On June 17th, the Lakers finally got their (other) man, executing a three-team trade for Anthony Davis that sent Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, De’Andre Hunter and three first round picks to the Pelicans, as well as shipping Isaac Bonga, Jemerrio Jones, Moritz Wagner and a second round pick to the Washington Wizards. The trade wouldn’t officially take place until July 6th in order to maximise the Lakers much-needed cap flexibility. Davis also waived a $4m trade bonus to aid his new team.
Quickly, they began assembling a roster to surround their new tandem. Two time NBA champion Danny Green came aboard, alongside former Warrior feel-good story Quinn Cook as well as DeMarcus Cousins, Jared Dudley, Troy Daniels and – in a move predictive of their 2021 summer intentions – LA’s most storied franchise claimed Kostas Antetokounmpo off the waivers.
The Lakers weren’t done big-game hunting either, allegedly remaining in the race for Kawhi Leonard’s services until the last minute. Perhaps their lusting after Leonard for so long cost them the ability to pick up other serviceable free agents, but truth be told, you gamble for the star every time you can.
With Leonard setting up camp in the white, red and blue side of Staples, the Lakers were left to scramble to pull together their extended roster, re-signing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Javale McGee, Rajon Rondo and Alex Caruso to round out an interesting mishmash of talent.
Things changed again on August 12th, when DeMarcus Cousins suffered another devastating setback, tearing his ACL during an offseason workout in Las Vegas. Having suffered a number of significant injuries in the last 18 months, the former All-Star’s downfall paints a tragic story of how a body’s limitations and poor timing can derail on-court success and financial security. Cousins summer went from bad to worse soon after with off-court, domestic issues bubbling into the public eye.
All of a sudden, the Lakers needed to pivot again. With Anthony Davis’ happiness a paramount concern and his unwillingness to roll at the five for significant minutes, the front office called upon a former Laker who’s career never recovered from the one season he spent there in 2012-13 – the drama magnet known as Dwight David Howard.
Once an MVP candidate and a dominant defensive force, Howard’s ceiling, as he approaches 34, is little more than that of a functional role player. A body able to handle the physicality that still exists around the hoop, snaring rebounds, changing shots and finishing high percentage shots (free throws excluded). But if Howard can surpass expectations, he could prove to be a valuable asset for the Lakers.
If that wasn’t enough of a roster overhaul, Luke Walton was dismissed as head coach and replaced by Frank Vogel. Vogel – a defensive minded coach – can try to help some of this team’s key deficiencies. However, a more important area for improvement will be the Lakers’ 24th ranked offense.
Expectations are super high for the 2019-2020 Lakers – for the general populace, at least, it’s a Finals or bust situation. With some luck and small miracles, that’s a possibility. A second round appearance in the playoffs will give them the building blocks needed to reassure AD that LA should be his home for the long term. A lot rides on this season and the primary focus should be securing Davis’ services for a further five years, rather than a do-or-die date with the Larry O’Brien.