The big story of the 2019 NBA Draft very well could wind up not being about a player selected during the process.
The expectation is New Orleans Pelicans power forward Anthony Davis will be traded this offseason, and with reports suggesting it could come down to the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks, those two teams’ positioning in the draft could be key. The Knicks pick at No. 3 while the Lakers are fourth.
One of the big questions surrounding a Davis trade to the Lakers is the Pelicans’ interest in the hypothetical trade package coming back. The Lakers’ young talent headlined by Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma was reportedly involved in discussions leading up to this season’s trade deadline.
But reports indicate the Pelicans’ interest in some of those players is wavering, and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reporting that the Pelicans’ desired return will likely require a multi-team deal further indicate New Orleans’ lack of excitement in what has been proposed to this point.
ESPN insiders gave their five favorite potential Davis trades, and Bobby Marks went with the aforementioned multi-team framework to get the Lakers their man. In that deal, the Phoenix Suns acquire Ball and Hart in exchange for the Suns’ sixth overall pick in the draft, which they would re-route to New Orleans. The Lakers also send Ingram and the fourth overall pick to the Pelicans, winding up with Davis in return.
Marks provided his reasoning for the move from Phoenix’s perspective.
After debating about which direction to go at No. 6, Phoenix enters the picture in this deal. Despite Ball having two fewer years on his contract compared to a first-rounder in June, the former No. 2 overall pick gives the Suns their starting point guard of the future. Phoenix also would add much-needed depth off the bench with the addition of Hart. The Suns’ front office would need to weigh the long-term impact of Ball compared to players such as Coby White, Cam Reddish, Jarrett Culver, De’Andre Hunter and Darius Garland — five players who will be in Phoenix’s draft range.
The deal would certainly be a win for the Suns.
In Ball, the Suns would prioritize defense and passing next to Devin Booker in the backcourt.
Because of Booker’s skills as a primary ball-handler and proven ability to carry an offense at only the age of 22, Ball’s shortcomings in the scoring department wouldn’t hurt Phoenix like most teams. What the 21-year-old Ball would need to do is still pick his spots to score and do so more efficiently. His 38% shooting from the field through two seasons simply isn’t good enough, and ditto for 31.5% from three-point range.
Hart, who the Suns had in twice for pre-draft workouts in 2017, has proven himself in LA as a great source of energy off the bench at guard. Dealing with an inconsistent role thanks to the Lakers’ questionable veteran signings last offseason, Hart shares traits with his former college teammate Mikal Bridges in possessing a high basketball IQ and has been a reliable shooter in the league at 36.1% from deep.
ESPN, though, also went outside of the box in examining the Los Angeles Clippers.
Andrew Han crafted a three-team deal involving the Clippers, Pelicans and Suns that has Phoenix shipping the No. 6 pick and wing Josh Jackson to New Orleans and receiving point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander from Los Angeles.
For the Suns, a reliable playmaking lead guard has been coveted for years to pair with Devin Booker. And while some might think trading the No. 6 pick for last season’s No. 11 pick would be a net loss, Gilgeous-Alexander proved himself to be not just one of the best point guard prospects, but one of the best prospects in a deep 2018 draft class.
Gilgeous-Alexander has undoubtedly had more NBA success than Ball in one less year of NBA experience. The 20-year-old showed true poise as the rookie starting point guard of a 48-win playoff team, posting 10.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game. Gilgeous-Alexander proved himself defensively while also being efficient, posting 47.6%-36.7%-80.0% shooting splits on 8.7 field goal attempts a game. Like Ball, he’s best utilized next to a ball-dominant two-guard but offers far more offensive reliability than Ball at this stage.
The Suns, of course, had interest in the Kentucky guard during the 2018 NBA Draft. John Gambadoro of 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station reported in November the team was originally looking to trade up to No. 11 in the draft to select Gilgeous-Alexander, but the deal was shut down internally, leading to a move later on in the draft to trade up for the rights to Bridges.