While the Los Angeles Lakers paid a steep price when they agreed to trade Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, and three first round draft picks to New Orleans for Anthony Davis, the deal brought with it a much-needed fast-forward in expectations.
Already, the Lakers have become a favorite to win the 2019/20 NBA Championship, according to some Las Vegas bookmakers. Not only is it a major leap in expectations from one season to another, as the Lakers have just failed to qualify for the playoffs, but it is a leap in expectations for a franchise that has been struggling for several years now.
Aside from the disastrous Dwightmare season of 2012, and the decision in 2016, by then Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak, to sign Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov to head-scratching, cap-maxing contracts, almost every season has been an exercise in saving cap space for superstar free agents. Year-by-year, the off-season would come and go, leaving Laker fans disappointed with players opting to sign elsewhere. Even in some cases, players were denying the Lakers basic free agent meetings. Rinse and repeat.
It was a deal with New Orleans in 2011 that started the aforementioned wheel of misery and disappointment, when David Stern nixed the Lakers’ trade for Chris Paul. Now, combined with LeBron James signing in 2018, it is now an Anthony Davis trade with New Orleans that will bring this vicious cycle to an end. The trade immediately puts the Lakers into an ever-present focus to win now. Into potential championship contention.
The Davis trade will not be able to be officially consummated until after July 1, 2019 when the free-agency period begins. This is important because it delays the hit to the cap space until after the Lakers are able to explore the free agent market. Hence, the only question left is how the franchise is going to spend what is expected to be an available salary cap of circa $23-32 million.
The purple and gold will soon have the opportunity to sign a potential All-Star free agent, a la Jimmy Butler, Kemba Walker, Kawhi Leonard, or Kyrie Irving. Certainly now, a recruiting pitch that will involve both LeBron James and Anthony Davis is one far superior than the franchise has had in recent history, if ever.
Once the available salary is spent this off-season and the Davis trade is made official, the Lakers will not have much cap space for the foreseeable future. In addition, draft prospects are expected to be few, since three future picks are now New Orleans-bound.
However, whether the Lakers sign another All-Star or divide their remaining cap space to acquire multiple role players, the days of Laker fans putting their hopes into the next off-season are over. The time is now, finally!
By Frank Gaulden (@FrankGaulden)