Will Anthony Davis Join the Lakers Next Summer?

by Taylor Smith
on October 1, 2018
7

Minute Read

More than most other professional sports leagues, the NBA is a league in which more and more of the power is going to the players. The NBA has one of the more powerful players’ associations among the American professional sports leagues, and the league as a whole seems to be growing in popularity by the year. As recently as 5 years ago, the notion that the NBA could seriously challenge the NFL atop the American sports hierarchy would’ve sounded ludicrous. Now, it’s not so ludicrous.

The NBA has stars upon stars. LeBron James, clearly the biggest star of them all, shifted the landscape of the league entirely with his decision to leave Cleveland in order to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers this summer. In the last 2 years alone, we’ve seen big names like Paul George, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Jimmy Butler, Kevin Durant, DeMarcus Cousins, Kawhi Leonard and a host of others change teams. When a superstar player tells his team he no longer wants to play for them, more often than not that team has been willing to accommodate any trade request. We saw it earlier this summer with Leonard, and we are currently in the process of seeing what the Minnesota Timberwolves decide to do with Butler.

Anthony Davis is one of the rare established superstars in the league that has not switched teams to this point in his career. Davis has been a member of the New Orleans Pelicans (originally Hornets) since the team made him the No. 1 overall pick back in 2012. All Davis has done in his 6 seasons to this point is become arguably a top-3 player in the entire league.

However, the Pelicans haven’t had much success in spite of his amazing production. The Pels have made the playoffs just twice with Davis in the fold, and they advanced past the first round for the first time this past spring. New Orleans was then unceremoniously ousted from the playoffs in round 2 by Golden State.

There have been murmurs in the past that Davis could seek a move unless the franchise starts to show real progress. As it stands, The Brow is under contract with the Pelicans for 2 more seasons with a player option for the 2020-21 campaign. So, the Pelicans are guaranteed 2 more seasons with Davis in the fold, barring a trade demand at some point. Despite the fact that he can’t become a free agent until the summer of 2020, some have already started to speculate at where he may land if (when?) he leaves New Orleans. In fact, there are already betting odds. As of now, here are the odds for where Davis will be playing at the beginning of the 2019-20 season:

  • Los Angeles Lakers -190
  • Boston Celtics +250
  • New Orleans Pelicans +300
  • Golden State Warriors +750

First off, it’s worth repeating that Davis isn’t a free agent until the summer of 2020 at the earliest. The odds mentioned above refer to the chances that Davis is playing for one of these teams by the time the 2019-20 season begins. So, the oddsmakers are thinking that if things don’t go well for the Pelicans this coming season, he may well ask for a trade with one guaranteed year left on his deal. Interestingly enough, the oddsmakers believe that Davis remaining a Pelican into the final guaranteed year of his deal is just the third-most likely scenario.

Lakers Looming

The Lakers are hungry for stars. Always have been, always will be. It’s been quite a while since we’ve seen the NBA’s most prestigious franchise in the playoffs, but most believe the 6-year drought will come to an end this season. With James in the fold, the Lakers’ odds at competing have improved greatly. That tends to happen whenever you have the best player on the planet on your roster.

LeBron inked a 4-year deal to join the Lakers, so he figures to be here for the long haul. Los Angeles is already an attractive destination for NBA players, and the chance to join a franchise like the Lakers to play with someone like LeBron will presumably be enticing for just about every player. Except you, Kyrie Irving.

The Lakers have an interesting crop of young players already in the mix, but it remains to be seen whether any of them will ultimately become legitimate stars in the league. Nobody doubts the ceilings on guys like Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball, but neither player burst onto the scene right away after turning pro. I am of the belief that both players will ultimately become All-Stars, but the clock is ticking on LeBron. James will turn 34 halfway through the upcoming season. He’s still amazing, but he won’t be at his peak forever. If the Lakers want to win championships with LeBron around, they’re going to need to expedite the rebuilding process.

That may well mean parting ways with some of these young guys in order to bring in more established talent. As we saw last season in Cleveland, LeBron has very little patience. The Cavs blew up their entire roster at the trade deadline because things weren’t working. If the Lakers get off to a ragged start this season, don’t be surprised if you start hearing Ball’s or Ingram’s name start to pop up in trade rumors.

The Lakers balked at trading their young guys for either Kawhi Leonard or Paul George, thinking instead that they could simply sign those guys once they became free agents. That strategy backfired when PG-13 re-signed with the Thunder, and we’ll see what happens next summer with Leonard.

