Should The Lakers Trade the #4 Pick?
The Lakers best option may be to trade for a superstar before the draft unless they’re sure one of the top five free agents is coming
With the NBA Draft coming on June 20 and free agency starting on June 30, the Los Angeles Lakers have to decide whether to trade for a second superstar before the NBA draft or gamble on signing a second superstar in free agency.
What complicates the situation for the Lakers is potential trade partners will likely want to reach agreement on a trade before June 20 so they would be able to make their own decision on whom to select with the Lakers’ #4 pick. The problem for the Lakers is they don’t have contracts to match salaries in a trade for a superstar player, which means they’d have to wait until June 30 and use cap space reserved for a superstar in free agency to finalize a trade.
Ideally, the Lakers would probably prefer to acquire a second superstar to pair with LeBron James via free agency as that would not cost them any of their young core and would theoretically allow them to trade for third superstar. Realistically, unless they’re sure Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, or Kemba Walker are coming, the Lakers would be smarter to trade for a second superstar than gambling on landing one in free agency.
Depending on what they have to give up, trading for a superstar has some distinct advantages over signing one in free agency. Trading for a superstar eliminates the risk that the Lakers might strike out completely in free agency. Unfortunately, trading for a superstar would eliminate the option of signing a free agent superstar but, depending on what they gave up, the Lakers would still have cap space to upgrade their roster with multiple elite role players.
Let’s look at three trades the Lakers have been rumored to be considering: trading with the New Orleans Pelicans for Anthony Davis, the Washington Wizards for Bradley Beal, and the Toronto Raptors for Kyle Lowry.
The 26-year old Anthony Davis is obviously the superstar the Lakers covet the most to pair with LeBron James but there are also daunting problems trying reach a deal with the New Orleans Pelicans. First, the Pelicans don’t want to trade Davis to the Lakers because of what they perceive as a bad faith attempt by the Lakers and Klutch Sports to lower AD’s trade value and force a trade.
Second, they would prefer to trade him to a team in the Eastern Conference.
Realistically, David Griffin, the Pelicans’ new VP of Basketball Operations, isn’t going to turn down a significantly better offer from the Lakers for Davis but he’s also not going acquiesce to a trade with them unless it’s a great deal. And he’s surely not going to be rushed into making a trade for Davis before the draft if the Lakers and Klutch Sports try to hold a gun to his head to force a trade, which could end up making the trade unrealistic or too expensive.
Personally, I think the best offer the Lakers should make for Anthony Davis should be the #4 pick, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, and Josh Hart. If that’s not enough to convince the Pelicans to trade Davis to the Lakers before the draft, then the Lakers should move on to other options, including trading with the Washington Wizards for Bradley Beal or trading with the Toronto Raptors for Kyle Lowry and then signing Davis as a free agent next summer.
Trading for the Wizards’ Bradley Beal would cost the Lakers less than trading for the Pelicans’ Anthony Davis. While Beal and Davis both have identical $27 million salaries, Beal does not have the player option for 2020–21 that Davis possesses which allows him to opt out and become a free agent next summer. The Lakers and the Wizards are also in different conferences and there’s none of the bad blood between them that exists between the Lakers and Pelicans.
The 25-year old Beal would also be a perfect fit playing shooting guard next to Lonzo Ball and would still have two years left on his contract which expires in 2021, which is also the last guaranteed year in LeBron’s four-year contract. In many ways, Beal’s actually a better fit for what the Lakers’ need than Davis. He takes (7.3 vs 2.7 attempts per game) and makes (career 38.4% vs 31.4%) more threes and is a better playmaker (5.5 vs. 2.4 assists per game last year).
Assuming the Wizards would accept an offer of the #4 pick, Brandon Ingram, and Josh Hart, the Lakers would still have $21 million in cap space to pursue two elite role players, e.g. center Brook Lopez and point guard Terry Rozier. Basically, the Lakers would be trading the #4 pick, Ingram, Hart, and $11 million in cap space for Bradley Beal and using the $21 million in cap space left for a starting stretch five in Lopez and elite backup point guard in Rozier.
That would allow them to roll out a potential starting lineup of Lonzo Ball, Bradley Beal, LeBron James, Kyle Kuzma, and Brook Lopez which would add dramatically improved three-point shooting and a stronger veteran presence. Assuming they could use their room exception to re-sign JaVale McGee and veteran minimum exceptions to re-sign Reggie Bullock, Jemerrio Jones, and Mike Muscala to go with Terry Rozier, the Lakers would have a deeper bench.
Should the Lakers be unable to sign a top five superstar in free agency or pull off the above trades for Davis or Beal, their best option would be to trade for Raptors’ guard Kyle Lowry, whose $33 million contract expires next summer and would guarantee them cap space to sign Anthony Davis as a free agent. This, of course, assumes the Raptors lose Kawhi Leonard and decide to move on from Lowry and his contract before he becomes an unrestricted free agent.
Trading for Lowry could be ideal for the Lakers. First, Because of his age and contract, the Lakers should be able to trade for Lowry without giving up Ball or Ingram. A trade package of Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart should be sufficient. Second, the trade would guarantee the cap space to sign Anthony Davis next summer. Third, the Lakers would still retain the #4 pick to trade or keep. And fourth, Kyle Lowry would give the Lakers a second star to pair with LeBron.
While the 33-year old Lowry would essentially be a rental and placeholder for the cap space to sign Anthony Davis as a free agent next summer, the 14-year veteran is an elite veteran who’s been a five-time All-Star with career averages of 14.4 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 6.1 assists in 31.3 minutes per game. He’s also a career 34.7% three-point shooter who’s posted nine triple-doubles and would be a great temporary fit as the Lakers’ second superstar with LeBron.
The opportunity to land Anthony Davis without giving up the #4 pick, Lonzo Ball, or Brandon Ingram while still adding a star like Kyle Lowry could be an opportunity the Lakers might have a hard time saying no to, especially if the Pelicans’ best offer for Davis was from a team he didn’t want to re-sign with. Realistically, were the Lakers to trade for Lowry, it could seriously depress the value the Pelicans could receive for Davis and force them to trade him to L.A.
Bottom line, the Lakers will have a good idea via back channels by the time of the draft whether they have a chance at trading for a superstar and whether one of the top five free agent superstars is interested in signing with them. Unless they’re confident a superstar free agent is coming, the Lakers’ best option could be to trade the #4 pick and part of their young core to acquire Anthony Davis, Bradley Beal, or Kyle Lowry to complement LeBron James.
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