Even without Anthony Davis on Los Angeles Lakers roster, the 16 time NBA Champions are better than New Orleans Pelicans. While the Lakers rank 10th in the Western Conference standings, Pelicans rank 13th with 25 wins and 32 losses.
As far as the ancillary talent is concerned, both teams are virtually at par but the difference lies in their star players. Both Davis and LeBron James are transcendent talents but only one of two is discussed in the sentence of the greatest to ever play the sport and that is James.
With LeBron, Lakers can rest easy on ending the five year playoff drought because he is that good and has willed teams he has been on several times to near impossible feats. After signing with the team prior to this season, Lakers fans believed they were heading for the Conference Finals and even the NBA Finals.
That belief had a lot to do with the help LeBron was bound to get from a second star team management started working immediately after getting LeBron.
Almost a week removed from the midseason trade deadline, Lakers don’t have the second star since their main target Davis wasn’t let go by New Orleans Pelicans.
The Lakers instead traded Michael Beasley and Ivica Zubac for Mike Muscala from city rival LA Clippers and added Shooting Guard Reggie Bullock from Detroit Pistons.
Both new acquisitions were traded for to primarily improve Lakers three point shooting; Lakers rank 26th in three point shooting percentage with .339%. To get Davis, Lakers were prepared to give New Orleans everything they had including shipping out all five of its brightest prospects.
A trade package of Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart plus Zubac was a realistic set for Davis. Since that deal couldn’t go through, Davis will be traded to another team this offseason since he has stated his intentions to leave the team when his contract runs out in July, 2020. But the Chicago native is hell bent on playing for the Lakers meaning any team that trades for him will do so knowing very well it is just for a season before he becomes an unrestricted free agent heading to Los Angeles. This small detail is the underlining factor that will hurt New Orleans Pelicans in the long run.
Teams’ packages for Davis this offseason won’t be as good as those reportedly offered by Lakers because of the realistic short term stay for the 6 foot 11 inch Center. The most interested team likely to make a trade offer for Davis is the Boston Celtics who have contractual issues to sort out with unrestricted free agent Kyrie Irving this offseason too. Boston is armed with a collection young assets and could offer Terry Rozier, first round draft picks and Gordon Hayward for Davis or Rozier, Daniel Theis and Hayward for Davis.
Theis would fill out the open Forward role left behind by Davis while Rozier would replace injury prone Point Guard Elfrid Payton and Hayward take over the departed Nikola Mirotic’s role to make this deal workable. However, such a deal doesn’t trump Lakers offer which would have given Pelicans the unique opportunity of trotting out a five man unit of young talented players on cheap contracts. With or without Davis, New Orleans is heading to the draft with a chance to pick a talented player from this year’s class of young players headlined by the explosive Zion Williamson and well rounded game of RJ Barrett.
Kuzma and Ball have already shown big potential to take on bigger roles so keeping them and making the right draft pick gives Pelicans a solid foundation to build on to attract free agents. Should New Orleans market still prove unattractive, players could be traded for with a package involving Ingram and Hart just as Pelicans did to get DeMarcus Cousins from Sacramento Kings two seasons ago. Resisting dealing away Davis to Lakers could be down to spite, an opposing consensus from the league or Manager Dell Demps fearing his job security could be the reasons behind Pelicans refusal to trade Davis to Lakers.
Conversely, by yielding to clear emotions, New Orleans has missed out on a glorious chance to build a contender for a very long time in the near future and is bound to have several losing seasons. Lakers on the other hand, have cap space, LeBron, young players on cheap contracts and the Hollywood market to attract star players and get back to elite levels.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah
@YawMintYM on Twitter