Last week we learned that Davis had made the interesting decision to sign with Klutch Sports. In case you are unfamiliar, Klutch Sports is an agency started by longtime LeBron friend and confidant Rich Paul that represents a number of high-profile athletes, including James, John Wall and Ben Simmons, among others. This certainly isn’t a sign that Davis has an eye on joining LeBron in Tinseltown, but it’s also not nothing.

If Davis ultimately asks the Pelicans to trade him, they will presumably seek a combination of young players and draft assets in return. The Lakers have both. Whether that’s enough to land Davis is still a mystery, but some sort of package surrounding Ball, Ingram and/or Kyle Kuzma would at least be a decent starting point for New Orleans.

The Lakers are listed at -190 to be Davis’ team at the beginning of the 2019 season. I think this is a very realistic possibility, but the odds from a profit potential perspective here stink. I’d bet the Lakers if they had more favorable odds, but -190 is a no-go for me.

Celtics?

The Lakers are the odds-on favorites to land Davis, but don’t overlook L.A.’s longtime rival, the Boston Celtics. The argument can easily be made that the Celtics have even more ammunition to offer the Pelicans in any prospective Davis deal. Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier and Marcus Smart are intriguing young talents. Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward are more established stars, but both are still young enough to where I imagine the Pelicans would still have some interest.

The Celtics have been linked with Davis for a number of years, so you can be sure Boston will pick up the phone and call Dell Demps immediately if talk starts to emerge that Davis wants out. The Celtics have been largely reluctant to part ways with youngsters and draft picks in the past, but Davis is exactly the kind of player that you sell the farm to acquire. Still only 25, Davis is a 7-foot freak of nature with incredible offensive skills and insane shot-blocking ability on the other end. That’s the kind of cornerstone player every team drools over.

The Celtics have a core of talent that is likely good enough to win a title as is, which is potentially the only stumbling block that could give Danny Ainge some pause. Is it worth blowing up a title-caliber core in order to shake things up? I’d still say yes, without question, but we don’t really know one way or another what Ainge thinks.

Of the two frontrunners, I am intrigued enough in the value that comes with the Celtics to where I’d probably side with them here at +250 to acquire Davis prior to the 2019-20 campaign. You’re not making any money back if you bet on the Lakers at -190, and I would imagine there’s a chance they take the same conservative approach to trade talks that they did when discussing deals for George and Leonard. The Lakers probably think they can wait it out and ink Davis to a deal once he hits the free agent market.

The Celtics have better trade assets, and Boston is generally a less-desirable destination for free agents. Boston can’t afford to take the wait-and-see approach that the Lakers might, so I would expect Ainge to be aggressive in trying to get his man via trade.

Will Davis be Traded Prior to the 2018-19 Trade Deadline?

  • Yes +125
  • No -165

This bet is pondering whether Davis will be traded by the Pelicans during the upcoming season. New Orleans lost DeMarcus Cousins as a free agent this summer, but they managed to sweep the Blazers in the first round of the playoffs without him, anyway. With Davis now the lone big man in the fold and the clear-cut No. 1 offensive option, I think the Pelicans once again believe they should be in the playoff mix this year.

I personally think that New Orleans will be one of the teams that falls out of the Western Conference playoffs this season, but time will tell. The conference as a whole is deeper, and I’m not all that impressed by the team’s overall talent behind Davis and Jrue Holiday. An unfortunate injury to Davis, who already has a pretty deep track record when it comes to getting hurt, could derail things for this team rather quickly.

Obviously, the Pelicans would prefer to sign Davis to a new max deal once his current contract is set to expire. I am not at all convinced that he wants to stay in New Orleans in the long term if the team doesn’t start taking big steps forward, but the Pelicans will presumably do all they can possibly do to keep him around. For the most part, players tend to put in their trade demands during the offseason. See: Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler. I’m guessing no demand is going to come from Davis between now and the beginning of the regular season in just a couple of weeks, so I can’t imagine he’ll submit a trade request while the season is ongoing. Davis seems like a guy that wants to be a good teammate, so I can’t see that kind of thing transpiring.

The Pelicans certainly aren’t going to trade the face of their franchise on their own accord. If Davis isn’t the most valuable trade chip in the NBA, he’s not far off. In order to pry Davis away from New Orleans a team is going to have to put forth a true Godfather offer. If the Pelicans ultimately do relent and start fielding trade offers for Davis, I think they will do so for the first time next summer when he still has a year left on his deal.

So, I think the notion that the Pelicans could trade Davis before this coming February is absurd. An awful lot will have to go wrong for New Orleans to go down that path, so I think the obvious choice here is to take “no” at -165. There is no chance the Pelicans trade Anthony Davis prior to the upcoming trade deadline. They will not punt on the opportunity to sign him to a long-term deal this early in the process.

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