The Los Angeles Lakers and the New Orleans Pelicans agreed on a blockbuster trade that significantly impacts the entire NBA landscape moving forward. The Pelicans agreed to trade three-time All-NBA first team selection Anthony Davis to the Lakers for Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft and two future first-round picks.
The Lakers have mortgaged their future to pair LeBron James with a 26-year-old superstar who will definitely improve the Lakers chances to compete for a championship in the upcoming years. However, the Pelicans receives a war chest of assets considering Ball and Ingram’s all-star potential and Hart’s defensive intensity.
Furthermore, the Pelicans now have the No. 1 and No. 4 pick on Thursday’s NBA Draft, and will almost certainly select Zion Williamson first overall. The Pelicans can trade back with the No. 4 pick for more picks or choose to select someone to join the young roster forming in New Orleans.
Beyond the 2019 draft, the Pelicans now have the Lakers top-eight protected first-round pick in 2021, and if the pick is in the top-eight, it will become an unprotected first-round pick in 2022. The draft assets don’t stop there, the Pelicans also received a first-round pick swap in 2023 and an unprotected first-round pick in 2024, with the right to defer to 2025.
The Pelicans now have a bright future with a young core of Ball, Ingram, and Williamson and multiple first-round picks moving forward. The Pelicans can offer Williamson something that they were never able to offer Davis, a quality supporting cast full of players that will likely thrive in head coach Alvin Gentry’s up-tempo offense.
The Lakers, however, have much less flexibility and need to surround LeBron and Davis with a formable supporting cast, although that seems unlikely considering their free-agent signings last offseason. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the official completion date of trade has serious financial implications on the Lakers’ cap space in free agency.
The difference between the deal being completed on July 6 rather than July 30 is $8.8M in cap space. At $23.7M in cap space, the Lakers will be unable to offer top-tier free agents, like Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, and Jimmy Butler, a max contract. That will force the Lakers to search for middle-tier free agents in the $5-10M range to fill out their roster.
There is an argument to be made that the Lakers would be better off signing veteran free agents like Patrick Beverley, Danny Green, Austin Rivers, Brook Lopez, and Trevor Ariza to cheaper contracts while providing the team with much-needed depth. However, if the Lakers were able to create $32.7M in cap space, they will likely value top-talent over quality depth. There are also serious questions about Lakers GM Rob Pelinka’s ability to fill out the roster with talented veterans after last offseason’s questionable free-agent signings.
Although many have been quick to proclaim the Pelicans the winners of the trade, both teams made the deal because they had to. After a disappointing first season with James, the Lakers had to make this trade, because it seemed increasingly unlikely that the Lakers were going to attract a star player in free agency considering the questions surrounding their front office. The Pelicans now have the opportunity to assemble one of the NBA’s most exciting young core surrounded around a once in a generation talent in Williamson.
This trade undoubtedly significantly impacts the NBA landscape moving forward, beginning with Thursday’s NBA draft and the start of free agency on June 30. With Kevin Durant sidelined next season with a ruptured Achilles tendon and Klay Thomson recovering from a torn ACL, multiple contending teams will attempt to capitalize on the uncertainty heading into next season.
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