With chatter of a possible deal for incumbent Los Angeles Lakers starting point guard Russell Westbrook’s expiring and exorbitant $47.1 million contract dying down, perhaps LA could turn to a more drastic roster revamp: offloading oft-injured power forward/center Anthony Davis.
In his tenth NBA season, the 6’10” big man out of the University of Kentucky continued a disturbing trend of missing 36 or more games for the second consecutive year. His jump-shooting, once the element that added extra flair to his flexible game, has dropped off mightily in the last few seasons. He has lost some of his lift and athleticism, having packed on extra pounds to play more minutes at center. But he still should have value. That’ll happen when, in 40 healthy games during the 2021-22 season, the 29-year-old was able to post averages of 23.2 points, 9.9 boards, 3.1 assists, 2.3 blocks, and 1.2 steals.
LeBron James and Davis have already proven that they can thrive together, having won a title in 2020. AD’s three-point shooting was a big part of the Lakers’ Finals success that year. He connected on 38.3% of his 2.9 triples a night. During the Lakers’ last postseason run in 2020-21, Davis shot just 18.2% from long range. But Davis is arguably not the same player. If LA could move him for more depth to improve James’s chances of nabbing a fifth ring, shouldn’t the club at least explore its options?
And where could Davis go?
Anthony Davis-to-the-Golden State Warriors is not exactly a new idea. Even in the midst of the Brow’s trade demands while with the New Orleans Pelicans during the 2018-19 season, the possibility of a Davis deal to join Stephen Curry and co. had been discussed as an intriguing fit.
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More recently, ESPN’s Zach Lowe spoke with guest Bill Simmons of The Ringer during a March 7th edition of the former’s podcast The Lowe Post about a few hypothetical deals that would send Davis to San Francisco in exchange for depth.
Simmons pitches a deal that sends All-Star small forward Andrew Wiggins, and young wings Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody (both 2021 lottery picks), for Davis. This was before Wiggins blossomed into being perhaps the second-best player on a title team. Lowe and Simmons both were amenable to the swap.
A better question might be: would the reigning champs actually be willing to so drastically alter their depth?
Moody was an occasional contributor during Golden State’s march to the Finals last season, though Kuminga was mostly relegated to mop-up minutes in blowouts. Wiggins evolved into a crucial part of the club’s run. Would the Warriors be willing to take a chance on Davis, a seven-time All-Star who could potentially unlock some incredible frontcourt lineups for the club? His injury history would probably give them pause.
Now that Wiggins has become the kind of complimentary two-way player everyone hoped he would be, and given the exciting ceilings of the two young Warriors wings, the deal could help build out LA’s bench depth. Of course, the team would subsequently need to improve its frontcourt.
Granted, the Lakers should continue to work the phones to find a tenable Russell Westbrook trade. If the team is so reluctant to let go of both its highly coveted 2027 and 2029 first-round picks, perhaps just including one in a Westbrook package could be enough. Keeping him onboard for most of the 2022-23 season would be a massive mistake. A Westbrook deal with the Pacers for big man Myles Turner and swingman Buddy Hiel, or a trade with the Spurs for center Jakob Poeltl, power forward Doug McDermott, and others, could help address the hypothetical absence of Davis.