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Anthony Davis trade update: Lakers trying to rework deal with Pelicans to open max salary slot, report says

We’re still a few weeks away from the start of NBA free agency, but the Los Angeles Lakers and New Orleans Pelicans may have already pulled off the biggest move of the offseason. On Saturday afternoon, the Pelicans reportedly agreed to a deal to send Anthony Davis to the Lakers in exchange for Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and three first-round picks, including the No. 4 overall pick in this year’s draft.

However, that may not be the final version of the deal. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported Tuesday night that the Lakers are in the process of trying to rework the deal with the Pelicans in order to create room for a max salary slot. Such cap logistics would involve Davis waiving his trade bonus and the Lakers offering multiple players, including Moe Wagner and Isaac Bonga, to other teams to increase their outgoing salary.

Los Angeles has been after Davis for months, ever since he first went public with his trade request back in January — a move he was fined $50,000 for. The two teams were unable to complete a deal ahead of the trade deadline, though, and in the aftermath, both teams cratered amid what Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry called the most “toxic” situation he’s seen in his three decades in the league. 

Since then, rumors and reports have circulated pretty much nonstop. The Pelicans winning the Draft Lottery last month only made things more interesting, as did the Lakers moving up to grab the No. 4 overall pick. During the past week, things really started to pick up, with both the Lakers and Celtics — despite concerns that Davis didn’t want to play there — making concerted efforts to complete a deal. According to a report from the New York Times’ Marc Stein, the Celtics refused to include Jayson Tatum in the deal, which was a breaking point for the Pelicans. 

Thus, the Lakers were able to get things done and secure the second star they’ve been after to pair with LeBron James. Late on Saturday night, LeBron welcomed his new teammate to Los Angeles with a message on Instagram. 

They gave up a number of talented young players in Ball, Ingram and Hart, as well as three first-round picks, but that’s the price you have to pay to acquire one of the best players in the league. They have a number of roster spots to fill in free agency this summer, but they’ll hope the star power of LeBron and Davis can get them back into title contention.

According to SportsLine data scientist Stephen Oh’s projections, however, they have just a 6.3 percent chance of winning the title next season. Oh projects the Lakers to earn the No. 3 seed in the West next season with 50.6 wins. However, it must be noted that their roster is far from a complete product, and that could change depending on what happens this summer. 

Lakers

Wins

Playoffs

Seed

Win Conference

Win NBA title

Before

42.4

54.0%

8

1.6%

0.4%

With Davis

50.6

96.9%

3

15.3%

6.4%

IMPACT

+8.2

+42.9%

+5

+13.7%

+6%

One thing that’s important to note regarding the Lakers’ summer plans, is that the amount of cap space they’ll have depends on when this trade gets finalized. According to Wojnarowski, the deal will be completed on July 6, when the moratorium lifts. Assuming that’s the case, the Lakers will have $23.7 million in cap space, which is not enough for a max deal. If the Pelicans are for some reason willing to wait until July 30 to finalize the trade, then the Lakers will have $32.5 million in cap space, which would be enough to go after a free agent who wants the max. 

As for the Pelicans, they’ll now begin their rebuild and will do so with all sorts of young talent. In addition to Ball, Ingram and Hart, they’ll also have both the No. 1 and No. 4 overall picks in this year’s draft, plus a top-8 protected in 2021 which becomes unprotected in 2022. In addition, the Pelicans also will receive the option to have an unprotected swap in 2023 as well as an unprotected first-round pick in 2024 and an unprotected swap in 2025. 

With the first pick this year, they’re expected to take Zion Williamson, one of the most well-regarded prospects in years. However, according to Adrian Wojnarowski, the Pelicans could end up trading the No. 4 pick to add to their haul. 

An interesting note on the picks, is that according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, the Pelicans “essentially have control of the Lakers draft for the next 7 years” due to various pick swap options. 

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