The wild, wild West.
With the strong smell of the Warriors’ blood fresh in the water, at least one Western Conference team is shooting its shot, and that definitely will impact the Sacramento Kings.
ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Saturday that the Los Angeles Lakers have agreed to acquire star center Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans for a package of Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram and three first-round picks, including the No. 4 overall selection in the 2019 NBA Draft.
It’s an interesting trade for Davis, who has missed plenty of time over his NBA career because of myriad physical ailments. The six-time All-Star played in just 55 games this past season, although it was more a precautionary move by the Pelicans after Davis’ representation made a trade demand prior to the All-Star break.
Ball has yet to establish himself in the league after being selected No. 2 overall by the Lakers in the 2017 NBA Draft. He’s missed 63 total games in two seasons, and his shooting woes are monumental.
Hart is a solid rotational player with upside, but he’ll likely be lost in a crowded New Orleans backcourt with Ball, Ingram and veteran Jrue Holiday. His addition in the deal also puts Elfrid Payton’s return in question after his solid season for the Pelicans.
Ingram is a wild card. He had a breakout 2018-19 season, posting 18.3 points and 5.1 rebounds per game for the Lakers. But a late-season blood clot cost him time and is a concern moving forward.
So, what does this all mean for the Kings, their standing in the West and what they should do this offseason?
The Pelicans likely won’t be an immediate threat, since they’re starting over with a young core, which should include Zion Williamson, the expected No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming draft. They’ve lost a star, but they could quickly reload, especially if they can move the No. 4 pick acquired in the Davis deal for another major piece.
The Lakers, meanwhile, are swinging for the fences, and at 34, LeBron James is getting long in the tooth by NBA standards. By adding Davis while retaining Kyle Kuzma, the Lakers put themselves back on the map and considerably changed their age arc.
Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka also has somewhere between $27 million and 32 million to play with in free agency, which is a good thing because his roster is filled with holes.
So, expect LA to add substantial pieces around James, Davis and Kuzma. Then the Lakers should come into the season as championship contenders and a tough matchup for the Kings.
The Pacific Division just became a lot more difficult, which isn’t good news for Sacramento, although Golden State likely will slip from its perch with Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson both entering free agency and having just suffered major injuries.
The Kings, however, have a young core in place and $38 million to spend in free agency. That gives them an opportunity to greatly improve their roster with the right moves this summer, but their rise in the standings still will depend on the growth of players such as De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield and Marvin Bagley.
This group needs more help, and this isn’t an offseason for the Kings to sit on their hands. Even before the Davis trade, general manager Vlade Divac hoped to upgrade at center, with a decision to make on Willie Cauley-Stein.
Now that the Kings will play against the Lakers and their new star big four times per season, whomever mans the position for Sacramento will become even more important. The team has been linked to Nikola Vucevic, DeAndre Jordan and Dewayne Dedmon in free agency rumor mills, and they could be a better fit against Davis.
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The Kings have high hopes for next season, including playoff aspirations. They can’t completely base their summer plans off what happens with the Warriors, Lakers or any other team, but it’s clear that one team in the Pacific just became a major player, and Sacramento needs to do the same with player development and smart free-agent signings.