Lakers should wait for Anthony Davis!
Why it’s looking more and more like the Lakers’ smart move would be to go after AD via free agency rather than a trade
The Los Angeles Lakers are hurtling towards a franchise defining moment next summer when they hope to sign a second superstar to pair with LeBron James and set the stage to trade for Anthony Davis as their third superstar.
A Big Three of LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Anthony Davis would be a Lakers’ fan’s greatest wet dream, a trio that would unite the best three players on the planet in purple and gold and create the greatest NBA team of all time. That’s the grand slam Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka are shooting for, that’s at the heart of their roster building strategy, defines their every move, and will ultimately determine the franchise’s future and their own legacies.
But shooting for the moon only works when it works. What happens if the Lakers miss out on KD, Kawhi, and Klay next summer? Right now, the word is none of those superstars want to come to LA to pair up with LeBron James. Do the Lakers lower their sites and pursue a lessor talent like Kemba Walker, Khris Middleton, or DeMarcus Cousins? Or do they panic and literally trade away the farm in a franchise defining mega trade to acquire Anthony Davis?
That’s the challenge facing Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka over the next two months as the Lakers struggle with injuries to LeBron James, JaVale McGee, and Rajon Rondo in a surprisingly open Western Conference playoff race. Unless the Lakers know something we don’t, there’s a case to be made they should aim to sign Anthony Davis as a free agent the summer of 2020 instead of pursuing Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, or Klay Thompson next summer.
As good as KD, Kawhi, and Klay could be playing alongside LeBron James, none of them can rival the long term potential or better positional fit that a younger Anthony Davis would bring to the Lakers. AD would not only be the perfect fit playing with LeBron now but would also provide a bridge to allow the Lakers to continue to dominate the league long after LeBron has retired. Signing AD as a free agent would also preserve their young talent and picks.
All this, of course, hinges on Anthony Davis declaring he wants to be traded to the Lakers and will only sign with them as a free agent in summer of 2020. While the Lakers could feel like they may have made a mistake not trading for Paul George or Kawhi Leonard, they shouldn’t let that cause them to trade for Anthony Davis unless they get an offer from the Pelicans they cannot resist. Otherwise, the smart move is trust Rich Paul and wait for summer of 2020.
The benefits of waiting to sign AD as a free agent are the key to making the Lakers a sustainable championship team starting with this season right now and extending way beyond the end of LeBron James 4-year Lakers’ contract. Giving up multiple young stars and future first round picks to trade for player you could sign as a free agent would be a huge mistake and cost the Lakers their depth and compromise their ability to build a sustainable dynasty.
Adopting this strategy doesn’t necessarily mean the Lakers would have to give up the dream of signing KD, Kawhi, or Klay and then trading for AD but there are some legitimate immediate benefits if the Lakers decide that they need cap space the summer of 2020 instead of summer of 2019, not the least of which could include upgrading the team’s roster for this season and giving LeBron a legitimate chance to lead the Lakers to a championship this season.
As we approach the February 7 trade deadline, the field of trade candidates who could help LeBron and the Lakers win a championship this season could be dramatically increased if the Lakers are willing to trade for players with one or two years left on their contracts rather than just expiring contracts. Frankly, there’s a valid argument the Lakers missed several opportunities the last two years protecting ‘sacred’ cap space that ultimately wasn’t utilized.
Adding elite role players with tradable contracts that expire summer of 2020 could also give the Lakers potentially key chips to trade for AD next summer. One of the problems the Lakers face right now is the only way they could match salaries in a trade for AD this summer would be to include all of their young players, including even Wagner, Mykhailiuk, and Bonga. Once all their vets on 1-year contracts expire, there’s nothing left but guys on rookie deals.
Giving up a chance to sign Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, or Klay Thompson the summer of 2019 and going all in on signing Anthony Davis the summer of 2020 is looking more and more like the smart move the Lakers need to make.