With The 4th Pick In The 2019 NBA Draft, The Lakers Select…Anthony Davis?

Los Angeles Lakers Banners At Staples Center. Photo Credit: Radhika Bhagwat | Under Creative Commons License
Los Angeles Lakers Banners At Staples Center. Photo Credit: Radhika Bhagwat | Under Creative Commons License

***Since the writing of this article, a trade with the Pelicans has been reportedly finalized. The Lakers will receive Anthony Davis for Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, the 4th overall pick, and two future first round picks.***

The Lakers Have The 4th Overall Draft Pick…For Now

After a season in which everything seemed to go the wrong way in Los Angeles, the Lakers finally had things bounce in the right direction for them—this time literally. The Lakers, of course, were the unexpected recipients of the fourth overall draft pick thanks in part to a little bit of luck. Los Angeles only had a 9.2% chance of obtaining a top-four pick but did so nonetheless.

Now with the fourth overall draft pick added to their arsenal of assets, the level of intrigue surrounding the Lakers upcoming offseason has risen even higher than ever. Despite all of the recent drama surrounding Jeanie Buss and the rest of the front office, the Lakers are still in one of the most desirable situations of any NBA team heading into the off-season. They possess the elite and rare combination of young talent and a superstar already in house, to go along with a plethora of cap space, and the added bonus of a top draft pick that appeared out of thin air.

As negotiations between the New Orleans Pelicans and Los Angeles Lakers continue to unfold, it remains to be seen if the Lakers will hold on to the number four pick or include it in a trade instead. According to Brad Turner of the LA Times and others familiar with the situation, it is possible the Lakers keep their pick while still trading for Anthony Davis.

Draft Targets If The Lakers Keep The 4th Pick

DeAndre Hunter fits the mold of prototypical ‘3 & D Wing’, drawing comparisons to players such as Trevor Ariza and Mikal Bridges. Hunter did not work out at the NBA Combine, but he is listed at 6’7” 225 pounds with a 7’1” wingspan. He was a key member of Virginia’s 2018-2019 NCAA National Championship team and came up extremely clutch for the Cavaliers in the NCAA National Championship game. For the season, he averaged 15.2 points and 5.1 rebounds per game while shooting 43.8% from three.

The biggest knocks on Hunter are his ball handling ability to create, and his age. Set to turn 22 in December, Hunter is slightly older than most top lottery prospects. This likely matters a lot more to some teams than it does to others. From the Lakers’ perspective, they may identify Hunter as a great fit because he appears to have a better chance than most rookies to step in and contribute right away.

Jarrett Culver has gained a lot of momentum lately, rising up many NBA Draft boards. The general consensus on Culver is that he has very low ‘bust potential’, and subsequently has a very high floor even if his ceiling is debatable. There’s no denying that Culver has a lot of skills he needs to refine, but that shouldn’t be too much of a red flag for a player who is known for his work ethic.

The Big 12 Player of the Year is listed at 6’6” 195 pounds with a somewhat lackluster 6’9.5” wingspan. Unfortunately for Culver, his wingspan is a weakness that he cannot improve with hard work. He can compensate for his wingspan in other ways though, as he has a plus basketball IQ, to go along with above-average athleticism and effort. Once Culver transitions to the NBA, he should be at least an average defender, but questions will likely arise about his ability to guard some of the lengthier wings in the league. For reference, Andre Iguodala and especially Caris LeVert have somewhat similar measurables to Culver, although Iguodala boasts a 6’11” wingspan.

Like Iguodala, Culver’s offensive strengths favor ball handling and driving to the rim more so than spot-up shooting, although Culver can create his own shot when needed. Last season in college, the most efficient areas of Culver’s offensive game were in transition, isolation, and running the pick and roll. This area of his game is almost certain to translate to the next level, as all three categories have become a big part of the modern NBA game.

Jarrett Culver was a key cog for NCAA runner up Texas Tech, averaging 18.5 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 3.7 assists on the season. Culver posted 15 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists in the National Championship game, as his Red Raiders lost to DeAndre Hunter’s Virginia squad. Culver worked out for the Lakers on June 1st, with LeBron James also in attendance.

Vanderbilt’s Darius Garland is one of the more intriguing prospects in this year’s draft, as he had his one and only year as a Commodore limited to 5 games because of an injury. Despite the small sample size, the majority of NBA scouts and executives seem sold on Garland, who has a playing style that has been likened to a combination of Damian Lillard and Mike Conley.

Adding to Garland’s small sample size, the 6’2” guard left the NBA Draft Combine after only one day, leading to rumors that an NBA team—specifically the Lakers—may have promised they would select him with the fourth pick. The Lakers rumors and connections make sense and can be traced back to a few things.

