Anthony Davis is a top five player in the NBA and has become the recent talk of the country due to his name coming out of LeBron James’ mouth. Anything LeBron says or does automatically tops the A-block and first 20 minutes on Sportscenter. I’m sure everyone saw the Jarrett Allen block on LBJ last week that provided us with mind numbing statistics. LeBron has attempted over 1800 dunks in the NBA and has only been blocked nine times. I somewhat feel bad for Allen, considering LeBron is going to murder him next time he contests a dunk.
I digress, this is about Anthony Davis, the perennial all-star forward for the New Orleans Pelicans who currently leads the NBA in player efficiency rating (PER) and win shares. PER is a complicated formula, but in its most basic form, PER attempts to combine all the positive plays (points, rebounds, assists) and all the negative plays (turnovers, fouls, missed shots) a player has throughout the duration of a game. As the title says, PER measures how efficient a player is while on the court. Win shares, similarly, is complicated. The end goal is to award a player credit for how much the individual contributes to a teams’ wins. So in theory, based off of these two measurements, Anthony Davis can be considered the best player in the league, statistically at least.
It’s easy to forget Anthony Davis is only 25 years old. It feels like he has been in the league for a long time. Combine Davis’s age with his contract, which is set to expire at the end of next season, and you have the most desired future free agent by all 30 teams. Obviously, the two teams Davis is immediately linked to are the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers. Bitter rivals who are both starving to raise the Larry O’Brien trophy.
The key to the Anthony Davis sweepstakes, in my opinion, is what happens in the next five months. Whether or not Davis is traded in the next five months will determine what team he plays for after the Pelicans. Even with Alvin Gentry adamantly stating every time he’s in front of a microphone Davis will absolutely not be traded, even for the likes of Beyoncé, sometimes that decision is out of his hands.
Anthony Davis’ situation reminds me a lot of Kawhi Leonard’s last season. Kawhi and Davis both have very quiet temperaments off the court and are not outspoken. However, they both seem to be looking towards a future on the West Coast. The Lakers have been linked to Davis ever since he signed with Klutch Sports this year, where he is now represented by LeBron James’ close friend Rich Paul. The Lakers seem like an ideal landing spot. However, Magic Johnson needs to stop playing hardball like he is perpetually in the driver’s seat.
Two years ago, with Paul George’s free agency looming, the Lakers low balled the Indiana Pacers in trade talks, as George had expressed his desire to go to Los Angeles at the end of his contract. Fast forward one year of George playing in Oklahoma City on what was thought to be a rental prior to LA. George just signed a long-term extension with the Thunder. Kawhi Leonard also expressed desire, in his own unique way, to play in Los Angeles. The Spurs traded him to Toronto to play out the last year of his contract. The Raptors took a shot on the one year rental like the Thunder did with George.
Currently, the Raptors are handedly the first seed in the Eastern Conference and many are speculating Leonard will remain with Toronto after this season. Has Magic learned nothing from these situations? He is no longer the intimidating player he was on the court; he is in a new game where he is inexperienced. Outside of acquiring LeBron, which honestly wasn’t that challenging, Magic has not been good as a general manager. If he loses out on Anthony Davis, I think he should be fired for not developing in the GM game.
So why is five months all the time Magic has when Anthony Davis won’t be a free agent for 18 months? Well, Anthony Davis is a designated player. A designated player is, simply put, a player that a team can offer a five year-contract coming off of their rookie deal as opposed to the regular four year extension. It is the Derrick Rose rule essentially. Each NBA team is only allowed to have one designated player contract on their roster.
Guess who has a designated player contract: the Boston Celtics. Guess who doesn’t: the Los Angeles Lakers. Kyrie Irving is currently on his designated player contract until the end of this season, which means Boston has no possible way of acquiring Davis prior to this summer. With the Celtics loaded with future draft picks and young, intriguing talent, it would appear they could make New Orleans the best godfather offer and pry the crown jewel, Anthony Davis, from Alvin Gentry’s hands. If Davis is on the Pelicans’ roster at season’s end, the Lakers will not be acquiring him over Boston in a trade. I can say that with certainty. Their only hope would be in 2020 free agency, but I doubt Boston lets him get to that point.
What can Los Angeles do right now? The Lakers have some impressive young talent of their own. Even though it would severely deplete their roster, they need to offer New Orleans any player they want outside of LeBron. The obvious trade bait players are Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart. All these players are young and serviceable. Some have higher upside than others, but none will turn out to be the player Davis is.
The Los Angeles Lakers are not a rebuilding organization. That city demands immediate results. Can you imagine a “Trust the Process” period for the Lakers? Of course not. So, what is Magic Johnson waiting on? With the future potential G.O.A.T. and the statistical best player in the league on the same floor, the Lakers would be the odds on favorites to win the NBA Championship THIS season. LeBron would most likely extend his consecutive Finals appearances to nine. No player besides LeBron should be untouchable. Magic Johnson should do everything in his power to acquire Davis while Danny Ainge and his East Coast rivals are stuck in limbo.