When the Los Angeles Lakers acquired Anthony Davis, it was assumed he would lead the franchise in a post-LeBron James world.
That may no longer be the case.
Sean Deveney of Heavy reported some in the Lakers front office would prefer to explore Davis' trade value when James exits the franchise.
“A lot of that depends on where LeBron winds up. If he stays in Los Angeles and he stays a Laker, he had a lot personally invested in AD being there, so, yes, in that case, Davis stays. But it is not a sure thing," a league executive told Deveney. "There are some in that organization who would not mind seeing what they can bring back for AD, but they would not do it with LeBron there. You get to 2024, though, and maybe things change.
"The Lakers have AD for two more years for sure, and they can only hope he stays healthy. But after that, they have to think, is this guy really our future? He can’t stay on the floor. And he has to think, do I want to be here without LeBron? That’s why the Lakers do not want to give up those future picks."
Davis is under contract through at least the 2023-24 season. His five-year, $190 million contract includes a player option for the 2024-25 campaign, and it would make sense for him to opt out with eyes on a new max contract that would pay him well north of $50 million annually.
On the flip side, it would make some level of sense for the Lakers to explore their options once James exits the franchise. The Lakers have zero viable assets outside Davis. Their roster was a cast of misfit veterans last season, and there is no young player on their roster with anything close to All-Star potential.
There's also likely little help coming from the draft, with the New Orleans Pelicans controlling their picks for at least the next two seasons. New Orleans has swap rights in 2023 and can choose between the Lakers' 2024 and 2025 first-round picks to satisfy terms of the Davis deal.
When James leaves, the Lakers' roster will likely be a barren wasteland consisting only of Davis. It could behoove the team to move on and start a full-scale rebuild by 2024.
Davis has proven himself an unreliable heir to the throne, missing more games than he's played over the past two seasons as the Lakers floundered following their 2020 championship. The Lakers acquired Davis at his absolute apex value and are carrying him on their roster as he's hitting a nadir.
It's possible a healthy Davis re-emerges as an All-NBA superstar, but little of what we've seen the last two years suggests he's the generational building block the Lakers hoped.