Kyle Kuzma

Getty Images

LeBron, Anthony Davis and…Kemba? What are Lakers’ next steps to contention?

13 Comments

We have seen this before, the Lakers add a superstar player — Pau Gasol via trade, Shaquille O’Neal via free agency— and instantly vault up to being a title contender.

Of course, we have seen the Lakers add superstars in the offseason — say Dwight Howard and Steve Nash — and watch the whole thing blow up due to injuries and chemistry issues.

Neither of these scenarios is completely off the table with the LeBron James and Anthony Davis Lakers, which is going to be a reality now after the Lakers have agreed to a trade for Davis that sends Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, and three first round picks (including the No. 4 pick in the 2019 Draft) to New Orleans.

The Lakers look like contenders on paper right now, but they have to round out the roster in a smart way.

Two key things will differentiate success and failure with these Lakers.

First is injuries. It’s obvious to state, but Davis has an injury history, and LeBron missed 18 games with a groin injury last season, the most time he has ever missed with an injury, but that’s what comes with age. If either or both miss significant time, this all comes apart.

Second is how the Lakers round out the roster. That is something the core of this Lakers’ front office did very poorly last season, we will see if lessons were learned.

After the trade, the Lakers will have on the roster LeBron, Davis, Kyle Kuzma, Moritz Wagner, Isaac Bonga… and that’s it. They need to add 10 players.

Los Angeles going to try and add a third star.

The Lakers will have $27.7 million available in cap space on July 1 — that is not enough to sign Jimmy Butler or Kemba Walker to max deals. Both of them have been linked to the Lakers on various levels.

Sources have told me that after qualifying for a “supermax” contract extension (five years, $221 million), Walker is leaning heavily toward staying in Charlotte, a city he has grown to love (and his family enjoys). He could even give the Hornets a little hometown discount on the back end of that deal and make more than the max the Lakers or any other team could offer him. The question is, does this trade and the chance to chase a ring alter Walker’s thinking?

Butler, also, reportedly is leaning toward re-signing with the Sixers if they offer him a full five-year, $191 million max deal as expected (with Butler’s injury history, that fifth year only Philly can offer will matter to him). The same question about this deal changing his mindset applies to Butler as well.

The Lakers also could go after Kyrie Irving, although a number of people around the league view that as a longshot.

What the Lakers could do to max out Walker/Butler/Irving, as suggested by cap guru and consultant to NBA teams and agents Larry Coon, is to draft whoever the Pelicans want at No. 4, sign that player July 1, then trade him 30 days later (the first chance he is eligible) as part of the Davis deal where the salaries match up. It would delay the actual Davis trade but the  Lakers would have the $32.5 needed for a max slot for a player with 7-9 years experience.

The Lakers also could go after guys who are not stars but are high level role players and may just be a better fit, such as J.J. Redick. The Lakers could use that $27 million to land three or more quality, solid NBA rotation players. That’s an internal discussion Los Angeles need to have.

Beyond that, the Lakers will have the room exception at $4.8 million and no other space.

Just like last year, the Lakers will need to bring in veterans on minimum contracts — and this time they may want to get some shooting in the mix. The challenge there is guys are taking minimum contracts for a reason, if they could secure longer and more lucrative deals they would. There are far fewer vets willing to take a lot less to chase a ring than fans realize.

These are first world problems for the Lakers, they have so enough elite stars its hard to round out the roster. The art is in doing it right because there are other contenders out there who have done just that.

Report: Anthony Davis traded to Lakers for Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, picks

Getty Images
32 Comments

LeBron James has his second star next to him.

Anthony Davis has landed exactly where he wanted.

Things had been building toward this for more than a week. Boston was holding back — meaning they would not put Jayson Tatum in an offer. The Clippers and Nets couldn’t get any traction. And there were the Lakers with a quality package that was as good as it was likely going to get.

In the end, that deal — one the Pelicans did not take at the trade deadline — got it done.

Anthony Davis is on his way to the Lakers for Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, and three first-round picks including this year’s No. 4, a story broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Here are the details on the first round picks in the deal (and this makes it look even better for New Orleans).

The trade will not be formally consummated until after July 1 for salary cap reasons, but it’s done.

Pelicans’ new president David Griffin came in with an open mind and clean slate. At the trade deadline there was a “we’re not going to send Davis where he wants” mentality from New Orleans. Pelicans management felt put on the spot by the timing and public nature of the trade request by Davis’ agent, Rich Paul, and they didn’t want to feel rushed into a trade they didn’t want.

