There are many reasons why the Los Angeles Lakers are no longer in the playoff hunt but one of the biggest reasons is their failed pursuit of Anthony Davis. It’s not incomprehensible to believe that the New Orleans Pelicans made them put their hopes up too much knowing that there really was no chance at all that they would give up their franchise center.
Instead, the Lakers are now left with a frustrated LeBron James who is at the tail end of his prime and out of the postseason for the first time since his second season in the NBA. For those who are keeping score, that was way back in 2005.
After a few days when former Pelicans GM Dell Demps didn’t appear to be intent in giving them a chance at all, Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and GM Rob Pelinka should have pursued other players instead. Whether they were All-Stars or complementary players, there was more to choose from than settle for Reggie Bullock and Mike Muscala. They had a small window to acquire at least one very important piece to the playoff race but they focused too much on Davis that they failed to see greener pastures elsewhere.
Rather than go through their wild goose chase for the former MVP candidate, the Lakers should have surveyed the playing field further. If they had, their search for a complementary player to help them get to the playoffs would have been more worthwhile.
I’ve had more than a few suggestions the past months on who the Lakers should have pursued but here are five realistic pursuits instead of Davis, including a couple of “I told you so” choices. As you’ll no doubt notice from each of these players, all of them can shoot the rock from the outside, something that the Tinseltown Boys should have had from the beginning of the season.
Key 2018-19 statistics: 8.7 points, 36.4 percent 3-pt FG percentage
Wayne Ellington isn’t a cure-all choice for the Lakers’ woes but he won’t cost them the team’s core of young players either. He’s a low risk, high-reward player who can space the floor for James, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma who love to drive down the lane. The Miami Heat weren’t using Ellington anyway so it’s not like they’re going to ask for a lot in return. Instead, he’s now with the Detroit Pistons when L.A. could have had him.
If they had gotten Ellington rather than Muscala, for example, the team would have had a more reliable shooter who can play more meaningful minutes even in the postseason.
4. Joe Harris
Key 2018-19 statistics: 13.6 points, 50.6 percent FGs, 47.1 percent 3-pt FGs
James’ old teammate from his Cleveland Cavaliers days is exactly what the doctor ordered for this beleaguered Lakers squad. Except the patient didn’t take the medicine.
While Joe Harris was not exactly on the trading block for the Brooklyn Nets, I’m sure he would have been available at an affordable price had Pelinka inquired. The sweet-shooting forward is the league’s top three-point shot-maker at 47.1 percent and he showed off his stroke during All-Star Weekend by nabbing the 3-Point Shootout trophy. Pair him up with James in L.A. and you’ll see something akin to the 15-time All-Star and Kyle Korver (2,330 career three-pointers) working together if the latter were younger.
Had the Lakers landed Harris before the trade deadline, their fortunes could have been vastly different today.
3. Lou Williams
Key 2018-19 statistics: 20.2 points, 5.4 assists, 36.0 percent 3-pt FGs
Perennially one of the league’s top sixth men, Lou Williams wouldn’t have needed a change of address if there was any chance at all that the other L.A. team was willing to release him to their homecourt rivals. He could have been costly for the Lakers to deal for but he would have definitely been a much-needed scorer coming off the bench.
Williams is a fringe All-Star who would have taken a huge load off of James’ shoulders when he’s taking a breather. Letting him loose in a lineup with Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram would have given the Lakers an offensive boost. In fact, had they made a deal for Williams when James was injured, they could have had a winning record during that 17-game stretch.
Key 2018-19 Statistics: 20.9 points, 7.9 rebounds, 50.1 percent FGs, 42.7 percent 3-pt FG percentage
The Sixers shocked the NBA when they acquired another talented forward at the trade deadline when they obtained Tobias Harris from the Los Angeles Clippers. Who knew that Harris could be pried away from the tanking-not-tanking L.A. club except for GM Elton Brand?
Harris could have easily lifted their fortunes and given the L.A. faithful some hope that this season would be different from the last few. At 42.7 percent, his shooting from beyond the arc would have been a welcome sight to the team’s drive and dish players. Traffic in the middle would not have been an issue as Harris opens up driving lanes to the basket. Plus, he could make the switch from small forward to power forward, giving the Lakers more versatility with their lineups.
1. Bradley Beal
Key 2018-19 Statistics:
Taking Bradley Beal from the Washington Wizards would have been costly for the Lakers but he would have been a better complementary player to James than Kuzma or Ingram. As an outside shooter and big-time scorer, Beal would be the perfect All-Star to play alongside the 16-year veteran.
According to several reports, none of the 2019 free-agent superstars are interested in playing with James so why is management still trying to keep that cap space? Furthermore, if they are interested in pursuing that trade with the Pelicans for Davis once again in the summer, offering Beal along with another of their young stars would have been more appealing to New Orleans than any of the packages that L.A. offered last February anyway. Sure, any combination of Kuzma, Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and Ivica Zubac would have been required in a deal with the Wizards but they could still deal whoever was left plus Beal for Davis if they needed to.
Beal would take a lot of pressure off of James and free up both players to excel at what they do best. More importantly, Beal can be that secondary star that the team needs, someone who could take over a ballgame and lift the team to another level in the playoffs.
Sadly, Magic and Pelinka were too focused on Davis that they didn’t think of other deals that could have benefitted the team as well. Now, all Lakers fans can think of is blaming this whole mess to almost anyone and everyone within the organization including the players themselves. While perpetual non-playoff teams such as the Sacramento Kings and Brooklyn Nets are headed for the playoffs for the first time in a long while, the Lakers watch, wait and hope that next season will be different for the sixth year in a row.