Wild Proposed Trade Sends Lakers a Former No. 1 Pick & $90 Million Starter

LeBron James Anthony Davis Lakers-Warriors

Getty LA Lakers star LeBron James jokes with teammate Anthony Davis during a 2019 game against the Golden State Warriors.

The Los Angeles Lakers have few available options to improve their roster this offseason outside of trading Anthony Davis. During a March 7, 2022 episode of “The Lowe Post” podcast, The Ringer’s Bill Simmons and ESPN’s Zach Lowe discussed “fake trades” the Lakers could explore for Davis this offseason.

One intriguing option involves the Lakers sending Davis to their Western Conference foe in Phoenix. Los Angeles would receive star big man Deandre Ayton along with three-and-D wing Mikal Bridges in exchange for Davis.

“DeAndre Ayton, who has to be thrown into every trade now, because who knows if he’s on the Suns next year,” Simmons explained. “Just Davis to Phoenix, Ayton and Bridges to the Lakers, sign-and-trade with Ayton. Suns have to give up Bridges, they still get to keep Cam Johnson. They got Crowder still, they’ll go get another free agent.”

Lowe is uncertain this is enough of a trade package for the Lakers to pull the trigger on a deal, especially given his relationship with LeBron James.

“I’m thinking more from the Lakers’ perspective, like if I’m LeBron, can I go to war with that?” Lowe pondered. “I’m not sure I can. I won a title with A.D.”

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Ayton Has Averaged a Double-Double in All 4 of His NBA Seasons

Ayton will be a restricted free agent this offseason as the Suns were unable to reach a contract extension in 2021. The big man played a critical role during the Suns’ run to the NBA finals last season. Ayton is averaging 17.3 points, 10 rebounds and .7 blocks this season while shooting 35.3% from the three-point line.

The former No. 1 pick represents the type of big man NBA teams prefer in that he can run the floor, defend and is an offensive threat. When healthy, Davis is still the better player, but Ayton offers the Lakers a younger option at 23 years old compared to the 29-year-old center.

Ayton has averaged a double-double in all four of his NBA seasons. The Suns center faces an uncertain future in Phoenix after growing frustrated that the franchise was unwilling to pay top dollar on an extension.

“I love Phoenix, but I’m really disappointed we haven’t gotten a deal or a deal done yet,” Ayton told reporters on October 12. “We were two wins away from a championship, and I just really want to be respected, to be honest. To be respected like my peers are being respected by their teams and just keep it like that.”

Bridges Signed a $90 Million Contract Extension

Bridges would give the Lakers another starter who can shoot alongside James. The wing is averaging 14.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.2 steals while shooting 37.5% from the three-point line this season.

Bridges just signed a contract extension that will pay the forward $90 million over the next four seasons beginning in 2022-23. The wing will have a $21 million salary next season, which is a significant raise from the $5.5 million he is earning this year.

Given Davis is a Klutch Sports client, there are plenty of hurdles that will likely prevent the Lakers from making a deal. Yet, if James truly wants to win next season it may mean signing off on the Lakers trading away one of his good friends to potentially improve the roster.

Davis has played a combined 73 games over the last two seasons leaving James to carry the load. If the Lakers trade Davis, the front office would likely work with the superstar to find a new landing spot.

“But they made such an effort to bring A.D. to that team and if they are going to deal him, they would only send him where he wants to be,” an NBA executive told Heavy.com’s NBA editor Sean Deveney in February.

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