Sure, history has repeated itself. Yet it feels so different, doesn’t it?
This offseason, the Pelicans once again had trading away a superstar player on their agenda: once Chris Paul, now Anthony Davis. But despite that, this is clearly and, in my mind, irrefutably a completely different kind of NBA operation than we’ve been exposed to down here in our community and region. This is a front office with a plan.
That much became clear when examining the terms of the Davis trade. For years, the Hornets/Pelicans made moves that indicated its decision-makers needed to make a playoff push – or else. Win now – or else. Jobs on the line, desperation in the air.
This time, the Los Angeles Lakers were desperate. And the Pelicans secure.
It’s a rare day indeed for a team in the Pelicans’ position to trade a Davis and be better for it. And I cannot promise you that they’ll go down as the winners of this trade, either. But I can promise you this: they won the negotiation. And this franchise is far better off today, even without Davis, than it was a year ago.
Pelicans VP of basketball operations David Griffin is shrewd. He knew Davis could leave after a year and leave his team with nothing. He also knew other teams in the league would be reticent to make their strongest offers because Davis’ agent, Rich Paul, had poisoned that well, all but letting everyone that might deal for his client know they’d have Davis for a year before he blew out of town for L.A. And Griffin knew the Lakers knew this.
But he had an ace in the hole. Ironically, it’s the same ace in the hole the Lakers had to secure the inside track to acquire Davis to begin with, and the same ace in the hole Griffin had in Cleveland, when he crafted that city’s first ever NBA champion.
Griffin’s ace in the hole was LeBron James.
Because no matter what pressure fell on the Pelicans to trade Davis, Los Angeles couldn’t wipe away the simple fact that James is 34, and will be 35 this December.
Ultimately, the idea that Davis could walk after a year was less threatening to the Pelicans, who stood to lose him for nothing, than it was the Lakers, who would be put in the position of, were a deal not done, effectively having to sit out of free agency a 2nd straight year and punting another of James’ twilight years, or walking away from Davis entirely and perhaps leaving James without a true second star going forward.
Griffin was able to wait for the Lakers to come to him. And because of that, he captured what almost amounts to a full decade of Laker draft capital.
But the Pelicans also, effectively, could have the rights to any or all high Laker first round picks from 2021 to 2026. Griffin put the Pelicans in position to become VERY fortunate were things to break wrong out West.
In 16 days of the offseason, he reshaped the entire roster, selecting three players in the first round and signing a pair of potential difference-makers in J.J. Redick and Derrick Favors. The roster looks to go 11 players deep. And the future looks bright.