The NBA’s landscape endured a massive makeover in the past week. The Raptors were crowned NBA Champions, the Warriors suffered a pair of high-profile injuries and the Lakers finally landed the services of Anthony Davis. The title path created by the injuries to Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson appears to be much more treacherous with LeBron James and Davis set to wreak havoc on the Western Conference. Will the Blazers stick to their script this summer, or will Davis’ transition to Los Angeles alter their offseason plans? Here is how Davis’ arrival changes the immediate and long-term outlook in the Western Conference.
LeBron’s first year with the Lakers was a controversy-filled dud that ended without a postseason berth. According to the speculation, the mutual desire between Davis and the Lakers to get a deal done at the trade deadline drove a wedge between the the front office and the players on the trade block. Los Angeles’ circus reached a fever pitch when Magic Johnson surprisingly stepped down from his duties prior to facing the Blazers in the season’s finale. All of those negative narratives took a drastic turn on Saturday with Davis’ arrival.
Paired alongside Davis, LeBron is once again united with a top-tier player. The Lakers still have plenty of holes to fill this summer, but their super-star duo provides them with an undeniable foundation. The finishing touches still need to be worked out on the timing of the trade’s execution, which could impact Los Angeles’ ability to sign a max-level free agent. If the Lakers gain that type of flexibility, they could easily emerge as the clear-cut favorite to secure the Larry O’Brien trophy.
New Orleans received a plethora of young assets in exchange for Davis. The Pelicans will make the most important addition on Thursday, when they select Zion Williamson with the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft. Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Williamson and whomever New Orleans selects at No. 4 will assemble to create a quartet of contributors that will all be under the age of 22. That alone should put the Pelicans in position to make some serious noise once those players approach their primes.
Perhaps the most important thing the Pelicans secured was an additional pick in the elusive “double draft”. At some point in the near future, the prep-to-pro path will be re-opened. That draft class will contain the talent normally found in two separate drafts. Whether they use the pick or trade it to augment their roster, the Pelicans are in excellent position to add another supremely talented player.
The Blazers’ Place
The Blazers are stretched thin when it comes to resources this summer. They will encounter enough hurdles when trying to re-assemble last year’s cast—let alone keep pace with the Lakers. The Nuggets are primed to continue growing organically, the Jazz have useful flexibility and the Clippers still appear to be a threat to add Kawhi Leonard this summer. Even a set of successfully executed fringe moves might not be enough to stem the tide approaching the shores of Rip City. However uncharacteristic it might be for Neil Olshey, now might finally be the time to package what tradable assets Portland has in an attempt to land another big name.