Anthony Davis has made one thing clear early in the NBA offseason: he hasn’t backed off his January demand to be traded from the New Orleans Pelicans.
Not even New Orleans defying the odds and winning the NBA Draft Lottery – and the right to draft Duke phenom Zion Williamson – could sway Davis, so now Pelicans GM David Griffin has turned his attention to finding the best package in a trade for Davis.
As far as one sportsbook is concerned, there’s a clear-cut favorite in the race for Davis’ services, and fans of NBA betting should take notice.
Davis Wants to Play for Lakers
Both Davis and his agent, Rich Paul, have been incredibly apparent about Davis’ desire to join LeBron James and the Lakers.
In fact, Davis was fined $50,000 in late January for publicly demanding a trade and leaking to multiple outlets that his preferred destination was the Lakers.
Paul is also LeBron James’ agent – not a coincidence – and a trade to Los Angeles would put Davis, already a superstar, in a major market after spending his first seven seasons in New Orleans.
It would also pair Davis with another superstar in James, something the Pelicans were never able to do and one of the reasons Davis has never made it past the second round of the postseason. Davis wants to win, and joining James gets that done more often than not.
Davis has also given the Lakers a bit of leverage by leaking information that he’s willing to re-sign in Los Angeles if traded there.
This could give other teams pause in trading for the six-time All-Star if they believe they’ll only get Davis for one season before he fits free agency (and subsequently signs the Lakers) in 2020.
Paul went as far to say in a story published Wednesday that the Celtics, a team Davis has been linked to for more than a year, would only get him for one year and that he wouldn’t resign in Boston..
It’s not a secret at all in NBA circles. Davis wants to be in Los Angeles long-term, and he and his agent are letting everyone know.
The Lakers have the Assets
Of course, the Pelicans don’t have to give in to Davis’ trade demands. While they’ll almost certainly deal him at some point, they can send him to any of the 29 teams and he’ll have to play out the final year of his contract.
But it also helps that the Lakers have the assets to get a deal done.
Kyle Kuzma averaged 18.7 points and 5.5 rebounds in his second year, Brandon Ingram showed star potential in averaging 18.3 points and is still just 21, while Lonzo Ball has All-NBA Defensive Team potential and is one of the league’s best passers at 21 years old. Shooting guard Josh Hart could also be included in a package.
The Lakers, in addition to the Pelicans, also struck Lottery luck last month. They moved up from No. 11 to No. 4 despite having just a 2.4% chance of doing so.
That No. 4 pick is suddenly a valuable asset, whereas the 11th pick in a weak class wouldn’t have moved the needle much on a deal.
A combination of those players and picks is arguably the best the Pelicans could ask for. Ironically, the Celtics are the one team that could beat it – Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown make for an enticing group of young talent – but Paul is on-record saying the Celtics would be trading for a rental.
And even if the Pelicans don’t love the Lakers’ young pieces, a third team could get involved to create a stronger package for New Orleans.
Perhaps point guard-needy teams like the Phoenix Suns (No. 6 pick) or Chicago Bulls (No. 7 pick) trade for Ball, and the Lakers send that additional first-round pick to New Orleans as part of the deal.
Griffin is reportedly only open to a third team entering the negotiations, and rival GMs think it might be necessary.
Lakers not a FA Destination, Need to Hit on Davis Deal
Adrian Wojnarowski also reported that the Lakers aren’t seen as a top free-agent destination this summer.
"If the Lakers are drafting at No. 4 on draft night, they're in trouble" because they didn't make an Anthony Davis trade. The Lakers are not a frontrunner or really in consideration for any of the top-tier free agents."— ShowtimeForum (@ShowtimeForum) June 12, 2019
via @wojespn | 📺@espnpic.twitter.com/6reZAy8Cql
If this is true – and you’d be a fool not to believe Woj – then this will only increase Los Angeles’ attempts to trade for Davis.
They know that if they’re unable to trade for Davis, they’re not going to be able to sign one of the premier free agents – Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Klay Thompson – and will enter next season with a roster similar to the one that won 37 games a year ago and missed the postseason.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that the Lakers’ offseason will hinge on trading for Davis. This means they’ll be ultra-aggressive in getting a deal done and may be willing to sweeten the pot for New Orleans to make sure it happens.
For those reasons, the Lakers are the clear frontrunners in the Anthony Davis sweepstakes.