What Should Lakers Offer for AD?
After the fallout from last year’s fiasco, the Lakers may need to adjust their strategy for trading for Anthony Davis this summer
The big questions facing the Los Angeles Lakers this summer are how much should they offer the New Orleans Pelicans in a trade for Anthony Davis and how does trading for him affect their plans to sign a superstar in free agency?
Considering what they offered and the Pelicans rejected at the deadline last winter, the best offer the Lakers should make for Anthony Davis this summer is Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart, Moritz Wagner, Isaac Bonga, and the #4 pick in draft. That’s an offer that gives the Pelicans fair value for AD, allows the Lakers to keep Lonzo Ball, works for matching salaries, and gives the Lakers the option to sign a max contract third superstar in free agency.
There are several complications to any proposed Lakers and Pelicans trade. First, the trade would have to be agreed upon before the June 20 draft so the Pelicans could control whom to select with the #4 pick. Second, the Lakers are over the cap right now and can’t match salaries so finalizing the trade would have to wait until after they make their moves in free agency. Third, the Pelicans would have to wait 30 days to get the player they drafted #4.
Actually, the Lakers are about $1.5 million short of being able to offer a max contract of $32.7 million to a mid-tier free agent superstar like Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson, Kemba Walker, or Jimmy Butler. But it’s hard to imagine $1.5 million deterring one of these superstars from wanting to join LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Lonzo Ball to form a potential Big Four on a Lakers’ superteam that would be an odds on favorite to win it all.
With just four players on the roster, however, the Lakers might decide the smarter move would be to sign multiple elite role players like Brook Lopez, Malcolm Brogdon, and Marcus Morris instead of signing a third superstar. There’s a good argument to be made that winning a championship in today’s NBA demands a deep and talented roster. Regardless of what they decide, the Lakers would suddenly become the team every free agent wanted to join.
The Lakers’ offer should be better than anything the New York Knicks would be able to offer considering their assets or the Boston Celtics would be willing to offer considering Anthony Davis will not agree to re-sign with them. The Lakers should also make it clear that the offer is a take-it-or-leave-it offer that, if rejected, will not be put back on the table. And there’s no way the Pelicans would get a better offer for AD if the Lakers withdraw from the competition.
Finally, the Lakers need to make sure that the Pelicans understand that, should they reject the offer, the Lakers intend to make essentially the same offer to the Washington Wizards to trade for shooting guard Bradley Beal. Since Beal and Davis have identical salaries, a Beal trade would give the Lakers the same benefits as a Davis trade, namely that they would clear the cap space to sign a third free agent superstar or a trio of elite role players.
While the Pelicans could ultimately turn down the Lakers’ offer, the Wizards would certainly jump at the chance to trade Beal for Ingram, Kuzma, Hart, Wagner, Bonga, and the #4 pick in the draft. While some might criticize the Lakers for overpaying for Beal, the reality is the goal of the trade is not only to acquire a great young shooting guard in Bradley Beal but also to clear cap space to open the door for the Lakers to sign a third superstar in free agency.
Of course, should the Lakers decide that using the cap space to sign a third superstar would leave them without no depth, they could easily pull Kuzma out of the Beal trade and swap Wagner and Bonga for second round picks. The Lakers also have five of their own free agents in Alex Caruso, Reggie Bullock, Jemerrio Jones, Mike Muscala, and JaVale McGee, whom they could re-sign using a combination of the veteran minimum and room exceptions.
Putting together a smart strategy to trade for Anthony Davis or Bradley Beal while keeping LeBron James and Lonzo Ball and clearing cap space for a third superstar or multiple elite role players is kind of plan the Lakers must adopt. It not only guarantees the Lakers that critical second superstar to pair with LeBron James but also dramatically changes how elite free agents view the franchise as a destination and shows that they finally have their act together.