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Lakers Should Avoid Major Trade Following Anthony Davis Injury amid Latest NBA Rumors

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVDecember 20, 2022

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - DECEMBER 19: (L-R) Russell Westbrook #0, Anthony Davis #3 and LeBron James #6 of the Los Angeles Lakers watch from the bench during the first half of the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at Footprint Center on December 19, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

It's just not happening for the 2022-23 Los Angeles Lakers.

First, there was the abysmal 2-10 start to the season that put them in a hole they may not climb out of before the playoffs. Then, just when things were starting to look better, their best player went down with another injury that will reportedly sideline him for significant time.

According to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium, Anthony Davis will "miss at least one month" with a right foot injury.

It's more of the same for Davis, who is a generational talent but struggles to stay on the floor. He played 40 games last season and 36 in 2020-21, and he has never appeared in more than 75 games since he was taken with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft.

With all due respect to LeBron James' greatness, the Lakers' best chance to compete in 2022-23 is through Davis. He was playing some of the best basketball of his career right before the setback, making the timing all the more difficult to deal with for the Purple and Gold.

Not counting the loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers when he exited early, Davis notched 10 straight double-doubles before the injury during a stretch that saw him score 55 points against the Washington Wizards, 44 points against the Milwaukee Bucks and 37 points with 21 rebounds against the Phoenix Suns.

Without that level of production on the floor, the 12th-seeded Lakers will surely fall even further in the standings and become more untenable in terms of a potential championship run.

That should impact the front office's approach ahead of the Feb. 9 trade deadline.

"Even before Davis was hurt, the team was conflicted internally about sacrificing its future for anything that didn't catapult the franchise back into contention," Bleacher Report's Eric Pincus reported in reference to the team's available first-round picks in 2027 and 2029.

Pincus also highlighted the reality that Los Angeles doesn't have much leverage with other teams knowing it is facing pressure to win now with James turning 38 years old this month ahead of his player option for 2024-25.

That led to an "inflated trade market at the deadline" last season, and that will surely be the case again in 2022-23. Throw in Pincus' reporting that the Indiana Pacers could re-sign Myles Turner this offseason, and the much-discussed potential trade that would send the big man and Buddy Hield to Los Angeles may not even be an option.

It's not a pretty picture for a team that also has to worry about the health of its franchise cornerstones.

It is a testament to James' individual brilliance that he is still playing at a high level, but the aging star missed Monday's loss to the Suns and hasn't played more than 67 games in a season since joining the Lakers before the 2018-19 campaign.

Los Angeles' ceiling at 13-17 with Davis out for a month or more feels like the play-in tournament, and even that is only if everything goes right with the health of its two future Hall of Famers once the big man returns.

It is difficult to imagine the team competing with the likes of the Suns, Memphis Grizzlies, Denver Nuggets and even New Orleans Pelicans from that position, even if it adds another impact player or two via trade.

Perhaps such a trade would involve Russell Westbrook, which seemed inevitable this past offseason before he settled into a sixth-man role. His contract will come off the books after the 2022-23 season, and the Lakers would likely still have to attach one of their 2027 or 2029 first-round picks to move him.

Success is defined by championships for this franchise, and that isn't happening this season.

Instead, they can reset with that additional cap space after Westbrook's deal expires, hold onto those future picks to either use or perhaps move in a different season with a better outlook and avoid mortgaging the future for a bleak present.

It's just not worth jeopardizing future Lakers teams for the 2022-23 one.