While the fit of Russell Westbrook, LeBron James‘ pursuit of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar atop the all-time scoring list, and the horrific shooting of the Lakers has drawn all the headlines early this season, this season was always about Anthony Davis in Los Angeles. Darvin Ham was banking on Davis to be the No.1 option on offense and a defensive anchor, to be the guy from the bubble who helped lead the Lakers to a title.
With the Lakers off to a 2-7 start, little has gone to plan — Davis has been the Lakers’ best player, but not the top-10 in the league elite player the Lakers hoped.
The slow start has everything on the table in Los Angeles, and there are rumors that could include a Davis trade, Bill Simmons hinted on his latest Ringer podcast.
“So, the Lakers lost again [Sunday]. There’s some buzz, some buzzing that AD might be available. That that’s a Plan B. Because the Westbrook trade, or whatever they think they can get for Westbrook and whether you want to give up future assets, maybe that doesn’t even make sense because what are you getting if you’re the Lakers?”
Talking to people around the league, that buzz is coming from outside the Lakers right now. Los Angeles has some tough decisions ahead, but it’s far too early for it to give up on this season, not with LeBron turning 38 in December.
Plus, Davis is playing All-Star, maybe All-NBA level basketball so far: 22.5 points and 11.1 rebounds a game, shooting 52.9% overall, and he is averaging 2.1 blocks per game. Davis’ 24.3 PER is 12th in the league among qualified players. He’s played through a back that is bothering him.
But is he the guy the Lakers can hand the franchise over to after LeBron? He has been more of a first-half presence than a second-half one this season — against the Cavaliers on Sunday Davis had just two second-half shots in a loss.
Other front offices, looking at the Lakers’ options and talking to them about next moves, can envision them trading Davis as the ultimate Plan B — the “we have to tear it down to rebuild it fast around LeBron for the 2023-24 season” plan. That is unlikely to happen at the February trade deadline, that is much more likely an offseason blockbuster.
The Lakers may be stuck with their current roster for the season. Simmons echoes what others around the league have said: The Lakers can trade Westbrook, but they have to surrender a couple of future first-round picks, might have to take on long-term money, and how much better does that really make them? Even a deal like the much-discussed Buddy Hield/Myles Turner trade has limits, are the Lakers more than a one-and-done playoff team with them?
The Lakers have been resistant to both trading their picks and taking on salary for next season. If they are still near the bottom of the West 10-15 games from now, should they hold on to that cap space and picks and use them next summer in an on-the-fly rebuild? Is trading Davis part of that?
Nothing should be off the table in Los Angeles, but trading Davis is not on it. Yet.