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#IMHO: AD, the Lakers and the NBA Draft

by Lang Whitaker | Grizz Gaming GM

Grind City Media’s Lang Whitaker and Michael Wallace have been covering the NBA since shorts were short and socks were long, but their opinions about the League don’t always mesh. #IMHO is their weekly chance to weigh in on the most pertinent news from around the NBA. What’s lit? What’s lame? Find out each week right here.

From: Lang Whitaker
Sent: Monday, June 17, 2019 10:42 AM
To: Michael Wallace
Subject: #IMHO

Well, it’s not like we didn’t see it coming.

On Saturday evening the New Orleans Pelicans traded the best player in franchise history, sending Anthony Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers. Usually it’s a pretty big deal when you move the greatest player your franchise has ever had, a guy who’s a top five player in the league. But this felt sorta inevitable, since people have been talking about it for a while, after all.

But what was a surprise, at least to me, was the haul that David Griffin managed to extract from the Lakers. Not only did they get Brandon Ingram, who was one of the best young players in the league last season, but they also got Lonzo Ball, and Josh Hart, and a top four draft pick, and some more first round picks, and the rights to swap other picks. It was, at least to me, the biggest trade haul since Ricky Williams went to the Saints. Which didn’t work out so well.

In your mind, who won this trade? Sure, the Lakers gave up a lot, but they got AD, who could be the best player in the league, and they can partner him with LeBron. But this roster is perilously thin otherwise, and we saw what happened a year ago when they had a thin roster and tried to fill that out with outcast vets. And the Pels now will have Zion and Lonzo and Ingram and Jrue and a top four pick that they could flip for veteran depth, which seems like a competitive team in the suddenly wide-open Western Conference.

Mike, who won this trade?

Anthony Davis

From: Michael Wallace
Sent: Monday, June 17, 2019 2:10 PM
To: Lang Whitaker
Subject: RE: #IMHO

As much as I’d like to avoid taking the easy route and saying that both teams won this trade, I do believe both teams won this trade. Both teams can feel like they walked away with a franchise-altering haul that sets them up to do some major things in the next five seasons.

Landing Anthony Davis puts the Lakers firmly in the title discussion out West, especially with Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson being sidelined for most or all of next season in Golden State and with the Houston Rockets being unstable at the moment. The fact that the Lakers made this trade and still have a max salary slot is amazing. So imagine filling out that core with a Jimmy Butler or Kemba Walker or Kyrie Irving joining LeBron and AD? You’d still have the tax-payer midlevel to land a fourth solid contributor. Plus, you’ve got all kind of vets who would line up for the chance to play on minimum deals to help bolster that squad in L.A.

And then New Orleans has their core set for nearly the next decade if all goes well. Zion, Ingram, Ball plus plenty of cap space and plenty of draft picks and plenty of options moving forward. Wow. The Pelicans could easily be back in the playoff picture in the West within two seasons, if not sooner. This team won’t reach its peak until after the Warriors are on the decline and the Lakers have gone as far as they can go in the LeBron era of the franchise. I see them in a similar spot as OKC was a decade ago when they had all that young talent together around Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden and eventually got to the 2012 Finals. New Orleans won. And the Lakers won. It’s all relative.

Lang, it’s NBA Draft day. Seems like everyone throughout the lottery either is or has been connected with a major trade – either involving current players or tonight’s draft picks. More than half of the 14 players could be picked tonight by teams that will almost immediately ship them to other teams in the coming days. So beyond Zion Williamson (Pelicans) and Ja Morant (Grizzlies) presumably locks to stay with teams that pick them, who is the next bet fit to stick for a specific lottery team?

Anthony Davis and LeBron James react to a play

From: Lang Whitaker
Sent: Tuesday, June 18, 2019 2:53 PM
To: Michael Wallace
Subject: RE: #IMHO

Well, we can agree to disagree on that trade, Mike. Two teams can’t win – that’s what great about sports, there’s a winner and a loser. And I think the Lakers lost this trade. But only time will tell.

As to your question, I think Coby White might be a really good fit for the Suns, if that’s where he ends up. He’s not an elite passer like a Ja Morant, but he’s tall and athletic and can score, and he’d give that Suns team another important piece that they can count upon as they move forward. The other player I really like toward the bottom of the lottery is Gonzaga’s Rui Hachimora, who has the size and strength to contribute right away. If he ends up with a franchise like the Miami Heat, where they can develop him to fit their system, he could have a very bright future ahead of him.

I know you made it up to the T-Dot for a few games during the NBA Finals, and it was cool to see the city finally get rewarded with a title after fervently supporting their team for so many years. Even our guy Marc seemed to get lit during the victory parade. But what happens now? Does Kawhi stay and eventually run for Prime Minister? Or as I saw posited on Twitter, is Kawhi the NBA’s version of Mary Poppins, showing up in a new city every few years to show teams how to win and then moving on to a new locale?

Kawhi Leonard

From: Michael Wallace
Sent: Wednesday, June 19, 2019 3:13 PM
To: Lang Whitaker
Subject: RE: #IMHO

Yes, yes, now that I think about it, there does seem to be a bit of a Deion Sanders quality to Kawhi. Remember how ‘Prime Time’ kept moving around, starting with the Falcons and ultimately on title-contending teams with the 49ers and Cowboys in the NFL? Well, that could be Kawhi by the time he’s done.

If he truly wants to end up back in his hometown of L.A., I can’t fault him for doing so. The Clippers are serious about building a serious contender and are being run the right way at the front-office and coaching staff level. They will always be the Lakers’ step-brother in terms of market brand and deeply-established fan roots. But they are no longer the clearly inferior team when it comes to production on the court over the past decade. That said, Kawhi will be walking away from a great international city in Toronto and a franchise that is currently set up to be an elite team in the East for at least the next few years. With Kawhi in tow, there’s no way the Raptors shouldn’t be favored to emerge from the East again as long as he’s there.

Lang, let’s wrap up on this: I’ve done the research and was surprised by what I found. Usually, either the No. 1 overall pick is great and No. 2 is so-so, or it’s the other way around. It’s very, very rare that both top two picks in the same draft are dynamic and awesome and become superstars. Just go back and check. I think Zion and Ja have a legit shot to be the best top-two draft tandem in a few decades, possibly going back to 1996 when Allen Iverson and Marcus Camby went first and second. That’s a long time ago. Am I completely out of my mind here on this?

Zion Williamson

From: Lang Whitaker
Sent: Wednesday, June 19, 2019 7:48 PM
To: Michael Wallace
Subject: RE: #IMHO

To be honest, there haven’t been a lot of knockout number two picks. As my buddy Tom Haberstroh reported for NBC Sports since the Grizz drafted Hasheem Thabeet in the two spot back in 2009, the second overall picks have historically been kinda bad, at least relative to the other lottery picks. From Derrick Williams to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and going back even further from Darko Milicic to Marvin Williams, there have been several second selections that never quite lived up to the hype.

But there’s hope! Because if you look over the last few years, that second choice success rate skyrockets. Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and D’Angelo Russell were each number two picks, so perhaps with better scouting has come better success rates? Or at least we can hope for the Grizzlies.

As to your question, you might be right? The only top two tandem I could think of that had a better run were a few years earlier, when Alonzo Mourning and Shaq went one and two in 1992. For our sake, let’s hope this year’s draft sets a new standard.

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Memphis Grizzlies. All opinions expressed by Lang Whitaker and Michael Wallace are solely their own and do not reflect the opinions of the Memphis Grizzlies or its Basketball Operations staff, owners, parent companies, partners or sponsors. Their sources are not known to the Memphis Grizzlies and they have no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

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