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The massive risks and rewards behind this Anthony Davis trade

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Last summer, the San Antonio Spurs thought they had the Los Angeles Lakers right where they wanted them. L.A. had the inside track to sign LeBron James as a free agent on July 1. But the belief around the league was that James wouldn’t come to the Lakers by himself and spend the last years of his prime babysitting their young roster.

The Spurs thought it was a moment of maximum leverage from which to trade Kawhi Leonard, and they wanted everything the Lakers could offer. Not a couple of the Lakers’ young players and draft picks. All of them.cheap nike nfl jerseys paypal

The Lakers had spent five years building their team through the lottery and felt good about how they had reshaped their roster. They had held on to their young players when Paul George was traded. When Jimmy Butler was traded. When DeMarcus Cousins was traded. Were they really going to part with all of them now? Could they sign James without that second star in place?

The Lakers held firm. James came anyway, banking on the Lakers getting him a co-star in a trade or via free agency in the summer of 2019. Leonard, meanwhile, was traded to the Toronto Raptors and won an NBA title.3

The Pelicans’ trade demands in exchange for Anthony Davis were nearly identical to the Spurs’ requests for Leonard. Their pressure points, leverage and even the young players involved were virtually the same.

But the Lakers were in a very different place this time around. The NBA is in a very different place this time around, because two of the top free agents about to hit the market — Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant — just suffered catastrophic injuries that will keep them out all or most of next season. A third, Leonard, just won his second Finals MVP, and the Lakers’ chances for even getting a meeting with him on July 1 seemed to be dimming. And a fourth, Kyrie Irving, just fired his agent and has been increasingly linked to the Brooklyn Nets.nfl nike jerseys cheap china

That’s virtually the entire top tier of this summer’s vaunted free-agent class essentially coming off the Lakers’ board. All of which made Davis the top player whom the Lakers had the chance to acquire this summer.

The Lakers couldn’t leave things to the whims of free agency anymore. Not with James hitting his mid-30s and the pressure on controlling owner Jeanie Buss and general manager Rob Pelinka reaching a fevered pitch following the embarrassing resignation and media tour from former team president Magic Johnson.

Sure, Pelinka could’ve cut some of the tension at his news conference on draft night by making fun of himself for the fake Heath Ledger story that ESPN’s Baxter Holmes revealed last month. But the only way for Pelinka to truly relieve some of the pressure on himself and the franchise was to acquire a superstar at any cost. The Lakers simply could not afford to miss on this trade and free agency again.

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