Griffin, however, saw the big picture — take the best offer, the trade isn’t about where Davis lands, it’s what’s best for New Orleans. That could have been Boston, but with Kyrie Irving having one foot out the door and almost certainly not re-signing with the team, the Celtics couldn’t go all-in on an offer and give the Pelicans what they wanted — Jayson Tatum.

No Tatum offer meant Lakers GM Rob Pelinka had leverage, so he was able to keep Kyle Kuzma out of any trade, something that mattered to Los Angeles. However, this may have been the Lakers only viable path to a star this summer. The top of the free agent market was not — and may still not not — lining up well for the Lakers. Even with this trade. Which is why there was also pressure on Pelinka to get this done, so he threw a lot in the trade. Maybe too much, but he had to get it done.

How the Lakers round out their roster will matter — they may want to add some shooting this time — but this trade vaults them into contender status, especially in a West with an injury-riddled Golden State squad.

This is a big win for a Lakers’ front office that has been maligned and called dysfunctional around the sudden stepping down of Magic Johnson.

Davis will play out his contract and become a free agent, something reported by Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, but also obvious under the current salary cap rules. Davis’ max extension is two-years, $67 million in addition to his current deal (and it could be less than that if he gave up some of his trade kicker in this deal), his free agent contract will be five-years pushing $200 million. That is a no brainer. He will re-sign with the Lakers.

The Pelicans got a serious haul here that jumpstarts a rebuild: Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram as the forwards, whoever they take with the No. 4 pick (or trade that pick for, a real possibility), Lonzo Ball will play alongside Jrue Holiday, who is primarily a two-guard now (and Ball should thrive in Alvin Gentry’s up-tempo system, it plays to his strengths), Josh Hart is a solid role player. That is a team that could hang around and compete for a playoff spot in the West if things break right for them. Or, the Pelicans could flip those players for guys that they really want.

Just picture Lonzo throwing lobs to Zion. This team is going to be fun.

Beyond that, if Williamson develops into who many think he can be — a top-five kind of player in the league — the Pelicans may be a force in about 2023, right as the LeBron era in Los Angeles winds down.

 

Another report Kyle Kuzma sticking point in Anthony Davis trade to Lakers

Getty Images
4 Comments

Here’s where things have stood for a couple of days now:

The Lakers have four players in their young core: Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, and Josh Hart. The New Orleans Pelicans want three of them and the No. 4 pick as part of an Anthony Davis trade. The Lakers generally appear okay with that.

The Pelicans also insist Kuzma be one of the four. That is farther than the Lakers are willing to go.

So far.

Tania Ganguli and Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times confirmed that is where things stand.

Among the young Lakers, New Orleans covets Kuzma the most.

Kuzma’s contract is less than those of Ingram and Ball. Kuzma has two years left on his contract that are worth about $5.5 million, the second of which is a team option…

According to people familiar with the Lakers’ thinking, Kuzma has ingratiated himself with the organization both on the court and off, and management does not want to trade the forward, who is entering his third season. The Lakers might have an opportunity to keep their No. 4 pick should they agree to part with Kuzma.

It’s far more than the contract that makes Kuzma an attractive target. He averaged 18.7 points per game last season, he thrives in transition (the Pelicans run more than the Lakers), he’s decisive, and his straight-line drives for dunks helped make him a fan favorite in Los Angeles. While his three-point shooting and defense need to get better (especially the defense), he’s been impressive enough through two seasons to earn an invite to USA Basketball’s training camp/tryouts to choose the roster for the World Cup.

Understandably, the Lakers want to keep Kuzma, and they should try to flip that No. 4 pick another player the Pelicans want. The problem with that pick is the general consensus is this draft drops off after No. 3 (some would say No. 2) and is a flat draft at that point. The Pelicans clearly are not that high on Jarrett Culver or Darius Garland at that spot. The Lakers also could try to flip Lonzo Ball to a team high on him for a player the Pelicans want more.

The Lakers still look to be the frontrunners to land Davis, something they may need to do to have any shot at luring in a major free agent this summer (and it’s fair to ask if they can land one even with him). Which means ultimately they may need to put Kuzma in the offer, maybe taking the No. 4 pick off the board, if it gets them Davis. Pairing AD with LeBron James makes the Lakers a threat in the West, as long as they do a better job this summer rounding out the roster than they did a year ago.