Leaving the draft combine early usually signifies that either an injury took place or a promise was made from team to player. Since Garland suffered no apparent injury, it appeared he may have received a promise. In addition, many of the other teams drafting in the same relative range as the Lakers are likely to draft a player at a different position. And last but certainly not least, Darius Garland has a connection to LeBron James as the two are both clients of Rich Paul and Klutch Sports.

Trading Down In The Draft

It isn’t likely that the Lakers will opt to move down in the NBA Draft, but it’s a possibility nonetheless. The perks of trading the 4th pick in exchange for multiple other draft picks would be to add role player depth, save cap space, and avoid adding yet another young player to the mix. 

If the Lakers do opt to trade down in the draft, one potential trade partner could be the Hawks, who have a plethora of draft picks. Atlanta possesses picks 8, 10, 17, 35, 41, and 44, and they could be interested in packaging picks to move up in the draft.

If the Lakers do trade down, they would be wise to target Brandon Clarke, a 6’8” 215 pound versatile player from Gonzaga by way of San Jose State. Clarke is a defensive stud and a very efficient finisher at the rim. Per KenPom, Clarke ranked in the top 15 in the NCAA last season in a whopping five categories (eFG, TS%, ORtg, 2PTFG%, & block rate). With such an impressive and versatile resume, Clarke should be able to establish himself as an effective player in the NBA. When you think of Clarke, think PJ Tucker with a more well rounded offensive game and higher ceiling.

Trading For Anthony Davis

There is an obvious power move awaiting the Lakers, and it could be tied to trading the fourth overall pick. Prior to Anthony Davis saying so publicly, it was the NBA’s worst kept secret that Davis wants to be a Laker. In addition to previous trade talks midseason, Davis has now reiterated his desire to play in Los Angeles. Davis and LeBron James are both signed to Klutch Sports and represented by agent Rich Paul, who has aggressively and very transparently tried to push AD to the Lakers. The Lakers are on the same page, having very openly flirted with Davis and the idea of trading for him for months now. The Lakers even pitched the Pelicans a ‘Godfather offer’ containing LA’s entire young core plus other assets prior to February’s trade deadline. That offer is now off the table, and we may instead see the fourth pick included as part of a deal.

Ex-Pelicans GM Dell Demps infamously didn’t negotiate with the Lakers in good faith and showed a lack of vision by not maximizing the asset that is Davis before he inevitably leaves in free agency. Ultimately, Demps was fired and replaced by a much more capable regime. New President of Basketball Operations David Griffin and General Manager Trajan Langdon have taken over the reins in New Orleans and hopes of ‘The Brow’ being dealt too Los Angeles have been re-ignited.

On June 10th the ex-Cavaliers General Manager Griffin said he had discussed the preliminary framework of an Anthony Davis mega-deal with a couple of teams. Rumors also surfaced that a three-team trade could very likely be Griffin’s preferred method of trading Davis. This would theoretically allow for the Pelicans to be choosy and get exactly what they want: a combination of assets from two teams, likely the Lakers and Wizards. The phrase ‘beggars can’t be choosers’ may initially come to mind, but the Pelicans are far from beggars here as the asset they are parting with happens to be one of the best basketball players on the face of the planet.

In order to secure Anthony Davis, a trade package from the Lakers would have to involve at least two of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Kyle Kuzma, and/or the 4th pick. Josh Hart or additional fillers may be needed as well. Rumors on exactly how the Davis trade package is coming together fluctuate by the hour. The question with Anthony Davis going to the Lakers isn’t if but when?

The most recent update from The LA Times is that the Lakers value Kyle Kuzma’s role with the franchise for both ‘on the court and off the court reasons’, which would seem to indicate Kuzma is staying put. Kuzma also has a lower salary than Ingram or Ball, helping the Lakers cap flexibility. The Pelicans know that, and it’s part of the reason they covet Kuzma in any Lakers trade. If Kuzma does remain in Los Angeles, the 4th pick could be headed to New Orleans instead. An Anthony Davis trade can come together in a variety of ways, but all of them include the Lakers losing a huge chunk of their young core. It might hurt at first for many fans, but they need not worry; Anthony Davis is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

***Since the writing of this article, a trade with the Pelicans has been reportedly finalized. The Lakers will receive Anthony Davis for Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, the 4th overall pick, and two future first round picks.***

Los Angeles Lakers Banners At Staples Center. Photo Credit: Radhika Bhagwat | Under Creative Commons License

Los Angeles Lakers Banners At Staples Center. Photo Credit: Radhika Bhagwat | Under Creative Commons License