Landing Zones and Trade Packages for Los Angeles Lakers Star Anthony Davis
Discount Bill Simmons’ comments on the Los Angeles Lakers trading Anthony Davis can be described as flimsy or speculative. They are, without a doubt, unsourced. But keep in mind that almost every NBA superstar trade begins with whispers like this.
“There’s some buzz, just some buzz, that AD might be available,” Simmons stated on his podcast on Monday. “That is a backup plan because the Westbrook trade, or what they can get for Westbrook, whether you want to give future assets, may not even make sense for the Lakers.”
The key point here is how trading Russell Westbrook does not make sense. It is undeniably logical for the Lakers to look elsewhere in their efforts to improve the team—now and for whatever time LeBron James has left in his prime.
Los Angeles clearly cannot trade Westbrook for positive value. If it could, it would have done so by now. Even more clearly, the Lakers will not trade James.
The preceding facts demonstrate why what Simmons reported (if that’s even the right term) is more than idle chit-chat. Dealing Davis is more than just a way to turn around a floundering franchise.
It could be the only option.
The Brooklyn Nets
The Deal: The Los Angeles Lakers acquire Kevin Durant from the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for Anthony Davis and an unprotected first-round pick in 2029.
The Lakers began play on Monday at 2-7, trailing only the tanktastic Houston Rockets in the Western Conference standings. Even so, you could argue that the Brooklyn Nets have had a worse season—an extension of an offseason marked by trade demands and calls from Kevin Durant to fire head coach Steve Nash (check) and general manager Sean Marks.
Given the league’s lack of flexibility and KD’s short list of destinations, Brooklyn’s asking price for Durant over the summer was laughably high. With no takers willing to part with “two All-Star caliber talents and a cache of draft picks,” according to Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix, and no doubt concerned that KD’s next value-depleting trade request is not far away, the Nets may be able to operate more rationally now.
Perhaps they’d take one of the NBA’s top 75 players and a highly valuable unprotected first-round pick.
Davis, like nearly every other NBA player, lacks Durant’s offensive prowess. On the other hand, he could address Brooklyn’s major flaws. The Nets rank 23rd in defensive efficiency and dead last in offensive rebound rate against. With Kyrie Irving’s future as a Net uncertain, trading Durant could leave Brooklyn without a reliable offensive option. However, the Nets were designed to surround a star with shooters, and they’d still have Joe Harris, Seth Curry, Patty Mills, Royce O’Neale, Cam Thomas, and possibly even Irving flanking Ben Simmons and Davis.
Brooklyn loses overall talent by trading KD for AD, but the roster almost makes more sense with the latter as a defensive anchor. Not to mention the most important factor of all: Durant, by his own admission, does not want to be there.
From the Lakers’ perspective, this isn’t a difficult situation.
Durant was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week for the fourth time since his most recent win…on December 9, 2019. Durant is, in fact, four and a half years Davis’ senior. And, yes, KD has a history of injuries, including a torn Achilles. But there’s no denying that Durant is and has been the better player right now and for the last several seasons. Davis has made four All-NBA teams; Durant has made ten, the most recent of which was in 2021-22.
Davis hasn’t looked worthy of receiving the torch LeBron will eventually pass, aside from an outlier bubble run in 2020. Durant would provide the Lakers with something more valuable than an heir to the franchise throne: a player better than James right now.
The Chicago Bulls
The Deal: In exchange for Anthony Davis, the Los Angeles Lakers receive Zach LaVine*, Patrick Williams, Goran Dragi, and a 2023 first-round pick (via POR) from the Chicago Bulls.
When you’re as deep in the weeds as we are in this exercise, you cling to any shred of concrete reporting you can find. If that fails, you seek out rival executives who basically say, “This would be a cool idea.”
So here’s a Western Conference GM convincing Heavy Sports’ Sean Deveney that an AD-for-LaVine swap could work.
“But if they make a deal, I’d send him back to Chicago for another Klutch guy, Zach LaVine,” a Western Conference general manager told Deveney. “Davis is from Chicago, and he wants to play there.” LaVine attended UCLA and has stated that he wants to play in Los Angeles. That, I believe, is the only deal that would satisfy all parties. Because, look, the Lakers wanted AD to be the one to take over the franchise after LeBron, and it is clear that he is not the right man for the job. LaVine, perhaps?”
The homecoming factor is rarely considered in trades or signings, but Chicago has been mentioned in Davis rumors before. More importantly, Davis would be an intriguing complement to DeMar DeRozan, a potentially healthy (someday) Lonzo Ball, and Nikola Vuevi.
With current starter Vuevi in the game, the Bulls score fewer points in the paint than any other team in the league, and opponents shoot 7.8 percentage points better at the rim. Davis could help Chicago retake control of the basket on offense and defense, allowing them to reclaim control of that crucial area of the court. Vuevi would still be around to stretch the court while guarding the opposing team’s 5, allowing AD to roam freely, much like a healthy Robert Williams III did in Boston last season.
The Lakers receive an ace shooter who can play on or off the ball in LaVine, a promising defense-first prospect in Williams, ball-handling insurance in Dragi, and a 2023 first-round pick that they could use to sweeten a future Westbrook trade or, less likely, pocket to replenish their draft assets.
This deal would not immediately change L.A.’s fortunes in the same way that a hypothetical Durant acquisition would, but it restores shooting and desperately needed future assets to flip or keep, all while sending Davis home to play for a team that needs what he brings.
Knicks of New York
Los Angeles Lakers receive RJ Barrett, Mitchell Robinson, Obi Toppin, Quentin Grimes, a 2023 first-round pick, protected 2023 first-round picks from DET, WAS, and DAL, and a 2025 first-round pick from MIL in exchange for Anthony Davis.
If the Lakers ever trade Davis, it will most likely be for a package that includes a single high-value asset. Accepting four quarters for a dollar is generally bad business, but the reasons most teams avoid such constructions don’t quite apply here.
For starters, the Lakers’ entire backcourt is made up of fungible, barely-in-the-league players who could be waived to make room without much repercussion. Furthermore, the haul of future first-round picks would sweeten the pot and provide the transactional flexibility that Los Angeles lacks. Perhaps acquiring so many picks would make the Lakers feel more at ease with a Westbrook trade that cost them two of their own.
However, since this is primarily about AD, we must grapple with his fit with the Knicks. And, right away, the somewhat outdated narrative of New York in search of stars is at work. Then again, what were all of this offseason’s asset-hoarding maneuverings for if not to pull off a big deal like this?
Jalen Brunson, Immanuel Quickley, Evan Fournier/Cam Reddish, Julius Randle, and Davis would be an upgrade over New York’s current starters because, well…almost anything would. After struggling with the first unit last season, the Knicks’ starters (Brunson, Fournier, Barrett, Randle, and Robinson) are failing (again). You can tell the problem is serious because Tom Thibodeau, the notoriously rigid head coach, has already made changes.
To begin the season, the Knicks have been mediocre across the board, and poor opponent shooting luck could mean something far worse than break-even ball is on the way. Based on the shots it allows, New York’s effective field-goal percentage should rank 23rd in the league. Teams have gone cold on quality looks so far, and the Knicks have the fourth-lowest effective field-goal percentage allowed. Davis could give the defense some legitimacy, and his perimeter skills would prevent Knicks guards and wings from constantly running into Mitchell Robinson’s man camped in the lane.
Mavericks of Dallas
The Deal: In exchange for Anthony Davis, the Los Angeles Lakers receive Christian Wood, Spencer Dinwiddie, Reggie Bullock, unprotected first-round picks in 2025, 2027, and 2029, as well as first-round swap rights in 2024, 2026, and 2028 from the Dallas Mavericks.
This deal is more in line with the trends we saw emerge over the summer, in which teams gave up draft rights for the better part of a decade in order to land a ceiling-raising star.
If Dejounte Murray was worth three firsts and a trade, and Donovan Mitchell was worth three firsts and two trades (plus some legit starting-caliber young talent), the Mavericks giving up three firsts and three trades doesn’t seem out of line with the new market. Remember that these first-round picks come from the same team that employs Luka Doni. Perhaps one or two of them will be useful, but the Mavericks must suspect that the presence of the game’s top young superstar will keep them from giving up anything in the lottery.
Los Angeles is back in the draft, and it adds three high-end rotation players who can shoot. To put it another way, sending Davis out for a package like this would almost make the Lakers whole again by replacing so many of the picks they lost to acquire AD in the first place. The selections aren’t as valuable as those sent to New Orleans by L.A. because they’re coming from Dallas. However, winning the championship in 2020 makes the entire operation worthwhile.
The Mavericks would finally get the second star they’ve been looking for in Davis, one whose defensive impact far outweighs that of Kristaps Porzingis and who has championship experience.
The Mavericks could win playoff games with a lineup that included Doni, Tim Hardaway Jr., Dorian Finney-Smith, Maxi Kleber, and Davis, who could wreak havoc on defense while also providing enough shooting to get by. Building out the roster from there would be difficult, especially since there would be no more draft picks to deal with. Suddenly, Hardaway and Josh Green would be thrust into roles they may not be prepared for.
From Dallas’ perspective, this is a terrifying all-in wager on Davis. To justify all of the assets going to Los Angeles, he would have to be a no-questions-asked superstar for the duration of his current contract, which expires in 2024 (player option for 2024-25), and then for another handful of seasons after re-signing (not a given on any front!). Playing next to Doni, who operates offensively as well as anyone in the game, could be the best way to get AD back to his former self.