The Right Strategy to Trade for AD!
Why controlling trade negotiations with the Pelicans is the key to the Lakers getting the best possible deal for Anthony Davis
Lakers’ general manager Rob Pelinka faces a daunting challenge negotiating a trade with the Pelicans for Anthony Davis this summer after Magic Johnson’s disastrous, embarrassing attempt to trade for him backfired badly last season.
Dell Demps, the Pelicans’ general manager at that time, not only refused to negotiate with Lakers’ general manager Rob Pelinka but ultimately rejected Lakers’ president of basketball operations Magic Johnson’s overly generous offer of draft picks and everybody on their roster not named LeBron James. While David Griffin has taken over as the Pelican’s vice president of basketball operations and Trajan Langdon as general manager, Pelinka’s in a tough spot.
How does he overcome the honest expectations from the Pelicans’ new front office that the Lakers should be willing to make the same offer this summer? How does he prevent trade talks in the media from damaging team chemistry and hurting player performance as it did at the trade deadline last season? The last thing Rob Pelinka and the Lakers need to have happen this summer is another embarrassing front office failure and example of team dysfunction.
The Pelicans have even muddied the waters further by leaking reports that some in their front office have “admitted that package was pretty attractive” and Pelican’s head coach Alvin Gentry has publicly said he “loved the idea of a Lonzo Ball and Jrue Holiday backcourt.” Meanwhile, the Pelicans’ owner Gayle Benson has been allegedly quoted saying that the only way the Pelicans would trade Anthony Davis to the Lakers would be “over her dead body.”
Rob Pelinka obviously is on the proverbial hot seat and needs to put together a smart strategy and winning offer to convince the New Orleans Pelican’s ownership and front office to trade superstar Anthony Davis to the Lakers. Unlike Magic Johnson, Pelinka needs to control trade negotiations with the Pelicans and take advantage of the leverage he has because the Lakers are one of the teams Anthony Davis would be willing to re-sign with if traded.
The strategy Pelinka adopts should first be limited to trading for Anthony Davis this summer, ideally before the NBA Draft on June 20th so that the Pelicans can select the player they want with the Lakers’ #4 draft pick. While there’s a chance the Pelicans might decide to wait until the midseason trade deadline to move Davis, there’s no way the Lakers want a repeat of last season where the trade discussions undermined the team during the season.
The key to smart trade negotiations lies in putting together the right offers. That’s how Pelinka can control the situation from the start and make sure the Pelicans know and understand what the Lakers are willing to give up or not. Rob shouldn’t low ball the Pelicans or be willing to give up anything they want. Instead, he should identify what would be an offer that would win the AD trade sweepstakes and what steps the Lakers are just not willing to take.
Pelinka’s winning offers should give the Pelicans a set of options that will be better than what the Lakers believe the New York Knicks are ‘able’ to offer and what the Boston Celtics are ‘willing’ to offer since AD won’t re-sign there. The offers should also exclude taking back a bad contract as that’s not what the Pelicans really want and should be structured to meet the league salary matching requirements so the Lakers don’t have to sacrifice any cap space.
There are three trade packages that meet the above requirements and enable the Lakers to sign a third superstar or multiple role players in free agency. The first keeps Ball and swaps Ingram, Kuzma, Hart, Wagner, Bonga, and the #4 pick for Davis. The second keeps Ingram and swaps Ball, Kuzma, Hart, Wagner, Bonga, and the #4 pick for Davis. The third keeps Kuzma, Hart, Wagner, and Bonga and swaps Ball, Ingram, and the #4 pick for Davis.
The heart of what the Lakers have to offer the Pelicans in a trade for Anthony Davis are Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and the #4 pick in the draft. Including Kuzma, Hart, Wagner, Bonga or additional future draft picks or taking back Solomon Hill’s or E’Twaun More’s expiring contracts are not core pieces that would result in the Pelicans rejecting the Lakers’ offer. They’re just frosting on the cake for the Pelicans but important elements the Lakers need to reject.
Rob Pelinka should be careful in his initial discussions not to commit to anything other than Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and the #4 draft pick. He should emphasize that these pieces are superior to anything the Knicks can offer or the Celtics would be willing to offer. A week before the draft, he should submit the three above offers and let the Pelicans know that they are the Lakers’ final offers and if rejected, the Lakers will turn to other targets.
There is no way that David Griffin is not going to accept one of the three offers the Lakers make. He knows there is no way other teams will make offers better than the Lakers’ offers, especially if the Lakers withdraw from the bidding and focus on making a trade for Bradley Beal or another player. He can welcome a counter offer from the Pelicans but let them know the Lakers won’t take back a bad contract or make major revisions in the offers.
Smart negotiators never enter a negotiation without being willing to lose. As much as the Lakers need to trade for Anthony Davis as a first step to changing the dynamic in free agency, trading for Bradley Beal is a viable alternative.
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