It’s been two years since Anthony Davis left the city of New Orleans to go title chasing. In July 2019, the Pelicans traded Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, and three first-round picks, including the No. 4 overall selection in the 2019 NBA Draft. The No. 4 overall pick was used on De’Andre Hunter, which was then shipped to the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for the No. 8 pick (Jaxon Hayes), No. 17 pick (Nickeil Alexander-Walker), and the No. 35 pick (Didi Louzada).
Since the second anniversary, the Lakers have won one NBA championship (2020) and made the first round of the playoffs last year. Meanwhile, the Pelicans have not qualified for the postseason but have seen growth from all parties of the trade package.
With the injury to Davis, as well as the slew of free agents slated for the Lakers franchise, there are concerns in Los Angeles about the team’s overall depth. Davis signed a five-year, $190 million contract in 2020 and is due a hefty amount of money, but also struggled last year with a left groin injury. With questions about the team’s depth, would a switch-a-roo help both parties right now?
Brandon Ingram Is An All-Star
The Brandon Ingram that has played in New Orleans the last two years is the Brandon Ingram that the Lakers thought they were getting when he was drafted No. 2 overall in 2016. Ingram won the 2020 Most Improved Player of the Year Award after averaging 23.8 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 4.2 assists. He then replicated his scoring success last year by averaging 23.8 points per game again, while increasing his assist count to 4.9.
In 2020, Ingram qualified for his first All-Star appearance as well. In the 2020 offseason, Ingram signed a five-year, $158 million contract. Ingram would give the Lakers another All-Star to pair with LeBron, a player that is younger at the age of 23, and would save the team $32 million over time.
Lonzo Ball Can Replace Dennis Schroder
Schroder, the 2019 Sixth Man of the Year runner-up, is a free agent this offseason. There are questions about his return to the franchise based on the hefty price tag that will come along with him. Ball is coming off a career year with the Pelicans, where he averaged 14.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, 5.7 assists, and 1.5 steals. Ball’s outside shooting was above 37% in both seasons in New Orleans compared to just over 30% in his first two years in Los Angeles.
What improved the most from Ball is his ability to play defense. While his overall game is not the same as Ben Simmons, he is a “lit toe” version of the Philadelphia 76ers All-Star. Ball would have to be a sign-and-trade in this scenario, but he would provide similar offense and better defense. After all, Schroder averaged 15.4 points, 3.5 rebounds, 5.8 assists, and 1.1 steals last year.
Josh Hart Provides Bench Depth
Hart had his two best scoring seasons in New Orleans. In his first year, Hart averaged 10.1 points and 6.5 rebounds. Last year, he scored 9.2 points and added 8.0 rebounds. Hart is the modern-day Tristan Thompson. In Thompson’s prime, he could provide a near double-double, physicality, and an inside presence off the bench. Hart has starting potential but is best coming off the bench.
Hart has also been fairly durable in his four-year career. Last year, it was the first time in four seasons that he didn’t surpass 60 games.
The Draft Pick
With the Grizzlies trading Jonas Valuncunias to the Pelicans, the team needed draft compensation, which included the No. 10 overall pick in this year’s draft. In exchange, the Grizzlies sent the No. 17 overall pick along with Valanciunas. For now, the mock drafts project that New Orleans will use this pick on a shooting guard.
The projections for New Orleans at No. 17 include Gonzaga’s Corey Kispert, Stanford’s Ziaire Williams, and Virginia’s Trey Murphy III. Kispert would be the best possible selection, but he could be taken as high as No. 14. If he falls, this would be a steal for the Lakers if this trade was conducted.
Pros Of Replicating This Trade
The obvious pro would be that the city of New Orleans would have a superstar to pair with Zion Williamson. Despite what the reports say, Williamson has to be growing tired of the lack of urgency to bring true talent to the city. He has failed to make the playoffs in two years. Williamson has been compared to the likes of LeBron James, even coming out of high school. He has to loath that Davis won a title with LeBron his rookie year, knowing that he could likely play a similar style with Davis.
As for the Lakers, the team would save money with this trade. It would potentially allow the team to bring back some of their free agents like Dennis Schroder or Andre Drummond. Ingram is an All-Star, while Ball is one of the best role players in the league. The Lakers would be a complete team and wouldn’t crumble at the first major injury to one of their key contributors.
Cons Of Replicating This Trade
The Pelicans were watching the playoffs because they didn’t qualify for them. They saw Davis hobbling around in the playoffs, but also during the regular season. There have to be some question marks about his health. If the team parted with their best players to get an injury-prone player, it would make a stronger case for Williamson to pack his stuff and get out of town quicker.
As for the Lakers, LeBron and Davis are going to cost close to $75 million alone. The team has been rumored to be interested in bringing in a third superstar, but with what financial flexibility? With almost three-fourths of the roster set to be a free agent, the depth on this team looks meek. LeBron is going to be 37 years old this year. He can’t waste another year if the team’s other superstar is hurt again.
Should The Lakers Complete This Trade?
The answer is a simple no. When healthy, Davis averaged 26.1 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.5 steals, and 2.5 blocks per game. In 2020, he was the runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year to Giannis Antetokounmpo, who also won the MVP that year. Last year, despite playing just 36 regular-season games, Davis averaged 21.8 points, 7.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.2 steals, and 1.6 blocks.
The great value version of Davis is still superior to the play of Brandon Ingram. While Ball had a solid year last season, you can find that production at a lower cost than $12-$15 million, which is probably what it will cost to bring him in. As for Hart, while his depth is needed, that is sometimes the cost of doing business.
The Lakers won a championship with Davis healthy. They were the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference before Davis and LeBron got hurt. When they came back, all momentum and consistency were shuffled, but the team still made the playoffs.
New Orleans has run this lineup of “star” players for two years. What has it got them? While youth and expertise grow over time, LeBron doesn’t have time to waste. He needs to win now and the Lakers are not worried about the future after his retirement if it means two more championship banners hanging in the Staples Center.