The recent public declaration by Anthony Davis, albeit via his agent, Rich Paul, has created a media thunderstorm of epic proportions.
Apart from the usual ‘Woj bomb’ by ESPN senior insider, Adrian Wojnarowski, every single American sports media is jumping on the trade ideas bandwagon.
With the internet going crazy about the Anthony Davis trade and Lakers being the only linked suitor in the next week, the majority of the fans and media alike are presuming that Rob Pelinka and Magic Johnson will definitely succeed in their trade talks with Dell Demps. But is it really a sure-win? It is interesting if we can offer a devil's advocate point of view.
Instead of conventional Lakers wisdom of making a grand entrance for trade season, there is an alternate route to become a Championship contender - Keep the young core to continue building chemistry with LeBron James.
The loud rumor has been that LeBron’s camp does not have the patience to wait out the entire season before they deal with further uncertainty in the summer. To dissolve this stalemate, Rob Pelinka and Magic Johnson would need an open conversation with LeBron James and Rich Paul to convince them of the chances of winning without Anthony Davis. Below are some valid points of consideration.
First of all, if you follow LeBron’s NBA career, he traditionally makes pure shooters around him better. The statistics do not lie. Kyle Korver, JR Smith, and Ray Allen. Anthony Davis is not the prototypical shooter that LeBron has worked with.
Secondly, big men traditionally don't flourish with LeBron. Think Chris Bosh, Kevin Love, Kendrick Perkins, and Antawn Jamison. Chris Bosh’s All-Star numbers took a dip due to adjusting to playing around LeBron. If Chris Bosh had not sacrificed to evolve his post game into a more catch-and-shoot stretch five, his decline would be even worse. Anthony Davis would need to be prepared to make more adjustments to his game if he wishes to team up with the King.
Thirdly, although Anthony Davis has been putting up stellar numbers, he has only won a single playoff series and he has not been reliable in terms of even leading the New Orleans Pelicans into the playoffs. That might have exposed the areas of improvement of Anthony Davis, his leadership, clutch performance and winning desire (Mamba Mentality).
Fourthly, Anthony Davis needs to operate in the post for 70% of the time. He needs the ball to be effective, so does LeBron and Rajon. He is used to being fed the ball and going to work by delivering restricted area buckets. The occasional three-pointer he shoots would need to increase in production multifold and the Brow would need to be more off-ball if the Lakers want success with a LeBron-Anthony one-two punch.
As you can see, a simple breakdown of ability and fit would show that there might be many question marks even if the Lakers empty the house for acquiring the Brow.
In a hypothetical situation where Lakers do not manage to land Anthony Davis this season, what possibility lies in the horizon?
No one can guarantee that a second Superstar NBA player like Kevin Durant, DeMarcus Cousins or Kawhi Leonard will sign with the Lakers in offseason. What if the Lakers need to trade for the other star players but are left with no more assets due to their “showhand” move for Anthony Davis. Imagine the Lakers have emptied their young talented squad just for Anthony Davis, who will support the King and the Brow in their playoff run this season? The other veterans are either past their prime or mainly there to teach the young players how to be a professional. No one else can really step up to be the dependable third or fourth or fifth star on the starting five. The second unit would also suffer huge attrition without the prowess and running ability of Ball, Ingram, Kuzma, Hart, and Zubac. How the Lakers can still play the fast-paced Lakers basketball becomes a question mark without the young core who is more athletic than veterans. If that is the case, LeBron and Anthony may need to be on exhaustively extensive minutes per game and run the risk of injuries.
On the contrary, by keeping the young core and not emptying the roster for Anthony Davis, Lakers is already a formidable playoff team. Just look at how the Lakers fare before the starters get injury related downtime. The young starters are having an uptick in their development as we know it.
So what else awaits if the young core remains and Anthony Davis do not join the purple and gold? The following scenarios are free for conjuring.
It is an open secret that DeMarcus Cousins is only in Golden State Warriors for a one-year rental to make a run at winning one ring. He will look to get paid after just taking a minimal 5.4 million salary this season. The Warriors have no money to pay Cousins the maximum contract he seeks. The Lakers is a viable contender who can pay Cousins nearer (but below) the maximum contract and yet give him a legitimate chance at winning a ring.
Klay Thompson is another attractive option. This is dependent upon the playoff success and money that Warriors offer. If the Warriors lose in the Finals and decides to pay maximum money to Kevin Durant and Draymond Green, Klay might have too little left on the table. This might drive Klay to migrate to Lakers who are primed to offer Klay slightly less than maximum and still offer a contending squad. His father, Mychal Thompson, as well as league sources, have also dropped hints that Klay is very open to joining the Lakers if he were to leave the Warriors.
Apart from these two stars, Kevin Durant has yet to ink his long term deal. Having solidified his legacy with two Finals Most Valuable Player awards and two Championships (and even three if this season ends well), Durant can rest assured that his Hall of Fame chances are cemented. He has been taking far less money than he deserved as a four-time scoring title holder, league MVP and Finals MVP. This summer would be the time that Durant will be out hunting for moolah. Given his reverance for Kobe Bryant and the admiration of the Lakers franchise, the Lakers remain a possibility for landing the Slim Reaper. His willingness to leave Oklahoma City Thunder after all the shared winning experiences with Russell Westbrook shows that Durant is able to pick pragmatism above emotions so who are we to say that he wouldn't repeat his tendency for franchise-hopping?
Having seen the other options discussed above, we can see that the Lakers shouldn't be overly desperate to lock-in Anthony Davis as there are other avenues to win. Therefore, instead of caving in to the preference of LeBron James or Rich Paul by chasing Anthony Davis, the Lakers have the alternate option of signing free agents in the off season. That way, the Lakers can conserve more premium pieces that they took years to build and stay nimble for the future.
To end off, which starting team do you think will be more intriguing to have?
LeBron James, Kevin Durant, DeMarcus Cousins, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, and Brandon Ingram
LeBron James, Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins and role players
That said, we can ponder and weigh the advantages of the two routes of the Lakers road to Championship but everything will be reset come the trade deadline when the results are in. Right now, what we can do is just sit back and soak in the exciting atmosphere of one of the most frenzied NBA trade season in a long while.