The NBA is back! Less than 48 hours after the Raptors beat the Warriors to win the 2019 title, on a Saturday in which American sports fans thought they’d have little choice but to pretend that golf is interesting, professional basketball, thank Woj, has come back into our lives.
This is a great deal for the Lakers! In the suddenly wide-open Western Conference, the combo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis makes L.A. one of the favorites to reach the NBA Finals no matter who they get to fill out the roster. Back in February, reports indicated that Kyle Kuzma was part of the deal that Magic Johnson proposed to the Pelicans. In the end, the Lakers held onto Kuzma, and they’ll have enough cap space to sign a top free agent. The New York Times’ Marc Stein says they’re targeting point guard Kemba Walker. One would imagine that Kyrie Irving will field a phone call from his old pal LeBron, too. Kawhi Leonard is also maybe available. The Lakers seem certain to get one of those guys (though probably not Kawhi). They’re going to be good. Just ask Magic Johnson, who is now free to tweet his innermost thoughts in his capacity as the team’s former president of basketball operations.
This is a great deal for the Pelicans! When Davis demanded a trade back in January, the franchise seemed doomed. Now, New Orleans will have one of the best and most exciting young cores in the league: soon-to-be No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson, former no. 2 pick Brandon Ingram, and an elite defensive backcourt of Lonzo Ball and Jrue Holiday. Plus draft picks.
So many draft picks. Picks that the Pelicans can potentially trade to acquire another star or can hold on to if they want to build through the draft. (The Pelicans also have cap space, though not enough to sign a max free agent.) This is an excellent haul for the Pelicans’ executive vice president of basketball operations, David Griffin, though the full extent of that haul and how it will be deployed is not yet known. (There might be pick swaps. Everyone loves pick swaps.)
This is a great deal for America! The Pelicans made the playoffs just twice with Davis on the roster, failing to build a competent roster around a guy who should’ve been one of the easiest players in the league to build around. He will flourish alongside the best player of his generation and should be playing deep into the playoffs unless he and/or LeBron get hurt. (Don’t worry about this—no basketball players ever get hurt.) The Lakers now join the Raptors, the Bucks, the 76ers, the Rockets, the Nuggets, the Blazers, the Clippers (if they get Kawhi), maybe the Warriors (if they re-sign Klay Thompson and his knee heals quickly), and honestly a whole bunch of other teams (if they get Kawhi) as legitimate contenders for the 2020 title. This has already been an amazing offseason, and the offseason just started five minutes ago. The actual season won’t be bad either.
Also, it must be noted:
Danny Ainge isn’t dumb. Jayson Tatum is really good, and Davis hinted very loudly that he wouldn’t re-sign in Boston if the Celtics traded for him. And yet, while it’s defensible for Boston to want hold on to its best young player, it now looks extraordinarily likely that Kyrie Irving is going to leave town. Very recently, it seemed like the Celtics had far and away the best collection of young talent and draft capital in the NBA. Now they have Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, some OK-ish first-round picks, and Gordon Hayward’s one good leg. This is not a title contender, and it’s hard to see how it’s going to become one.
The Knicks thought they were going to get Anthony Davis. The Knicks also thought they were going to get Zion Williamson. The Knicks are not getting Anthony Davis or Zion Williamson. The Knicks could still get Kevin Durant and/or Kyrie Irving. If recent history is a guide, then the Knicks will get neither, or they’ll get both and still be terrible. Can’t wait to find out which it is!