NBA

Anthony Davis continues to apply trade pressure to Lakers: Either sell high, or bring in reinforcements

Right now, at this very moment, Anthony Davis is the best basketball player in the world. We haven’t, even for a stretch, been able to say that for a long time, and who knows how long we’ll be able to keep saying it this time. But it’s true right now, and the Lakers have an organizational obligation not to waste this opportunity. 

Either cash in the draft picks and bring in some help, or move Davis at his highest point of value. To me, either would be a defensible decision, but I would lean toward trading Davis. I don’t think he can stay healthy, plain and simple. Once he gets hurt again, his trade value will plummet and the Lakers will be done, if they’re not done already. 

Yes, they’ve won seven of nine, including a 133-129 thriller over the Bucks on Friday, which we’ll get to momentarily. But they’re not a contender. If they want to become a contender, and they don’t want to trade Davis, they have to let loose of those two draft picks. 

Waiting for next season just isn’t a smart bet when LeBron James is in his 20th year and Davis is a threat to go down like a sack of bricks every time he takes a step. Frankly, waiting until next month isn’t even that smart of a bet. 

Also, even if the Lakers were to go the other way and go all in for, say, Buddy Hield and Myles Turner, or DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic, only for Davis to go down for any length of time later in the season or at any point during the playoffs — if they were even able to make it that far — they will have gone all in just to go bust anyway. 

Then they’ll be back to whatever plan they’re operating under right now — which is what, signing Kyrie Irving in the summer? Come on. So now we’re going to bet on the surest way there is to screw up your team and an even-more fragile Davis next season, when LeBron will be 39 and in a walk year and they’ll have to also lose sleep over the pickle of trading perhaps the greatest player ever or losing him for nothing in 2024?

This is all just way too uncertain, and frankly way too far down the road, for a team with this version of Davis and a soon-to-be 38-year-old LeBron. This is a team that has to act right now, one way or the other. Every week — even every day — the Lakers wait is a big risk considering Davis’ injury history. 

Having said that, the chances of Rob Pelinka having the guts to trade Davis while he’s playing like this, to say nothing of the Klutch factor, feels pretty close to zero. So he has to go the other way, because the risk of wasting Davis’ trade value while it’s skyrocketing is only trumped by wasting what could be the last year of a championship-level LeBron. 

Earlier in the season, before Davis was playing like this? A trade probably wasn’t worth it. The Lakers weren’t going to compete for anything significant anyway. But with MVP-level Davis? It’s a whole different story. If the Lakers go get some real reinforcements and somehow cross their fingers hard enough for Davis and James to remain healthy for just six more months, this is a team that can do some real damage. 

The Lakers defend. They play fast but LeBron and AD are more than equipped to dominate a slower game if they had some actual shooting. Austin Reaves. Lonnie Walker IV. These guys can flat out play. Add the shooting with Hield. The rim-protecting/rolling with Turner, who can operate alongside Davis as a floor stretcher and keep the Lakers afloat when Davis sits. Give LeBron the keys. You could do a lot worse. 

Also, if the Lakers were to add Turner, they could take some of this crippling load off Davis and have at least a chance of preserving him for a deep playoff run. Because seriously, how long can Davis keep this up without getting hurt? The guy is doing everything. He put 44 points on Milwaukee in 40 minutes on Friday while battling Brook Lopez and Giannis Antetokounmpo. His defense was typically extraordinary. He continues to inhale rebounds. 

Over this last nine-game stretch, Davis is averaging 32 points and 15 rebounds. He is battling for position, on both ends, on every possession. It’s commendable. It’s also, probably, unsustainable. We’re barely through a quarter of the season, and Davis is doing this much for the Lakers to be 9-12 with a treacherous December schedule looming. 

This level of play, and health, given AD’s history, just cannot keep repeating itself. And it can’t be for naught, either. The Lakers are in a moment right now. And this moment could define the rest of this season and potentially many seasons into the future. It’s time for a trade. Either move Davis and tap all the juice from this value spike, or get this guy, these two guys, some help before it’s too late. 



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