The Los Angeles Lakers are off to a horrible start to the 2022-23 season. After losing to the Los Angeles Clippers Wednesday night, LeBron James' squad has fallen to 2-9. With James now injured, things are poised to get worse. The Lakers are cooked and the smart thing to do would be to start dumping assets, hoping for a quick rebuild. That would start with trading Anthony Davis, something the franchise should absolutely do, but probably won't.
Davis has begun the season well after only playing in 76 games over the past two seasons. In nine games so far, the 29-year-old is averaging 23.2 points, 10.3 rebounds, 2.0 blocks and 1.6 steals in 34.6 minutes per game. He's shooting 53.8 percent from the field and is hitting 28.6 percent from 3-point range. His PER is also up to 25.20 after two seasons below 24. Bottom line: Davis currently has more value than he has since the Lakers' championship run in 2020.
Davis is making $37.98 million this season and is due $40.6 million next season. His contract also includes $43.2 million for 2024-25 but the deal has an early termination option. Given his injury history, the Lakers could never expect to recoup the kind of package they sent the New Orleans Pelicans for Davis in 2019. Instead, they could use Davis to grab some draft picks that could help build something around James, or bring in a bad expiring contract. Really anything would be better than the way things sit presently.
The Lakers are essentially bare when it comes to future assets. The Pelicans have the right to swap picks with them in the 2023 NBA Draft (that looks to be a near-certainty), and the young players on the roster -- Troy Brown Jr., Lonnie Walker IV, Austin Reaves -- don't offer a ton of long-term upside. Max Christie, a 2022 second-round pick could turn into something, but he's far from being a consistent contributor.
The Russell Westbrook trade sunk any chance the Lakers had at chasing championships. They gave up valuable assets and players to take on a rapidly-declining player on a terrible contract. It appears general manager Rob Pelinka is content to keep Westbrook for the rest of the season and take the cap space his expiring contract will create. If that's the case, he should work overtime to move Davis.
Yes, LeBron James and Davis are close, and both are clients of Rich Paul. But given how this season has started, James has to see the writing on the wall. He's under contract with the Lakers for two more seasons, and if he wants to contend, the team needs to start building towards that now. Moving Davis is the only move that makes sense.
Davis does have value right now. If he's healthy he can be a No. 2 on a team with championship aspirations. Yes, that's a big "if" but he was a huge part of leading the Lakers to a title in 2020 and could be close to that guy again. He does carry a big cap number, but he's absolutely worth it if he's delivering the numbers he has so far this season.
Someone in the NBA would be willing to add him if he was available. It would be wise for the Lakers to explore that possibility. But, frankly, I don't see Lakers management admitting they can't contend with this group. There would be egg on too many faces. Instead the Lakers will trudge along being terrible this season and fail to improve things for the future. So, basically what they've done the past two seasons.