Anthony Davis injury shouldn’t deter Lakers: Trade picks now

As LeBron James exited the Crypto.com Arena interview room on Sunday night, he turned his head and smiled.

“Go ask Rob [Pelinka] those questions,” James said playfully.

Earlier, during his post-game press conference following the Lakers’ 119-117 win over the Washington Wizards, I asked James if he was concerned about how Anthony Davis’ injury could affect the front office by the close of business.

Specifically, I asked him if he was concerned that Davis’ injury might make the front office even more reluctant to part with their first-round draft decisions to give James and Davis the help they need.

“No question for me,” James said. “I have no idea. When I play, I show up, prep and work, go to work, prep my boys to win a basketball game. I play the game. I’m not in the front office. So we will see.”

General manager Rob Pelinka is on the watch, but don’t feel sorry for him, owner Jeanie Buss or anyone else in management.

That’s what they signed up for when they traded for Davis, whose frailty was already well known. That’s what they pledged to do when they renewed the contract of James, who turns 38 this month.

Those were two of the ultimate win-now moves. Are you suddenly worried about the future?

The Lakers accepted they stink in the final years of Kobe Bryant’s career, and how has that worked out for them?

Unless they learn that Davis’ injury is worse than expected, they need to make deals, and if that means trading their prized draft picks, so be it.

The Lakers have tradable first-round picks in 2027 and 2029, and their reluctance to move them looks like a hedge against their own incompetence. James is partly responsible for the misguided trade with Russell Westbrook, but ultimately it was the front office’s job to find players to compliment him and Davis, and the front office failed.

Franchise decision-makers know this, as they sent an indirect message about what they thought of their roster by sticking with their favorites during the offseason: They were unsure the team was just a move or two away from competition was.

Before Davis was injured in a game against the Denver Nuggets last week, he offered the front office a reason to play with this team as he was arguably in the most dominant phase of his career. The Lakers, who won just two of their first 10 games, won for the 10th time in 16 games the night Davis was injured. They also won their next game against the Wizards.

Now, with multiple publications reporting that Davis could be sidelined for at least a month, his recent setback has almost certainly diminished management’s low level of confidence in the team — or perhaps the lack of confidence it has in itself magnifies real business .

Closing date for trading is February 9th.

For example, if Davis is sidelined for six weeks, he would return in late January or early February. The team wouldn’t have much time to rate him before the deadline.

Additionally, Davis would miss more than 20 games during that six-week period. The Lakers are 12th in the Western Conference, two places behind the play-in tournament.

That’s a lot of uncertainty and a lot of reasons for the Lakers to do nothing and bet on the season — other than signing up for it once again. Davis missing some games was always part of the equation.

Assuming Davis has enough time left to rebuild in the regular season, the Lakers need to trust him to do what they pay him to do.

In the meantime, the front office needs to do what it’s paid to do, which is place the right players to place James and Davis. They’ve won games with a limited squad this season. Give them another scorer, give them a few shooters, and who knows what will happen. James and Davis only won a championship three years ago.

This means that both the 2027 and 2029 picks are traded. Trading with just one of them won’t bridge the gap between where they are and where they want to be, whether they win a third star or multiple high-tier free players.

Admittedly, the situation is far from ideal, but the Lakers have only themselves to blame. They are where they are because of years of mismanagement, one desperate move that led to the other, their only championship in recent years delivered by James who hasn’t been recruited by them as often as he just decided to he wanted to play here.

The Lakers chose their path when they decided to build their team around James and Davis. Now they cannot turn back.

https://www.latimes.com/sports/lakers/story/2022-12-19/anthony-davis-injury-lakers-trade-draft-picks-lebron-james-pelinka Anthony Davis injury shouldn’t deter Lakers: Trade picks now

Emma Bowman

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