The Los Angeles Lakers sit at 2-7 after losing at home to the Cleveland Cavaliers yesterday and it is becoming more clear by the day that, despite the presence of LeBron James, the Lakers are simply not a good team. Darvin Ham successfully convinced Russell Westbrook to move to the bench and the move has actually improved the controversial point guard's play. While Anthony Davis is fully healthy and LeBron has fresh legs, the new additions to the team are contributing to the level everybody expected.
So the Lakers continue to lose. Because they are a bad team. And the quickest path to changing that is not trading Westbrook, as is the popular suggestion. It is trading Anthony Davis.
It would be a shocking move by the Lakers, yet Bill Simmons kickstarted the rumors on his podcast this morning, saying there's "some buzzing" that AD could be available (at the 1:09:30 mark). Simmons framed it as a potential Plan B for the franchise to go with if the brain trust decides they won't move Westbrook.
This is obviously far from concrete intel and should not be taken as proof that Davis is on the block. But as a discussion starter, it makes... a lot of sense? Davis was supposed to be the 1B to LeBron's 1A by this point. The ceiling he flashed in his last year with the Pelicans and during the bubble championship with the Lakers suggested Davis could be a Top-5 player night-in and night-out if he's healthy. But he has failed to be anything even remotely resembling that guy since. As things stand, Davis is maybe a Top-20 player who has a lot of value defensively but isn't worth his $37 million salary.
This is also the second year in a row Davis has looked like this. It casts serious doubt over his potential as a franchise cornerstone for the Lakers. And if there is any doubt about his future in Los Angeles, it would make a ton of sense to move him now rather than later. Because keeping the current course isn't going to end in a title and LeBron only has so many years left.
There are two trades the Lakers could pursue for Davis-- a superstar-for-superstar swap or a haul of draft picks they can use to restock the roster via trade and via the draft. Here are a few potential destinations.
The Mavs feel like the most likely team to willingly give up half their picks in the next 10 years to get themselves a viable running mate for Luka Doncic. The Slovenian superstar is making history in front of our eyes yet it's hard to see a championship in his future because he doesn't have a championship No. 2 behind him. Davis would be perfect as a pick-and-roll partner and more importantly would be huge as a back-end presence, cleaning things up defensively. It would be tough to pull off midseason and probably extremely unsatisfying for Lakers fans but the Mavs have an assortment of contracts to make something work and draft picks of any kind would be a blessing for Los Angeles.
New York Knicks
The superstar trade the Knicks have been waiting for!... Right? Maybe not, but Davis seems like the best player the Knicks can acquire via trade for the next few years. New York is apparently content to stay the course in their never-ending quest to remain relevant so while blowing up their current team to get Davis isn't a championship move, it's the kind of move they'd make. If the Lakers want draft picks, the Knicks can match salaries using guys like Evan Fournier and Derrick Rose. If they want decent players, New York has a crop of intriguing young guys to offer. Going forward with Jalen Brunson and Davis to see how far they can get is a fun possibility that could help attract free agents to MSG once more. The Lakers get their reset. Everyone wins even if it won't directly lead to a title for either team.
Two weeks ago, a Davis-for-Kyrie swap would have made all the sense in the world. Now... not so much. Irving isn't getting traded because nobody wants him, and that's if he even gets back on the court this year. So how about Kevin Durant? He's quite likely to ask for a trade again sooner rather than later and the Nets know what it's like to be held hostage by a superstar. They'd probably prefer to get ahead of things this time. He'd be great for LeBron in L.A. and Brooklyn could try to rebuild around a younger star. If he doesn't work out flip him for more draft picks this summer. It would signal an end to the Kyrie/KD era in Brooklyn, but this is the best way to do so if Joe Tsai decides to cut ties. Their salaries are close enough that it wouldn't be very hard to figure out a deal, either.