The New Orleans Pelicans were left in a pickle when Anthony Davis made his trade request public on Jan. 28.
And after multiple reports on the matter were released, we came out knowing two things: We have no idea when this saga is going to end (could be next week or it could take until the summer), and the Los Angeles Lakers are going to be heavily involved.
Some have even speculated that Davis’ preferred destination could be with the purple-and-gold franchise, though the superstar big man hasn’t come out with a list of preferred destinations as of yet.
If Davis does want to end up a Laker playing alongside LeBron James, odds are, New Orleans is going to covet almost the entirety of Los Angeles’ young core in exchange for its MVP-caliber center. Players like Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart are almost certainly going to factor in heavily in these conversations, and it might even take all of them for the Pelicans to seriously consider sending Davis to L.A.
Below, we break down what three logical packages for Davis could look like if a deal does end up going down between the Lakers and Pelicans.
MOST LOGICAL PACKAGE
Pelicans get: Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, 2019 first-round pick from Los Angeles
Lakers get: Anthony Davis
The no-trade clause Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has on his contract could make this deal just a bit trickier to pull off, but because he does share an agent with James, there’s a chance that in the end, he could be talked into accepting a trade to New Orleans.
In Ball and Ingram, the Pelicans would be netting the two highest-upside options on the Lakers’ roster in the form of the two 21-year-olds, to go with a 2019 unprotected first from Los Angeles. Caldwell-Pope’s addition is only necessary for salary-matching purposes, since New Orleans would have little need for an almost-26-year-old shooting guard.
Ball and Holiday would form a downright nasty tandem on the defensive end of the floor, while Ingram would be given the chance to blossom as a high-usage solo act on the perimeter since the Pelicans’ current wing depth is nowhere near as strong as L.A.’s.
His overall body of work this season hasn’t been great, but we have seen what a confident Ingram can do when given license to freely attack:
But what if, rather than take a first-round pick that’ll likely be, at the highest, in the mid- to late-teens, New Orleans would prefer another proven young commodity instead?
A MORE ESTABLISHED PACKAGE
Pelicans get: Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, 2020 top-20 protected first-rounder
Lakers get: Anthony Davis
In that case, we’d have to remove the first-rounder and add Kuzma to the mix.
Kuzma may not have the upside of a Ball or an Ingram, nor is he as young (the Utah product will be 24 by next season), but overall, this season, there’s no question he’s been the most consistent member of the Lakers’ young nucleus.
The 6-foot-9 wing is putting up 19.1 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.5 assists per contest in 2018-19, shooting 46.6 percent from the floor and 76.2 percent from the charity stripe. The biggest gripe against Kuzma this year has been his poor three-point shooting (30.3 percent), but even so, that shouldn’t be hard for New Orleans to fix considering the swingman shot a healthy 36.6 percent from deep as a rookie, and possesses far-from-broken form on his jumper.
To top if off, we’re including a 2020 top-20 protected first-round pick, just because it would be tough to trade away a talent like Davis without landing some sort of draft capital in return (even though the Oklahoma City Thunder were able to pull just that off when they traded for Paul George).
However, if the Lakers want to execute a deal for Davis without giving up draft picks, there may be a way they can pull it off.
THE TAKE-BACK-BAD-SALARY PACKAGE
Pelicans get: Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Lance Stephenson, Isaac Bonga
Lakers get: Anthony Davis, Solomon Hill, Frank Jackson, Kenrich Williams
In this beast of a transaction, the Lakers get out of losing any draft capital by also agreeing to take back Solomon Hill and his brutal four-year, $48 million contract as part of the trade.
The blow does get softened a bit by Los Angeles also netting Frank Jackson, a 20-year-old two-way ball-handler with upside, but the Pelicans won’t mind losing him if it means clearing bad money from their books while also receiving almost all of the top prospects on Los Angeles’ roster in return.
Lance Stephenson is only due $4.5 million this year, so buying him out after the trade deadline won’t be an issue, and Caldwell-Pope, if he doesn’t get traded to a third team eventually, is a free agent this summer anyway, so New Orleans wouldn’t be getting any bad contracts as part of the deal.
As a cherry on top, the Pelicans would also get Isaac Bonga in this deal, and though that may not sound like much (Bonga has played 28 total minutes this season, spending most of his time in the G League), the German forward projects as a 6-foot-8 (with a 7-foot wingspan) lead ball-handler and only just turned 19. He’s all potential for now, but his upside could be huge if he continues to develop.
And for what it’s worth, Bonga is performing well in the G League, averaging 12.3 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.6 assists per contest on impressive 45.0/36.4/80.6 shooting splits.
Obviously, for any of these theorized deals to go down, the Pelicans would have to clear roster spots first since they’re going to be picking up a lot more than losing in these trades. And, of course, even in the richest packages, it’s likely the value they get in return won’t stack up to the loss of a Top 5 player and perennial MVP candidate.
But at the end of the day, this is the situation they’re left in after Davis made his trade request public. New Orleans’ best bet at this point is to swing for the fences and hope whatever package they get in return, be it from the Lakers or anyone else, helps kickstart the important rebuild they’re about to undergo.
You can follow Frank Urbina on Twitter @FrankUrbina_.