If the door for contention out in the Western Conference swung wide open this week after a pair of brutal Golden State injuries, it appears that the Lakers just walked right through it.
Los Angeles, vying to make the most of LeBron James’s remaining window, agreed to a deal Saturday that would land them Pelicans star Anthony Davis in exchange for Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and three first-round picks, including the No. 4 in Thursday’s draft.
The haul was significant from several standpoints: Aside from giving James his first real star running mate out in L.A. (the Lakers will undoubtedly go for one more in free agency), it also takes a couple of other teams out of the running for a serious overhaul. In particular, it’s a blow for a club like the Celtics, who might have been able to further entice free-agent-to-be Kyrie Irving into staying had they landed Davis. (The tea leaves on him staying haven’t looked great lately.)
The players involved in the trade, and that No. 4 pick, also suggest that the Pelicans have the makings of a very solid young roster under this new David Griffin regime. Between Zion Williamson (the presumed No. 1 pick), Jrue Holiday, Ingram, Ball, Hart and whomever New Orleans takes at No. 4, the Pels figure to be very good in transition, with considerable versatility on the defensive end. It’s not hard to see how this rebuild could pay dividends more quickly than what some were thinking —particularly if Williamson ends up being the kind of star he is widely expected to be.
Above all else, though, there will be immediate interest in what this deal means for LeBron and the Lakers, and whether someone of Davis’s caliber makes them favorites in a now wide-open West, where the reigning five-time conference champs lost both Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson.