Rapid Reaction: Anthony Davis Traded to Lakers (Fantasy Basketball)
After months of speculation, the Anthony Davis saga has ended with a blockbuster trade. Anthony Davis has been traded to the Los Angeles Lakers for Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, this year’s No. 4 pick, and two future first-round picks. It’s a move that isn’t too surprising, considering the Lakers were on Davis’ short list for trade destinations, and he and LeBron James share the same agent. What does the massive move mean for Davis, James, and others around the league? What can we expect from Davis next season? What storylines will we need to keep an eye on? Let’s break all of it down now in a very rapid first reaction to the Anthony Davis trade.
A BETTER TEAM THAN BEFORE?
Davis asking publicly to be traded seemed like a gut punch way back in February, but it’s hard to argue that the Pelicans aren’t better after this trade. New Orleans owns the No. 1 pick this year (which made the idea of trading AD much easier to swallow) which will almost assuredly be Zion Williamson. The Pels can re-sign former Laker Julius Randle to anchor the frontcourt with Williamson for a fierce combo at the four and five. Ball will be an easy addition to the starting lineup, able to facilitate the offense with his excellent court vision. He and Jrue Holiday will make for a solid backcourt, especially given Holiday’s solid defensive skills and Ball’s willingness as a defender. Ingram slots in as the small forward and the “rebuilding” Pelicans suddenly have a formidable starting five of Ball, Holiday, Ingram, Williamson, and Randle. Oh, did you forget they own the No. 4 overall pick in the draft this year? They could turn that pick into a quality rookie such as Jarrett Culver of Texas Tech or DeAndre Hunter of Virginia. They could just as easily trade that pick and upgrade the roster even further…
FAR FROM OVER
The Pelicans’ acquisition of the No. 4 pick could lead to yet an even better roster if that pick is dealt straight up or in a package. New Orleans has already drawn a lot of interest for the pick, according to Adrian Wojnarowski. It wouldn’t make a ton of sense for the Pels to use it on the projected No. 4 pick, Darius Garland after landing Lonzo. Instead, New Orleans can trade that pick. A trade of Jrue Holiday and the No. 4 pick to Washington for Bradley Beal would be a win-win for both sides, as the Wizards could get a replacement at shooting guard and draft their point guard of the future. The Pels could also consider trading Lonzo Ball. He would be a great fit with the Suns, and Phoenix could offer the No. 6 pick and another asset, such as T.J. Warren, for him. Those are just a couple of a myriad of options, and no matter which avenue the Pelicans decide to go down, it’s clear that they now have the flexibility to move a high pick or a quality starting point guard to build this team into a contender very quickly.
OTHER DOMINOES TO FALL
The question that’s got to be on everyone’s mind is — do the Lakers with LeBron James and Anthony Davis now look more appealing to free agents? Jimmy Butler has been long rumored to have a strong interest in playing for the Lakers, and the Davis trade may move the needle just enough to convince him to leave Philadelphia. The Sixers are likely to offer Butler a max contract, but the idea of playing with LeBron James and Davis might just be too enticing to pass up. Butler is the most realistic free agent the Lakers could still land, but what about the three other teams with prior interest in Davis? The Celtics will likely see Kyrie Irving walk in free agency, and without Davis, things could go south very quickly. Al Horford is aging, Gordon Hayward‘s contract could be an albatross with the way he played in 2018, and there are no stars in Boston. The Knicks didn’t get Davis, and with Kevin Durant‘s torn Achilles, Durant will probably take a long look at a max deal with Golden State if it’s offered to him. The summer of destiny for New York could be a total flop. The Clippers share the same building with the Lakers, and they are the favorite to sign Kawhi Leonard at this point. Will the pairing of Davis and James make him think twice about a move out West? The Staples Center may not be big enough for Leonard now.
LAKERS THE FAVORITES?
