out his deal and test free agency next year. Waiting to lure him east will be the New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics. All three teams checked in on trading for Davis before Los Angeles made the best offer, but they will all have competing salaries to offer when Davis hits the market next year.
For Davis to stay, Los Angeles would need a deep playoff run and a max deal to entice him.
New Orleans, on the other hand, is set up to build a contender in a few years time. It will almost certainly draft Zion Williamson No. 1 overall in tonight’s draft and will have the Lakers’ No. 4 pick as well.
Once the season starts, the Pelicans will have two 2019 top-five draft picks on the floor with Ball, Ingram and Hart to complement the new youthful core. New Orleans will also have two more first-round picks within the next five years that it will be able to work with.
Even if the Lakers win a championship this year, I’m still not sure if the trade will be worth it. James is starting to slow down, playing in only 55 games last year due to injury. Outside of James, the only supporting cast Davis will have on the roster is Kyle Kuzma. Assuming Davis signs a long-term deal with Los Angeles, he will be a star player on a team devoid of talent in just a few years. The Lakers will be cap-strapped and unable to build a future contender due to the loss of valuable draft picks.
Even if the Lakers win now, they lose in the end.
The Pelicans won this trade. The Lakers will regret it.
Follow Dylan O'Shea on Twitter @dylanoshea24 and contact him at [email protected].