The Pelicans’ message to the Lakers, and the league

Alex Capuano, Business Manager

Every year, the NBA trade deadline results in some very exciting news about players who are on the move. Whether teams are looking to bolster their roster before embarking on a playoff run, or freeing up salary cap space to rebuild in the offseason, there is no shortage of action taking place during this time of year.

In recent years however, prospective free agents unsatisfied with their current playing situation have been vocal about wanting to be moved at the deadline, some examples being Paul George (2017) or Kristaps Porzingis (2019). Wanting to get something in return for these players knowing that they will not resign when eligible, NBA front offices will typically try and trade the player before being left empty handed.

This was the plan of star power forward for the New Orleans Pelicans, Anthony Davis, when he requested a trade from the team earlier this year. The reason Davis’ particular situation is interesting and different from all others however is how openly teams were in expressing their interest in the young star. The Lakers being the most prevalent.

Davis, earlier in the year, had been spotted having dinner with Lakers star player LeBron James after the two had faced off in a game in Los Angeles. Not only that but when asked by a reporter if Lebron would like to play with Anthony Davis, if given the opportunity, the 3-time MVP said that he would, sparking an outcry by NBA fans and executives alike over possible collusion.

This is not the first time the Lakers have been accused of this sort of thing either. In fact, they had been fined on two separate occasions, excluding this instance with Davis, for tampering. This manipulation of the NBA and it’s flawed free agency rules shows that the Lakers are not and never have been above using sneaky business practices to secure superstar power.

The people obviously most angered this time around were found in the Pelicans organization, since they were witnessing their star player being taken away from them before he was even able to leave on his own.

So, in response to the crummy situation New Orleans had found themselves in, they have opted to ice the Lakers out of acquiring Davis before the deadline, by asking for an unprecedented 6-8 draft picks as well as the Lakers entire youth group which includes exciting young players like Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, and Brandon Ingram.

The ridiculous price tag was almost met when Lakers President of Basketball Operations, Magic Johnson, offered up Ball, Kuzma, Ingram, Josh Hart, and Ivan Zubac, as well as two first round picks for Davis.

A deal almost too good to turn down, the Pelicans instead have decided to take a stand against big market teams manipulating the system, by not allowing the Lakers to make a move for Davis before the deadline.

In doing so, the Pelicans have opened the door for other teams interested in Davis to swoop in and grab him this upcoming offseason, either by trade or through free agency.

And while the Pelicans may have sacrificed future success by not taking the Lakers deal, they have set a powerful precedent that will hopefully make such collusion acts obsolete in future seasons.