The Lakers’ Anthony Davis Gambit!
How the Los Angeles Lakers and Klutch Sports are conspiring to force a trade of Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans
When at first you don’t succeed, try again. The timing my not have been right last winter but the Lakers and Klutch Sports could be perfectly positioned this summer to force the Pelicans to make a blockbuster trade for Anthony Davis.
Make no mistake. There’s no player in the NBA whom the Lakers covet more than Anthony Davis. Just 26 years old, Davis is a bonafide top-five player who can play both power forward or center. He will average 30 points, 12 boards, 4 assists, 2.5 blocks, and 1.5 steals per game while shooting 50% from the field, 80% from the line, and 35% from deep. For the Lakers, acquiring Davis at this point in his career would be like acquiring LeBron James in his prime.
Unlike their failed efforts to force trades for Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, the Lakers have a daunting advantage and inside track this time in the form of Klutch Sports Group, the agent for both LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The Lakers’ attempt to force the Pelicans to trade Davis last winter bombed because Davis had two years left on his contract. That changes this summer as he enters his final year. The Pelicans will have to choice but to trade him.
Rich Paul, the founder of Klutch, has confirmed that Davis wants to play for Lakers and, if not traded to them, will sign with them as a free agent next summer instead of re-signing with the team to whom the Pelicans trade him. With that leverage in hand, the Lakers won’t make the same mistake they made the last two summers when they refused to make offers to trade for Paul George or Kawhi Leonard. This time they’ll trump any and all offers.
The key to the Lakers’ leverage is having cap space to sign Anthony Davis when he becomes a free agent next summer, as that would limit what other teams would be willing to risk to rent him for a year and basically guarantee the Pelicans would be forced to trade him to the Lakers. Ideally, the Lakers want to complete a trade for Davis before free agency starts next summer so they could still sign a third superstar in free agency to join James and Davis.
But what if the Pelicans call the Lakers’ bluff and refuse to trade Davis to them before free agency in hopes that the Lakers would give up their leverage and use up their cap space to sign a superstar like Kyrie, Kawhi, or Kemba? The problem with that strategy for the Pelicans is it’s only going to result in their getting less in return for trading for Anthony Davis should the Lakers call their bluff and commit to acquiring him in free agency instead of a trade.
No NBA team is going to be willing to offer more than what the Lakers would be willing to give the Pelicans in a trade for Davis knowing he won’t re-sign with them next summer. David Griffith knows the Lakers are his best option. He also knows that he doesn’t have the time and doesn’t want to take the risk of playing hardball and ending up losing the Lakers as his best trade partner. He didn’t take over as general manager of the Pelicans to blow his first deal.
The worst thing that could happen for the Pelicans is the Lakers actually deciding to wait to sign Anthony Davis in free agency next summer because there are actually compelling reasons why that might be the best move the Lakers could make. They could simply decide to sign several elite 3-point shooters like Brook Lopez, Danny Green, and Seth Curry to 1-year deals or multiple-year contracts they could easily flip later for expiring contracts.
As for landing a second superstar to go with LeBron James, the Lakers could opt to use some of the young talent they had originally planned to trade for Anthony Davis to trade for a veteran star like Bradley Beal or Mike Conley. Conley is an interesting option as his $34 million contract will expire next summer right when the Lakers will need cap space to sign Anthony Davis as a free agent. And trading for Beal or Conley would not cost as much as Davis.
With Rich Paul and the Klutch Sports Group controlling the Davis situation, there’s really little risk that Anthony Davis would change his mind like Paul George did and decide to stay with the team that traded for him as a rental. These are all factors that a consummate professional general manager like David Griffith, who’s always had a good relationship with Rich Paul and Klutch Sports, fully understands and will give proper weight in his decision.
Bottom line, if the Lakers and Klutch Sports hold firm, their strategy to force the New Orleans Pelicans to trade Anthony Davis to them is going to work and the AD trade will transform the Lakers’ odds of success in free agency.
Anthony Davis is the door to the Lakers’ future. LeBron James is just the key to unlocking that door. That’s why the Lakers’ top priority this summer will not be sign Kawhi, Kyrie, or Kemba. It will be to trade for Anthony Davis.