What Are the Lakers’ Options After Anthony Davis’ Achilles Injury?

Lakers GM Rob Pelinka, left, and Anthony Davis

Getty Lakers GM Rob Pelinka, left, and Anthony Davis

The Lakers will eagerly await the MRI on Anthony Davis’ Achilles tendon, which he injured again on Sunday night as L.A. had its seven-game winning streak stopped in a loss to the Nuggets. While it did not appear that Davis suffered a ruptured Achilles—he walked off under his own power—it is probable that this injury could require an extended period of rest for Davis.

The Lakers labeled the injury a “strain.” Earlier last week, after Davis missed two games with soreness in the tendon, Davis was diagnosed with tendonosis in his Achilles, a degenerative condition that can worsen over time.

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“Obviously, the doctors don’t want to rule out anything or say it’s something that it’s not, but they said everything looked good,” said Davis after the game, also adding that he thought the team took all the right steps to get him back on the floor. “But they still want to get a MRI to make sure.”

While that is worrisome over the long term for a player to whom the Lakers just gave a five-year, $190 million deal, the short-term question remains: What now?

Lakers Options After Anthony Davis Injury

It is unlikely that this injury will knock out Davis for the season, but it could require his absence for a considerable part of the upcoming schedule. The NBA’s trade deadline is in six weeks. The Lakers have a small handful of options to survive his absence, though none come close to matching Davis’ production on both ends of the floor.

Sign someone. This would be the simple option. If Davis were to be ruled out for the season (again, highly unlikely), the Lakers could apply for a disabled player exception, which would give them the financial flexibility to pursue a free-agent big man. But it is not that simple for the Lakers because of league salary rules. The Lakers have less than $1 million in available salary to offer. Based on a prorated minimum salary, they can’t use that until the end of this month. And the pickings are slim on free-agent centers—Dewayne Dedmon, Anthony Tolliver, Ian Mahinmi.

Trade Talen Horton-Tucker. This would be the nuclear option. The Lakers like Horton-Tucker, they want to keep Horton-Tucker, he is a Klutch Sports guy. But he is 20, heading into free agency and the only legitimate young trade chip the Lakers can offer. LeBron James is 36. There is a good case to pull the trigger on a win-now deal that brings in a quality big guy as an insurance against a Davis injury, rather than squandering James’ late-career MVP-level season.

Trade Montrezl Harrell. His energy is appreciated, but the Lakers need a defensive-minded big guy with Davis out. Harrell has a reasonable contract ($9.2 million this year, player option next) and there would be a market for him. The Lakers could package him (he is another Klutch guy, though) with THT for a splashy deal that fills in the AD gap.

Play small. This is what the Lakers will do, in some form, in the coming days. Start Kyle Kuzma, who has played well lately, at power forward, move Marc Gasol to the bench and put Markieff Morris or Harrell in as the starting center. Morris makes more sense because of his shooting. But the Lakers could push the pace with a small lineup and hope to outrun opponents until they can get Davis back.

Anthony Davis Did Not Appear to Be in Unbearable Pain

It is not yet time to hit the panic button of course, not with Davis still awaiting an MRI. And a look at the play on which he was injured is encouraging—he grimaces in pain, but it does not appear to be unbearable pain.

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