Anthony Davis and LeBron James are together at last. Months of speculation had the former Pelicans center leaving New Orleans for Los Angeles, but the official trade didn’t go down until Saturday.
The Lakers received the All-Star big man, while the Pelicans received Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, and three first-round picks, including the No. 4 pick in this summer’s draft. While some have talked about the massive risks of jettisoning so much young talent, Fox Sports’ Nick Wright is far more optimistic.
The commentator stated on First Things First that the Lakers “didn’t overpay, because you can’t overpay” for two of the best players in the league.
“They paid a premium,” he said to fellow Fox Sports personality Cris Carter. “They didn’t get a bargain. You didn’t get him for 30 cents on the dollar…the way the Raptors got Kawhi from San Antonio, but the Lakers didn’t overpay, because you can’t overpay…There’s only seven guys in the league that can be the best guy on a championship team, that can be a league MVP. The Lakers now have two of them.”
The question now is how much cap space does Rob Pelinka have to operate with, and can he surround James and Davis with enough talent for a playoff run. Let’s take a look.
Lakers Cap Space & Free Agency Options
As Adrian Wojnarowski reports above, the Lakers will have somewhere between $23-$24 million of cap space of breathing room for further roster development. Our own Jeff Smith laid out what the starting lineup looks like right now:
*Notates expected starter
C: Anthony Davis*
PF: Moritz Wagner*
SF: LeBron James*
F: Kyle Kuzma*
PG: Isaac Bonga*
This is literally the Lakers lineup right now, so can they really afford another megadeal for another superstar? As Cleveland.com reports, Los Angeles is targeting either Kawi Leonard or Kemba Walker at this time.
Both have hefty price tags that would eat up most, if not all, of the remaining cap space. Walker, should he leave the Hornets, can make a max contract for four years worth $140 million. That’s $35 million a year, so if the Lakers want to have him become their new point guard, they likely have to convince him to accept half of that to leave room for further moves.
Leonard, meanwhile, could accept a player option with the Raptors that would net him over $21 million. There’s understandable skepticism that the bonafide superstar of this year’s NBA champions would take a substantial pay cut to move to what has been a dysfunctional franchise.
Also, while one of the best players and defenders in the league, you need money to grab a quality point guard. It’s possible that James could play a sort of point-forward, but Walker would be a better fit to bring the ball up the court each possession.
Smith lays out some fallback options that appear more realisitic, particularly Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo and/or Patrick Beverley.
Rose can offer a scoring punch either off the bench or alongside James, Davis and Kuzma while Rondo’s passing could be an elite option to bring back and add to the starting lineup.
As for Beverley, his defense and ability to bring intensity on both ends of the floor is nearly unmatched by any other player. If the Lakers were able to land some combo of this trio for their roster it would add immediate depth to a guard position and hit on the team’s needs.
To fill out the backcourt, Smith suggests additions such as DeMarcus Cousins or Marc Gasol. The former made $5.3 million with the Warriors last year, while Gasol would be a stretch with his hefty $25 million owed next season.
JaVale McGee, who played with the Lakers last season, would be a decent backup to Davis, especially on defense. He also would be very cheap. This is likely the direction Los Angeles goes, as it’s the most affordable.