The Lakers have emerged as co-favorites to win the NBA championship next season with the Golden State Warriors at +500. Those sports betting odds are sure to swing in the Lakers’ favor due to the catastrophic injuries suffered by Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant in this year’s Finals. The Lakers could also add another star player in free agency to complete a West Coast Big Three, which would obviously increase the likelihood of another Lakers title. After a season to forget in LA, and a LeBron James-less playoffs, the 2019-2020 season will be full of excitement now that one of the league’s most storied franchises is back in championship contention. The Lakers had no real shot of winning a title last year, but that narrative has been flipped on its head.
OTHER STORYLINES TO WATCH
Team chemistry and free agent appeal are obviously in jeopardy with the move to trade for Anthony Davis, another Klutch Sports client. Rich Paul, both Davis and LeBron James‘ agent, has apparently worn a lot of people out within the Lakers organization. A team already thought to be firmly under LeBron’s thumb could look like that even more so. With Lonzo Ball comes his abrasive and ever-bloviating father, LaVar Ball, who brings a three-ring circus with him wherever he goes. David Griffin and other Pelicans’ front office staff will have to deal with the man for the foreseeable future. When asked about the trade, Lonzo’s dad’s reaction was predictable.
Trading for Anthony Davis was inevitable, but did the Lakers make the right move? A LeBron James-led team is always going to be in win-now mode. That’s the way it was in Miami and in Cleveland for the second run. It’s no knock on LeBron, but if the trade doesn’t yield a championship in the next three years, it’s safe to call it a bust. In all honesty, not winning a title in 2019-2020 should be viewed as a failure. The Warriors are the most vulnerable they’ve ever been, and few other teams in the West can hang with this new iteration of the Lakers. The Lakers will win enough games to ensure they don’t have any high draft picks even in the years they didn’t trade away their first-rounders. Ingram, Ball, and Hart are all extremely promising young players, too. The team has mortgaged its future on the possibility of a championship — the pressure on LeBron James this season will be enormous.
Ingram and Ball’s success post-Lakers will be fascinating to study. We’ve already seen three recently-let-go Lakers succeed in new locales — Brook Lopez, Julius Randle, and D’Angelo Russell. Lopez had a career year in terms of three-pointers, and his defense was much improved. Russell made a very strong case to win Most Improved Player and led his team to an unexpected playoff berth. Randle was a solid presence at center for the Pelicans this season despite dealing with injuries. Ingram and Ball could find newfound success in the Big Easy, but only time will tell how well they develop outside of Los Angeles.
WHAT TO EXPECT
It’s fair to question what Davis’ production will look like this upcoming season. Centers on a LeBron James team have historically played pretty poorly. It’s also fair to say that LeBron has never played with a center in his prime with this much talent and upside. Davis has averaged 23.7 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks in seven NBA seasons. He’s also earned six All-Star selections, three All-NBA selections, and three All-Defensive selections. He grabbed the most boards per game of his career (12.0) last season and handed out a career-high 3.9 assists. He also boasts a 79.5 percent free throw percentage, pretty impressive for a big. LeBron has dominated the ball throughout his career, but after a nasty groin injury last year, I think he’ll do his best to get Davis the ball early and often to prolong his career and take some of the load. This won’t be a team full of scorers and playmakers, so even if LeBron scores 27 points a night, Davis will still get his. I’m predicting 25.0 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks in 2019-2020, making Davis an easy top-10 fantasy basketball selection.
AN EXCITING SEASON
For me, the 2019-2020 NBA season can’t arrive soon enough. The Pelicans will be a must-watch team with Zion Williamson, young talent, and the possibility of even more pieces being added in the coming weeks. The Lakers will be absolutely entertaining on any night, with James and Davis lighting up the scoreboard. The NBA Draft and free agency are now even more exciting, with the anticipation of player movement in the wake of the Davis trade. Although it seemed inevitable that Anthony Davis would end up in LA, it doesn’t make the move any less thrilling. Just two days after the Finals concluded, we’re on to the beginning of what’s sure to be an incredible next year of basketball.