Damian Dovarganes/Associated Press
Los Angeles Lakers Received: Anthony Davis
New Orleans Pelicans Received: Lonzo Ball; Josh Hart; De’Andre Hunter; Brandon Ingram; L.A.’s 2021 first-round pick (protected Nos. 9 to 30); L.A.’s 2023 first-rounder pick (swap rights); L.A.’s 2024 first-round pick (option to defer until 2025); $1 million (via L.A.); $1.1 million (via Washington)
Washington Wizards Received: Isaac Bonga; Jemerrio Jones; Moritz Wagner; 2022 second-round pick (more favorable from L.A., Detroit or Chicago)
So few trades are memorable for both the right and wrong reasons. Anthony Davis made sure his July 2019 exit from New Orleans was among the exceptions.
Requesting a trade 18 months before hitting free agency was an overstatement of his position. His agent, Rich Paul, tried to spin the move as transparency, but the Pelicans were notified of Davis’ intentions inside two weeks of the 2019 trade deadline, giving them no time to scour the league for a palatable deal.
Not that they needed to scour. Davis’ wish list included one team—and at most two. His open desire to join the Lakers drove down his value to every other interested party. Most franchises won’t empty their war chest for a rental.
Restricting his trade market did little to simplify the process. Almost no one came out the other end looking good. Then-Lakers team president Magic Johnson claimed the Pelicans operated in bad faith when they didn’t move him. The league threatened to fine New Orleans if it didn’t play Davis. Pelicans fans booed him. Lakers players knew they were being dangled in talks and, in Josh Hart’s case, weren’t thrilled about how they found out after the trade went through.
Somehow, everything worked out—for both teams. The Pelicans won the draft lottery and the right to select Zion Williamson, a should-be generational star to succeed the one who left. And the Lakers moved up the draft order themselves, arming them with the assets necessary to compensate New Orleans as if it weren’t negotiating in a market of one.
Many still wondered whether L.A. overpaid. Did the Lakers really need to give up that 2024 (or 2025) first-rounder? Where else were the Pelicans going to send Davis? Sure, he’s a top-10 star, but they had leverage. It felt like they underplayed their hand.
That may still be true. It just no longer matters.
Waiting for Davis to hit free agency was rife with risk. The Lakers tried that approach with George and came up empty. If you have the chance to get a 26-year-old superstar, you get him, at almost any expense—particularly when you already have a then-34-year-old LeBron James and are coming off a lottery appearance.
The opportunity cost of landing Davis is even more immaterial now. The Lakers just won a friggin’ NBA title during a playoff push in which Davis was at times, and for long stretches, their most valuable player. He will never be a conventional 1A megastar. That role is reserved for primary shot creators, an archetype he will never typify. But he is the next-best thing: someone who can be the 1B to that 1A, without that 1A playing at their peak every second of every minute of every game.
In acquiring Davis, then, the Lakers didn’t merely win themselves this title and the chance to get more with LeBron. They assured themselves of a blueprint of a future without him.