The Los Angeles Lakers and New Orleans Pelicans agreed to a blockbuster trade this weekend. The Lakers get Anthony Davis. The Pelicans get...a ton. I’ll let ESPN’s Zach Lowe summarize it so I don’t screw up the details:
The final tally: Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart; the No. 4 pick in this draft; the Lakers’ 2021 pick only if it falls within the top eight, otherwise converting into the Lakers’ unprotected 2022 first-round pick; swap rights on first-rounders in 2023; and the Lakers’ unprotected first-round pick in 2024, with New Orleans holding the option (at some agreed-upon date) to pass on that 2024 pick in favor of the Lakers’ unprotected 2025 selection. The protections protect the Pelicans, not the Lakers.
This trade has ramifications for the league as a whole and for the Sacramento Kings. Let’s dive in.
How does this impact the Kings?
The Pacific Division remains brutal. The Golden State Warriors are going to be taking a step back this season as Klay Thompson recovers from a torn ACL. Kevin Durant may stay in the Bay or he could leave, but either way he’ll miss this next year recovering from his torn achilles. But even with Klay and KD out, the Warriors can’t be dismissed. Stephen Curry is still a two-time MVP, Draymond Green is still an All-Star caliber player, and Steve Kerr is still a heck of a coach. But even if the Warriors miss the playoffs the rest of the West is getting stronger. The Lakers getting Davis just adds one more team to the mix.
This isn’t to say the Lakers are immediate title contenders. They have LeBron James, who will turn 35 next season and just suffered the first significant injury of his career, Anthony Davis, Kyle Kuzma, and not much else. The Lakers will need to fill in a roster around LeBron and AD, and may not have much cap space to do it with.
If Pelicans and Lakers waited until July 30 to complete trade, Lakers could’ve had $32.5M in cap space --- enough to pursue a max level free agent. By waiting 30 days, Lakers would be acting like a team over the cap and thus allowed to use 4th overall pick in draft as salary. https://t.co/BdKtxFtvai— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 16, 2019
The Kings will need their young core to continue to grow and land a few solid free agent signings to even maintain the 9th seed in the West, let alone make the playoffs.
Will the Kings be players in the arms race?
The Kings have cap space and could create room to sign a max player, but that doesn’t mean they’re likely to do so. Most max players won’t be looking at Sacramento. Unlike last summer, when the Kings were one of just a few teams with cap space, a significant number of teams have max cap room. Some teams, like the Knicks, Nets, and Clippers, could potentially sign two max players.
The one max-level player many have speculated could be in play for the Kings is Nikola Vucevic. But a report from NBC Sports’ James Ham tells us that the Kings won’t be chasing Vucevic after all.
Vlade Divac and his team have placed an emphasis on improving the center position, but according to a league source, while the team holds Nikola Vucevic in high regard, the team is not expected to chase the Orlando Magic big man in free agency
Ham goes on to mention players like Dewayne Dedmon and DeAndre Jordan as more likely targets. This tells us that the Kings aren’t looking at one big splash, but the possibility of multiple signings to improve the team’s depth.
Does this mean the Kings will miss the playoffs?
It’s impossible to predict these things before free agency, and frankly it’s impossible to predict even after free agency. Last summer everyone expected LeBron to lead the Lakers back to the playoffs, but they finished with a worse record than the Kings. Last summer we thought the Timberwolves were a team on the rise, but Jimmy Butler imploded their team and Tom Thibodeau was fired. Last summer nobody expected to Toronto Raptors to be NBA champions.
Anthony Davis is a great player. It’s easy to forget after he sat out half of last season and mailed in the other half. But he’s a truly dominant force in the NBA. The smart money says that the Lakers will be a playoff team next season. But the smart money also says there will be another West team that falls out of the playoffs in a way we don’t see coming.
And let’s not discount the Kings themselves. The Kings exceeded all expectations last year. De’Aaron Fox took a huge leap forward. Marvin Bagley III made a lot of us eat crow. Buddy Hield emerged as one of the league’s best shooters. The young guys should continue to get better. With a few smart free agent additions around them, the Kings could absolutely still be in play for a playoff spot this season.
The road to get there is just a little different than it was a few days ago.