The Anthony Davis saga is over and the Lakers have their next superstar big man.
It could cost them big, however, as they attempt to return to the NBA’s elite.
The New Orleans Pelicans agreed Saturday to trade Davis to the Lakers, according to people with knowledge of the deal. The Lakers will send Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart and several draft picks to New Orleans to acquire Davis.
The Pelicans will get the No. 4 pick in this week’s draft. They’ll get the Lakers’ first-rounder in 2021 if it’s in the top eight. If it isn’t, the Pelicans will get an unprotected first-rounder in 2022. The Pelicans will have the right to swap picks with the Lakers in 2023. The Pelicans will also get an unprotected first round pick in 2024, with a right to defer to 2025. It’s the largest haul of picks sent out by the Lakers since they acquired Steve Nash and Dwight Howard in 2012.
Davis’ agent, Rich Paul, told Sports Illustrated in an interview conducted in March that Davis planned to become a free agent next summer. A person familiar with Davis’ thinking confirmed in June that 2020 free agency remains in Davis’ plans, effectively making this a one-year audition for the Lakers.
Davis is under contract through the 2020-21 season, although he holds a player option on the final year of his contract. He’s owed $27.1 million next season and $28.7 million in 2020-21 if he exercises his option.
“Rob and I worked hard in February to try to make it happen,” said Magic Johnson, the Lakers’ former president of basketball operations. “Now that it’s happened here in the summer time, I’m just so proud of Jeanie Buss because she’s been taking a lot of flak. Now everybody can see who the leader, how great of a owner she really is.”
Davis’ acquisition comes a year after the Lakers signed LeBron James. At the time, their front office of Johnson and Rob Pelinka said James was the first part of a two-year process to rebuild the Lakers into a championship-caliber team.
The Lakers hoped to make progress last season. Hampered by injuries, particularly a five-week absence by James because of a groin injury, they missed the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season. A roster without much shooting and with a hodgepodge of veterans who agreed to one-year deals couldn’t withstand that adversity.
For the last two seasons, the Lakers have offered only one-year contracts in hopes of saving their salary cap space for superstars.
Davis, 26, requested a trade in January and the Lakers aggressively pursued him before the Feb. 7 trade deadline. Though the Lakers were enthusiastic in trying to make a deal, then Pelicans general manager Dell Demps was less so. Demps refused to work with Pelinka, and though he took Johnson’s phone calls, he barely engaged with his offers.
Demps was fired later that month. The Pelicans hired former Cleveland general manager David Griffin as their top basketball executive.
Last week, Griffin put together the potential framework for a deal to open negotiations, encouraging interested teams to find a third team that could help New Orleans obtain a talented veteran. The Pelicans had initially hoped they could acquire three of the Lakers’ top young players and the fourth overall draft pick — one they could send to another team for a player. In particular, New Orleans coveted Kyle Kuzma, but the Lakers kept him at the cost of the first-round picks.
The 6-foot-10 Davis was limited to 56 games last season because of injuries and averaged 25.9 points, 12.0 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 2.4 blocks and 1.6 steals. Although those statistics are at or above his career averages, his scoring was down more than two points per game from the previous two seasons.
The six-time All-Star has been selected All-NBA first team three times, as well as NBA all-defensive first team once and second team twice.
Anthony Davis cuts down the net after Kentucky defeated the Baylor 82-70 in the NCAA tournament South Regional final on March 25, 2012, in Atlanta.(Streeter Lecka / Getty Images)
Kentucky head coach John Calipari and Anthony Davis embrace after defeating Kansas 67-59in the NCAA tournament final on April 2, 2012, in New Orleans.(Charles Bertram / MCT)
Kentucky’s Anthony Davis reacts late in the second half against the Louisville Cardinals during the 2012 NCAA semifinals.(Ronald Martinez / Getty Images)
Kentucky’s Anthony Davi is congratulated by former teammate Michael Kidd–Gilchrist after Davis was selected the No. 1 overall draft pick by the New Orleans Hornets on June, 28, 2012.(Bill Kostroun / Associated Press)
Kentucky coach John Calipari and Anthony Davis in the audience during the 2012 ESPY Awards at Nokia Theatre on July 11, 2012.(Jason Merritt / Getty Images)
Hornets forward Anthony Davis knocks the ball from the grasp of Lakers forward Pau Gasol during a game in 2013.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Hornets forward Anthony Davis battles Wizards forward Martell Webster for a rebound.(Associated Press)
Pelicans forward Anthony Davis dunks against the Clippers during a game on Nov. 11, 2017.(Scott Threlkeld / Associated Press)
Pelicans forward Anthony Davis and Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade trade jerseys after a game Nov. 30, 2018, in Miami.(Brynn Anderson / Associated Press)
Pelicans forward Anthony Davis tries to grab a rebound from Clippers center DeAndre Jordan on March 6, 2018.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Pelicans forward Anthony Davis reacts after a slam dunk during the second half of Game 3 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Golden State Warriors on May 4, 2018.(Gerald Herbert / Associated Press)
Pelicans forward Anthony Davis leaves the court after talking to reporters on Feb. 1, 2019, shortly after his trade demand became public.(Gerald Herbert / Associated Press)
Pelicans forward Anthony Davis has the ball stripped by Lakers guard Rajon Rondo during a game in 2019.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers forward LeBron James and Pelicans forward Anthony Davis after a March game in New Orleans. The Lakers won 130-102.(Tyler Kaufman / Associated Press)
Pelicans forward Anthony Davis dunks against the Lakers during a game last season.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli