It is rather amazing that the Toronto Raptors could win their first NBA championship in program history and only get to control the news stream for two days, but that is what happened this week when the Los Angeles Lakers traded for Anthony Davis on Sunday. Basketball is and always will be a gigantic male soap opera but never more than during the offseason when petty feuds, anonymous reports and players real estate investments suddenly become the objects of great scrutiny but I can't remember an offseason in recent memory where the NBA was so wide open.
Over the course of fewer than five days, the hierarchy of NBA has, for at least the next week or so, been completely thrown out of whack. With the Warriors, and everyone really, losing both Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson in Game 6, mixed with the uncertainty of where Kawahi will be, sprinkled in with the Lakers pairing up Anthony Davis and LeBron James on top of all the free agents that will be available, it is anyone's league.
Let’s start right here in California with the Lakers. On Sunday, Los Angeles traded Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and three first-round picks, including the No. 4 pick in the upcoming draft, for a man we affectionately refer to as “The Brow.” Anytime a trade is made people rush to apply a letter grade and evaluate who was the winner and who was the loser of each trade which I personally think it ridiculous especially in this case when I feel both teams really won in terms of what they were looking for and what they realistically received or had to give up. The Lakers made a better offer last season before the trade deadline when they offered up the same package plus Kyle Kuzma, who the Lakers reportedly fought to keep this time around, but because the picks they got from Los Angeles are protected it isn’t a horrible loss.
The move will undoubtedly come to hurt the Lakers albeit later probably than sooner as it is obvious they are gambling their future on the next two to three years of LeBron and the second part of Davis’ prime once they get LeBron’s $40 million off the books. However, the last half of the 2020/2030 decade is going to be tough on the Purple and Gold, I promise you. That does not matter though and does not make it a bad trade, even though, as of now, the Lakers only have five players under contract and none of them play point guard, they acquired a 26-year-old star that can help LeBron age gracefully by cleaning up the rim at one end and punishing it at the other. The move immediately made the Lakers the favorites in Vegas, as it should have, as the whispers of adding a third star have begun with Kemba Walker, Kyrie Irving and Kawhi Leonard being at the center of them. Even without adding a third option, the Lakers are surely looking at a return to the playoffs and can boast two players as good as any in the league.
While I do think the future does look bright for the Lakers I would also be incredibly wary because it still, at times, seems like they don’t know what they are doing and have fallen into riches based solely off where they were born. Rob Pelinka and the Lakers made this deal, it seems, without being fully aware of how the timing of the deal would affect the salary cap. The reports are confusing and chalked full of deep NBA contract jargon but available if you would like to read them. But essentially if the Lakers make the trade before July 30, part of Davis’ money will take away from their salary cap not allowing them enough room to add a third star. That is why on Tuesday reports came out that the Lakers are looking to add a third team to send guys like Moe Wagner. What also concerns me is that you can’t trade draft picks for a player if you don’t have any meaning that when LeBron wants to add a veteran wing player before heading into the playoffs, write it down now and believe me later, they won't be able to do so by trading a future pick. Lastly, it seems that Davis and LeBron were going to be in Los Angles come hell or high water. It wasn’t savvy business moves or a proven supporting cast that drew them to Hollywood, it was seemingly the bright lights and mystique of playing for the Lakers, which is good and bad. Without any of their young guys to rely on and no money due to it being tied up in their stars, the rest of the team is going to need to be intelligently constructed with shooting, which after bringing in JaVale McGee, Lance Stephenson and Rajon Rondo last year showed, they might not be able to do that.
Aside from just the Lakers and the Warriors being in tatters, the whole NBA is looking incredibly exciting. The Rockets, who have been the second-best team in the league for the past few years and the biggest obstacle to the Warriors, have two fighting superstars and a style of play that they have proven won't work when needed most. The Celtics somehow have built for now and later but aren't ready for either of them as we await a Danny Ainge comment about “just how close” the Celtics were to getting Davis. If the Raptors can convince Kawahi to re-sign, which I ultimately think he does to get to 10 years so he can sign a major long term deal, they have no reason to believe they won't come out of the east again because they can bring back the exact same team if Marc Gasol opts in. If the Klaw leaves it sounds like he is going to the Los Angeles Clippers who are basically the exact same as the Raptors just in California, if you think about it. They have a fantastic supporting cast that when elevated by a superstar could be very special. It appears the Knicks will have spent another year courting every big free agent in the market only to end up going to the prom with their aunt as it is being reported the Nets are the preferred landing spot for Kyrie and KD if he does indeed leave. The Philadelphia Sixers and the Milwaukee Bucks should come back looking fairly similar but even they have some decisions to make as Jimmy Butler looks to test the market and the Deer will have to match offers made to Brogden if they want to keep him.
The Pelicans also won the trade even by losing a transcendent talent because surprisingly enough they have another one coming to town via the first overall pick in Zion Williamson. Williamson also has a surprisingly similar game to Davis and is poised to become a star, Ball and Jrue Holiday make for a fantastic defensive backcourt (and who isn’t dying for Lonzo to Zion lobs) and if they end up getting a veteran player for the No. 4 pick they acquired, let’s say Bradley Beal from the Washington Wizards, their future is, if nothing else, watchable on television. That is a team I would watch on a random Tuesday night on League Pass. Now the picks are even more interesting because the Pelicans can realistically control the Lakers draft for the next five or so years. The No. 4 pick is very cut and dry but the rest of the first-rounders are pick-swaps or cases where the Pelicans can hold off until the next year if they don’t like where LA is drafting.
No one even talks about the Oklahoma City Thunder but they are also interesting in their own way. July is going to be a fun month if you follow the NBA.