The wildest offseason has begun in the most explosive way. Anthony Davis has joined LeBron James in the Los Angeles Lakers.
The league’s most popular team—awful for the past six seasons, are now the odds-on favorite to win the title.
This was the “Woj-bomb” to end all Woj-bombs. It’s like a nuclear bomb with reverberating all over the NBA. There will be league-wide implications to this development, what with the number of teams involved and the free agency class likely to be affected.
Next level of player (and agent) empowerment
I wrote an article last March on how Anthony Davis would still end up with the Lakers. Even if the Pelicans owner has vehemently opposed trading to the Lakers (out of spite), it will end up as the most logical business decision.
The predictions in March did play out. Kyrie Irving left the Celtics, Trader Danny didn’t throw his hat on the AD sweepstakes (despite reports that they were undaunted by the prospect of losing Davis to free agency in 2020).
In the NBA, with numerous reports and claims flying around, you have to check on which reports really matter—and you have to thresh out the intentions of every move. As some pundits correctly determined, AD’s trade request was for him to transfer to the Lakers, nothing more, everything else was just a smokescreen or diplomacy.
There were other teams that Davis was “willing to sign long-term with” and they even narrowed it down to the Knicks and Lakers. The Knicks were reluctant to join since they saw the writing on the wall. This is all about the Lakers.
The question is, did Rich Paul influence the Unibrow to join LeBron? It would be favorable for their Paul and LeBron’s interest, but Davis really did want to play with the King. James may not be as much of a player magnet as he was when he returned to Cleveland, but any player who wants to win at any cost (Davis, definitely) would want an MVP level teammate, and 34-year old LeBron still put up those numbers.
The players and their agent got what they wanted. It took time and effort but the billionaires did cave in. This is the NBA now, and this sets the tone for the rest of free agency.
What’s next for LA?
The Lakers sent a horde of draft picks—they already mortgaged their future. But the three last years of LeBron on his contract will be well-spent with a franchise-level talent at his side. They also retained Kyle Kuzma, but they have no backcourt.
The Lakers still have cap space for a max-free agent. Three names are swirling—Kyrie Irving, who suddenly is not a sure thing for the Brooklyn Nets. He won a title with LeBron and wants to play with Davis.
Kemba Walker who continues to hold the torch for Charlotte. However, this is all about how much the Hornets is willing to give him. He said he is willing to take less than the max if it could help his team win. But his sacrifice would not be enough (yes, their payroll is that bad). No max contract, no winning, no reason to refuse a Lakers offer.
Prior to the Davis trade, Jimmy Butler was the probable consolation prize for the Lakers. He is still an asset in the playoffs, as shown in the Sixers’ playoff run. However, now that they have AD, they have better options, like those two above.
The Lakers need to look at this transaction also from a post-LeBron perspective since they traded away draft picks. They need guards the same age range as Davis. Kemba or Kyrie are the best choices.
They would be the new, top-heavy Golden State Warriors. It carries a risk as the Finals has shown, but it gets you there.
Rich Paul has played his cards well, and saved the GM job for Rob Pelinka—formerly Kobe Bryant’s agent. They floated the Derrick Favors rumor when the Pelicans were asking for the moon. The strategy worked.
More updates on the next column.
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