Report: Lakers trying to keep Kyle Kuzma out of Anthony Davis trade talks

Associated Press
20 Comments

Updates on the Anthony Davis trade drama keep coming out…

Which is to say spin from the various sides has been put forward to promote their interests. However, some interesting tidbits do come out through all of this. Here are the latest updates — from Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and Marc Stein of the New York Times — with some thoughts/commentary on what we’re seeing.

There’s nothing new here in terms of news. That the Celtics are not backing off their efforts to get Davis in the wake of Davis’ agent Rich Paul saying AD would not re-sign in Boston is not a surprise or a change from what we reported before. Same with the note in Wojnarowski’s story that the Nets and Clippers have gained some “traction” in talks with the Pelicans.

However, this getting leaked, much like Pelicans VP David Griffin saying there is no timeline to make a trade, sounds like spin from the Pelicans camp to keep the pressure on the Lakers to come up with a better deal than whatever is on the table now.

And what is on the table now is not Kyle Kuzma, Stein reports (and Wojnarowski confirms).

If I’m a Lakers fan, I’m feeling pretty good right now, it sounds like they are the clear frontrunners. That said, Griffin and the Pelicans know they get just one shot at this and they will push hard for the best deal possible. As they should. I’d want Kuzma in a deal, and if he’s not there, the Lakers need to get someone else that the Pelicans want with that fourth pick.

If there is a team that has fallen in love with Jarrett Culver or Darius Garland in this draft and is willing to move up and get them, then the Lakers could get that needed player to entice New Orleans. The challenge is, almost every scout I’ve spoken to sees a drop off after three (or, some see a drop off after two and Ja Morant, there are some not high on R.J. Barrett). Will the Lakers be able to spin this pick into a player that the Pelicans want?

This is a trade that almost certainly gets done before the draft, and the Lakers are in a strong position, but getting this over the line is not going to be easy.

Report: Pelicans consider multi-team deals for Anthony Davis trade to maximize return

Associated Press
2 Comments

New Orleans only gets one shot at this.

When the team trades Anthony Davis — and expect that deal to be agreed to in advance of the NBA Draft on June 20, or that night, even if it can’t be fully executed until July 1 — they get one shot to jumpstart a roster rebuild around No. 1 pick Zion Williamson as well as point guard Jrue Holiday (who can ideally help this team push toward the playoffs next season). New team Grand Poobah David Griffin knows he needs to maximize return on any trade and he’s going to be smart about this.

Which is why he is pushing toward multi-team deals, something Adrian Wojnarowski reports at ESPN.

According to front offices who’ve engaged in conversations with Griffin, he hasn’t sounded convinced that one team is likely to fulfill his wishes for a Davis deal. To that end, Griffin has been working to find multiteam trade scenarios that could redirect assets for players or picks more preferable to the Pelicans, sources said.

For example, those sorts of scenarios could include the Lakers helping to find a team that hypothetically values Los Angeles’ young players more than New Orleans does, or New York could flip its two first future first-round picks via Dallas into players the Pelicans prefer. New Orleans seems determined to be creative in constructing a deal to maximize the return on Davis, one of the NBA’s elite talents.

The challenge with bringing in a third (or fourth) team is that every team in the trade has to feel they are getting a “win” and it’s not easy to construct deals where three teams are getting needs met.

The teams most active in talks so far are the teams we expect — the Lakers, Clippers, Knicks, and Nets — according to the report. Boston is also engaged in the negotiations, but the question remains how many of their best young players (specifically Jayson Tatum) they would be willing to throw in now that it seems a lock Kyrie Irving leaves via free agency. Boston has to balance how much to give up in a trade vs. its chances of retaining Davis as a free agent in 2020.

All those teams — and others than the mix — want to get a deal done around the draft so they could use the presence of Davis to help lure in major free agents this summer. The Pelicans would like dealt with too so they can move on to their next phase around Williamson.

What ultimately matters in this trade is who Griffin and New Orleans value as players. Which guys do they want?

The buzz for a while has been that the Pelicans have not been as high as others on the Lakers’ young players — Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma — and would want another team involved to take at least some of those players and get New Orleans players they believe will be a better fit. That said, the Lakers young players are more coveted than the Knicks group around the league. The Clippers and Nets are very interesting possibilities because of their young players (although there are reports the Clippers would not put Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in a trade) but what players do the Pelicans value, and which ones not as much?

Also, after the Raptors success rolling the dice on Kawhi Leonard and Oklahoma City with Paul George, other teams could decide to roll the dice and jump into the mix.

Expect rumors to fly in the next week, but also expect Griffin to keep a lid on things and not let the trade talks become the circus that happened at the trade deadline.