We are a week on from the news breaking that the Los Angeles Lakers had agreed a trade with the New Orleans Pelicans for superstar Anthony Davis. The news appeared inevitable before the 2019 NBA Draft, and it was known that the trade would come at a cost.
Was a package featuring Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, and three future first round picks too much give up? Does the trade leave the Lakers short-handed moving forward? Has the move sacrificed a maximum salary slot for the upcoming free-agency period? Fans and the media have been sharing their views on the move, some positive, some negative.
Putting it in short, the trade feels good, but not great. However, it was important that the deal got done sooner rather than later. It is significant to note that the trade has not even been officially announced by either team, so we are forced to rely on reporting of the trade terms.
As we have seen, the permutations of the deal seem to fluctuate on a daily basis, for terms as basic as just when the trade itself will be consummated. As a result, it is hard to definitively assess the move until we know, officially, all of the information. That being said, based on what we “know”, it was a fair trade for both sides. Laker fans, of course, know the potential upside of Ingram and Ball. Hart was also a solid contributor. However, we are also very aware of their injury history.
None of Ingram, Ball, or Hart have been able to consistently stay healthy. While Hart was able to stay on the court for the majority of last season, he was fighting through knee issues. These issues clearly effected his performances in the second half of the campaign.
In addition, after 2020, New Orleans essentially owns the Lakers’ draft picks until potentially 2025 ,whether it be through pick swaps or outright having the Lakers’ first round draft choice. On the other hand, the Lakers have received a future Hall of Famer, in Davis, that is just entering his prime at 26 years of age.
I’ve heard analysts compare this trade to the one that went down between the Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics, where similar draft considerations were dealt for an aging Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry. The difference between that trade and the Davis trade should be plain. The Nets received Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnet at 35+ years of age. The Nets sold their future for a 1-2 year window.
The Lakers now have a cornerstone superstar in Davis who is just entering his prime at age 26, and is expected to remain in the purple and gold for the indefinite future. The Lakers were also able to keep Kyle Kuzma who is just 23 years of age and has a long way to go until he even enters his prime. Remember, if the trade proposal in February had been consummated, the Lakers would reportedly have given Kuzma up as well and taken back salary from the Pelicans, in Solomon Hill. This deal is clearly a better deal than the one offered at the trade deadline.
The major downside is the fact that General Manager, Rob Pelinka, failed to negotiate the time of transaction to happen on July 30, rather than July 6, as this would’ve made the job of opening up a maximum salary slot ($32.5 million) much easier. Given how much was given up in the deal, one would’ve thought Pelinka could have negotiated a better time of transaction.
I’ve heard people lament this deal from the Lakers’ standpoint by pointing out that it appears they were really negotiating against themselves, and that Pelinka should’ve been more insistent on not including either Ingram or Ball, or fewer draft considerations, and so on. However, while this line of thinking is not entirely off-base, it is also important to remember that there is value in making sure a deal gets done even if there is a slight overpay.
For instance, please raise your hand if you foresaw the Oklahoma City Thunder trading for Paul George, or the Toronto Raptors trading for Kawhi Leonard, when those sagas were ongoing. Now if you raised it, you can put your hand down because you’re lying. These were situations where the Lakers were seen as the front-runners for acquiring the star in question. Both Oklahoma City and Toronto were teams that were not mentioned as contenders. They were completely off the board.
The lesson in those situations is that the longer one attempts to nickle and dime with the person they are dealing with, the greater the chances that an unexpected team finds a way to come in and steal the deal. Also, don’t underestimate teams’ willingness to cut off their nose to spite their faces in a deal so long as they stick it to the Lakers. Wouldn’t the haul the Lakers just gave to New Orleans have been better for the San Antonio Spurs than what they got back for Kawhi when they received DeRozan on a huge contract, and bench players?
The Spurs also gave up Danny Green in that deal. But they did the deal anyway, to avoid dealing with the Lakers. When the Indiana Pacers traded George to Oklahoma City, they were basically taking on what many considered to be a salary dump in Victor Oladipo. Now, since the trade, Oladipo has taken a major leap and has become an All-Star, but at the time of the deal this was not the expectation.
So there is value in getting a deal done when a team can get it done. Rob Pelinka could possibly have been a bit more stingy and reluctant in terms of negotiating assets and the timing of the trade, but the deal needed to be done and he did it. There is a lot to say for just that.
By Frank Gaulden (@FrankGaulden)