The Lakers have been on the struggle bus all season. Lebron James has one year left on his contract, Russell Westbrook has not been a good fit, and Anthony Davis is injury prone. The Lakers did not make a single move at the trade deadline. On top of those issues, the Lakers have limited draft capital and few young players for the future.
Davis has two more years left on his deal with an early termination option for the 2024-25 season. But he also might be the least tradeable that he has ever been in his career. An ankle injury now puts AD back in rehab. Even with the injuries to AD, he’ll likely bring a haul of compensation for LA. At his best, AD is a top 10 player. An All-Star, young player and at least two first-round draft picks should get the job done.
Davis has already missed over 20 games this year. In his career, Davis has appeared in 601 games. Ranking 13th from his draft class. That is problematic for a player who will be 29 this year and is in the middle of his prime. Still, he was on the NBA 75th anniversary team. There would be teams lined up with offers. During his three years with the Lakers, Davis has averaged 24.1 points, 9.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 2.1 blocks while hitting 50.9% from the field and converting 79.0% of his 7.2 nightly free throw attempts. Those are elite numbers. The All-Star break gives AD extra time to heal.
The question for the Lakers will be, do you go all-in for Lebron’s last year or start to prepare for the future? James has openly acknowledged he wants to play with his son, who will be NBA eligible in two years. The team has an aging roster. The only saving grace is that player contracts come off the books this year and next year. The Lakers could go for a complete rebuild. But this is the Lakers, and the team is always in win-now mode.
“It’s sickening to see AD go down in that fashion,” James said. “I hope he’s fine. I mean, I know he’s not like, great, but his health is most important for him individually, for our ballclub. I’ve seen teammates get injured too many times. So, I just wish him the best.”
Outside of the Davis situation, Lebron James holds power within the organization. Should the Lakers conclude to move Davis, James could block them every turn. He is still seeking the all-time regular season scoring record, and another championship would be icing on the cake. AD can help him win, as seen in the bubble.
Going all-in for a championship worked, but now we’re seeing the downside. It could be as simple as sticking with Davis and hoping he eventually stays healthy. He’s a piece a team can build around. Keep Davis; the Lakers have no draft picks and only can sign free agents. Trade Davis and the Lakers lose a superstar but regain assets to build for the future.