So begins another critical offseason for the Los Angeles Lakers, one assuredly set up for eyebrow-raising rumors at every turn.
Those Lakers finally cashed-in on the big rumors with LeBron James, yet the direction around one of the league’s best players helped everything fall apart. A failure to hit the 40-win mark, Magic Johnson’s up and leaving and constant Anthony Davis speculation didn’t help matters.
But that won’t stop the hype. As Bleacher Report noted, new odds position the Lakers as favorites to win the 2020 NBA title.
Which means some of the wild rumors out there will have to come to fruition. It’s early in the process, but these are some of the rumblings making the rounds already.
Naturally, the Lakers are going to wind up linked to any major free agent who happens to hit the open market.
It didn’t take long for this to happen with Philadelphia 76ers forward Jimmy Butler once it went public he plans to decline his player option and hit the open market, as reported by Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes.
And tucked neatly right into that report is a note about the Lakers: “The Los Angeles Lakers have genuine interest in acquiring Butler, sources said.”
Butler spent 55 games with the 76ers last year, shooting 46.1 percent from the floor on his way to averages of 18.2 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.0 assists, all right in line with his career-long averages. While he took the 76ers to the playoffs and as far as the semifinals, it was always obvious he’d be dipping out and looking for a new max.
Interestingly, the tenure in Philadelphia at least showed a team like the Lakers it isn’t worth worrying about fit concerns. Butler, after an ugly exit from Minnesota, fit on the floor well with talents like Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid and remains one of the best two-way players in the game.
It works to only further the idea the Lakers wouldn’t hesitate to toss out a supermax at Butler if the feeling was mutual.
Anthony Davis Timetable and Breaking Point
It all hinges on the upcoming NBA draft.
If the Lakers are going to make a move for Davis via trade with the New Orleans Pelicans, it presumably has to happen before picks start coming off the board on draft night. That way, the Lakers can loop in the fourth pick and offer enough in the way of compensation for it to work.
One problem: the Pelicans are comfortable.
The New York Times‘ Marc Stein confirmed the idea and timeframe:
Marc Stein @TheSteinLine
The Lakers’ ability to seal a deal for Anthony Davis likely hinges on what the No. 4 pick can fetch. If the No. 4 pick can land a player to excite New Orleans, on top of Ingram and Ball, then the teams are headed for an agreement in principle before draft night next Thursday
The Pelicans don’t mind making the Lakers sweat on a short timetable. They still have Davis, even if he clearly wants a trade. They still have an intriguing core without him built around Jrue Holiday. They still have the first overall pick, too.
Stein noted pretty much anyone is on the table from the Lakers’ end. It is clearly the only way something will get done, especially if they loop in a rising star like Brandon Ingram.
Coughing up a 21-year-old star with plenty of room to grow is never appealing, but so goes the cost of doing business if the Lakers want to acquire a superstar and win now.
What makes all this interesting is the timeframe and outside influences. The fourth pick is clearly going to be part of the equation, so the vibes the Pelicans get from around the league based on how the draft board might fall could change this trade outlook. And so too could an outside team like the Boston Celtics.
The Celtics Factor
The Celtics have an incredible amount of leverage on this whole situation.
Boston is perhaps the only other team with enough interest and assets available to move capable of prying Davis from the Pelicans at a fair price.
But the Celtics have to want Davis for it to work.
Boston Globe‘s Adam Himmelsbach noted that hesitancy on whether Davis would actually stick in Boston for the long haul could prevent a trade: “One league source said the uncertainty surrounding Davis’s long-term future in Boston has thus far limited the Celtics’ willingness to overwhelm New Orleans with an offer.”
In other words, Boston might look to play the long-term game again if they don’t get a concrete commitment from Davis. Kyrie Irving might be gone, so the front office could be content to just lean hard into its three first-round picks, which would otherwise be assets moved in a Davis deal.
If those Celtics bow out, the Lakers sit in a prettier position. The cost for Davis would still be huge, but at some point, the leverage of no other team offering enough will have to come into play at the negotiation table.
Barring something unexpected from the New York Knicks, this is a two-team race with a comfortable Pelicans squad not in a rush and more than happy to place the pressure on potential trade partners in the upcoming weeks.
The Lakers likely wouldn’t mind if things got a little simpler via an assist from the Celtics.