Should the Lakers Trade AD for Dame?

Colin Cowherd recently floated a brow-raising trade proposal (sorry): Anthony Davis for Damian Lillard:

The gist of it is that AD is unreliable due to his frequent injuries, while Dame Lillard barely misses any games at all and would be a better fit alongside LeBron.

Colin also believes that Anthony Davis isn’t fully committed to winning and says AD doesn’t take care of his body like he should, which is why he’s injured so frequently. At least this past season, I somewhat take issue with that statement because Anthony Davis has even said how hard it was for him deal with the 71-day offseason: he said he was trying to prepare and recover for the 2021 season at the same time.

That just doesn’t work. On the injury front, I’m willing to cut AD some slack due to the 71-game season. After all, nobody takes better care of their body than LeBron and even he was injured.

I also don’t think LeBron is fully ready to give up on Anthony Davis, or is even considering it, for that matter. The biggest storyline with LeBron during this offseason was his vocal complaints about the shortened offseason causing all these injuries we’re seeing. I’m going to infer from that that LeBron does not blame AD for getting hurt–he blames the league and the player’s association.

Plus, LeBron basically master-minded the AD trade just two years ago. He wanted AD, he got AD, and AD was instrumental in winning that championship for the Lakers just nine months ago. The Lakers were terrible when AD wasn’t on the floor. LeBron knows AD’s value. I don’t think LeBron is going to just kick him to the curb because he was hobbled by injuries following the shortest offseason in NBA history. And it’s not like AD was the only one to get hurt: there’s a long list of stars who were banged up.

Now, that said, I do think LeBron definitely wants Dame on the Lakers. Who wouldn’t want Dame on their team? There’s probably 29 teams out there that would kill for Dame.

I think LeBron wants Dame AND AD on the Lakers. It sounds like a pipe dream, but if James Harden could force his way out of Houston with two years left on his contract, then why can’t Dame? Harden not only got Houston to trade him, he got to choose where he was traded to. Harden wanted to go to Brooklyn, and that’s where he went.

I’m sure Houston wasn’t thrilled about bending to their superstar’s will and enabling the formation of a superteam, but also these teams have an incentive to do right by their players because players around the league watch this stuff and take note of which teams play hardball with their guys and which teams treat their stars well. It matters.

However, all that said, the Nets had a lot more to give up than the Lakers currently do:

So the Nets gave up: three unprotected first round picks, four first round pick swaps, Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, Taurean Prince and Rodions Kurucs.

The Lakers could offer guys like Kuzma, KCP, Montrezl Harrell and Talen Horton-Tucker, but they don’t have anywhere near the number of first round picks that Brooklyn had to deal out. The Lakers already gave up a ton of them to get Anthony Davis. They only have this year’s first round pick, #22.

According to Bleacher Report’s Eric Pincus, this is what a potential Lakers-Blazers trade involving Dame Lillard would cost:

“The Lakers also have the No. 22 pick, which can be dealt in August when Horton-Tucker is eligible for a sign-and-trade (legally, Los Angeles would not be able to select a player at Portland’s direction). The Lakers can also send one of their 2027 or 2028 first-rounders and five of their next seven second-rounders (through 2028). … The Lakers’ narrow path to landing Lillard hinges on the Blazers placing a high value on Horton-Tucker. ”

And this is why people are saying to just trade AD for Dame. That’s a way more appealing offer for Portland than what we just went over above. Because, yeah, the Lakers can technically offer three first round picks, but two of them are in 2027 and 2028, and one of them is the 22nd pick this year after the draft selection is already made. So it won’t be a pick, it’ll be a rookie player. The Lakers will just have to hope the Blazers like whomever they end up selecting with the 22nd pick. And you’re not allowed to collude and just have Portland tell the Lakers who to take, because if the league finds out about that, it could void the whole deal.

As the quote above made clear, it all hinges on whether or not the Blazers think THT is the real deal and can become a star someday. He’s only 20 years old and has shown a ton of potential, but it’s possible the Blazers don’t think he’s all that.

So it is possible for the Lakers to trade for Dame without giving up AD, but it’s a long shot.

Yet I also think it’s an even bigger long-shot that LeBron would want to get rid of AD. Again, LeBron was the one who orchestrated AD’s trade to LA in the first place. LeBron wanted AD, and he got him. It seems like they’re genuinely good friends off the court. Remember this?

The top comment was: “This looks like the ending of a buddy cop movie.”

And it did. I just don’t see LeBron kicking AD to the curb. They’re not even a year removed from winning a title together. AD is a Klutch Sports client, meaning he’s in with LeBron’s inner-circle. Rich Paul moved mountains to not only get AD to Los Angeles, but land AD a max contract–I doubt he’s going to be on-board with shipping him off to Portland after just two years in LA.

It just doesn’t seem feasible or realistic, this idea of swapping AD for Dame.

Plus, would the Lakers really get that much better? You’re acquiring a top-10 player in Dame, yes, but you’re also losing a top-10 player in AD. I don’t think Dame makes the Lakers that much better–if at all.

And LeBron knows that. He wants a Big Three in LA.

Because remember, even though they lost in the second round, the Nets are still looming out there. As long as they’re healthy, it’s going to take another Big Three to beat them in the Finals. And you can’t bank on injuries derailing them again.

This is LeBron’s last real shot to win another Championship or two, and I’m sure he’s of the mindset of, “I’ll be damned if I let another KD-led superteam beat me in the Finals again. Especially if Kyrie’s on the team, too.”

He’s going to do everything he can to make sure he has just as much, if not more, firepower than the Nets currently have.

Dame has to understand this, too. He’s about to be 31 this month, and while in the past he’s said he has no interest in joining a superteam, maybe he’s softened his stance on that a little bit. He wants a ring before he retires, and the only way he’ll get one is on a superteam.

If there was ever a year a non-superteam could win a ring, it was this year with all the injuries. But Dame’s team couldn’t even get past the Jamal Murray-less Nuggets in the first round. Plus, Phoenix, the odds-on favorites to win the Finals, look like they might be a superteam in the making.

As I went over in a prior post, the history of the NBA is basically the story of a dozen or so superteams dominating the league dating all the way back to the 1940s. There are some notable exceptions over the years, but for the most part, you’re either winning rings on a superteam or losing to a superteam.

Dame is going to have to pull a James Harden and force his way out of Portland if he wants to end up on the Lakers and get the best shot at winning a title. He has to let Portland’s front office know that he does not want to be there any more, and that the only team he wants to play for is the LA Lakers. It’ll be uncomfortable for him. He will be hated by the people of Portland. They’ll view him as a traitor. It’ll burn the bridge. And the media will attack him the whole time, too. It will be uncharted territory for Dame, who has been beloved in Portland his whole career and generally treated well by the media, too.

But that’s what it’ll take to force the Blazers to accept the Lakers’ admittedly lackluster trade offer. Because even though Dame has four more years left on his supermax extension, other teams are not going to want to trade for a disgruntled superstar that doesn’t want to be there (at least in theory–a lot of teams will probably make offers anyway and gamble that they can change Dame’s mind if and when they get him in the building).

LeBron wants both Dame and AD in purple and gold. He doesn’t want just one of the two, he wants both. It’s going to be a tough trade to pull off, however.

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