The forge of the Lakers: Davis's 'robbery' and Butler's 'no'

The Lakers bet heavily on Davis and some claimed they had given the Pelicans too much. Then they looked for a third big star.


LeBron James is 35 years old and turns 36 in December. En route to this 2020 title with the Lakers, the fourth of his career, he has shown he is still the best player in the world. And after him? You could debate for hours: Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry… of those three, the youngest is Kawhi, and he will turn 30 next season. Curry and Durant are already 32. Giannis Antetokounmpo, the MVP winner in the last two seasons, is 25 years old ... and Anthony Davis is only two more, 27, and comes out of the Florida bubble as champion and reinforced in his condition of super NBA star. He has, in fact, formed a pair of a historical level alongside LeBron James. He has been instrumental at this point in the career of 23 and, at the same time, LeBron has helped him reach a new peak in his game.

During Davis' first season at the Lakers, the Angelenos have gone from not playing the playoffs to being the best team in the West in Regular Season (52-19) and the new NBA champion. These have been Davis' numbers:

Regular Season: 26.1 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 2.3 blocks, 50% shots, 33% triples and 84.6% free throws. Playoffs: 27.7 points , 9.7 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.4 blocks, 1.2 steals, 57% shooting, 38.3% triples and 83% free throws. 2020 Finals: 25 points, 10, 7 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 2 blocks, 1.3 steals, 1.3 triples, 57% shooting, 48% triples, 95% free throw.

Davis touched the level of MVP in the Final, although the award ultimately went to LeBron. And he was the Lakers' best player in many moments of the playoffs. Its defensive task has been imperial, with truly historic sections. Near the rim he has intimidated 108 shots and his 30 blocks are nine more than the second has totaled. In addition, his value is incalculable in defense due to his ability to change in blocks and defend with excellent results some of the best guards in the NBA: Damian Lillard, James Harden, Jamal Murray ... and Jimmy Butler, against whom he did a job. Decisive in the Lakers' last two wins in the Final, in games four and six.

If his ability as a defender was already unquestionable (in fact, for many he deserved the Defender of the Year award ahead of Giannis Antetokounmpo), one of the keys to his excellent level in the playoffs has been his exceptional performance as a shooter. Near the rim it was already devastating and in the qualifying rounds he signed an incredible 80.5% in shots from less than two meters from the basket (95/118). Only four players pitched more than 40 times in that zone and exceeded 70%, and Davis is the only one above 75%. From the middle distance his explosion has been a decisive factor for the Lakers: 34.9% in the regular season, 49.6% (57/115) in the playoffs. A personal fact of Kevin Durant.

Davis has had the best +/- of the playoffs: +184 in 769 minutes. And, another fundamental data, has made the Lakers have a positive balance (+21) in the 203 minutes that he has been on the court without LeBron James. The forward, on the other hand, has had a -2 in the 196 minutes he has played without Davis at his side. You only have to remember the problems that the Cavaliers had as soon as LeBron sat down in recent years to understand to what extent Davis's presence has been decisive in the Angelenos' route to the ring.

Now, if everything follows a normal course, Davis will reject his player option of 28.7 million for next season and will go on the market. Although he has not wanted to acknowledge him publicly, no one doubts that he will continue with the Lakers. The question is for how many years. He will sign a maximum economic contract for the duration that he wants, from 1 + 1 that the stars use more and more at the maximum of five years that the agreement allows. If he signs long term, it would be excellent news for the Lakers, who would take more steps away from free agency than is called to be their next banner, since he is eight years younger than a LeBron who won his first ring at 27. Like Davis.

What there is no doubt is that the Lakers were right when they took a risk and threw themselves at Davis even though the power forward had other suitors and only one more year of guaranteed contract, this one that has just ended. In fact, many believed they had given too much in return and congratulated the Pelicans and newcomer David Griffin, the executive who also built the champion Cavaliers in 2016. Now, a season later, it seems obvious that the Lakers did exactly what they had to do. what to do. They gave, after negotiating with the Pelicans, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Jason Hart, the number 4 of the last draft, the first round of 2021 (with top 8 protection), the right for the Pelicans to exchange the first round of 2023 and the first in 2024 that the New Orleans franchise may not run and keep in exchange for 2025.

Seeing what the Rockets gave for Russell Westbrook and especially the Clippers for Paul George, the price is not that high. And while these are operations that can only be judged in the long term from the seller's side, the Pelicans haven't had a good season and only Brandon Ingram, who has made his all-star debut and has been voted Most Improved Player, has been in their best version. Jason Hart is a rotation player and the future in Louisiana for Lonzo is unclear, a player who has returned to alternate infrequent lights and very deep shadows in, already, his third season in the NBA. The Pelicans sent No. 4 of the draft (De'Andre Hunter) to Atlanta in exchange for No. 8 (Jaxson Hayes), 17 (Nickeil Alexander-Walker), 35 (Marcos Louzada Silva) and a first round with top 10 protection for the 2020 draft to be held on November 18 .

Both Hayes and Alexander-Walker showed that they are very green in their first season in the NBA, so it is too early to make a full evaluation from the Pelicans side of an operation that the Lakers already accept as good only with a season that has been triumphant for Davis and for a team that has returned to be champion of the NBA, ten years later. A risky but winning bet from the offices of some Lakers who dreamed of getting, in the summer of 2019, a third star to form an explosive big three, already with LeBron and Davis on the payroll. They went all out for Kawhi Leonard and they also tried it with Kemba Walker, who signed with the Celtics, and with Jimmy Butler, who went to the Miami Heat and ended up being the rival of the Angelenos in the 2020 Finals.

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