Phoenix has been on the periphery of the Anthony Davis trade talks all along, and while they ultimately did not get involved as a final destination for Lonzo Ball or by trading up to No. 4 to sweeten the package for the Pelicans, the deal impacts them nonetheless.
Most notably, the makeup of the draft changes ahead of them — for the better. While the top five previously felt etched in stone with only a potential Hawks trade as wildcard, the Lakers including No. 4 in this trade changes the calculus of the top of the draft. Instead of the Lakers trying to toe the line between a costar for LeBron James and a trade asset, New Orleans will be looking for a young core piece who fits with Zion Williamson, Jrue Holiday, Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram.
This could change soon, though, according to a follow-up report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski stating New Orleans could flip the No. 4 pick. Regardless, the Lakers’ top target appeared to be Darius Garland, and he doesn’t appear to be a fit with the Pelicans and brings the stigma of a Klutch Sports client with him into the draft.
The likelihood that David Griffin and the Pelicans satiate Anthony Davis and Rich Paul with this deal and then turn around and bring another young Klutch client into a rebuilding seems low. They are also suddenly very heavy on guards, particularly considering Josh Hart will also head to the Pelicans in the Davis trade.
Considering the Suns’ well-known need for a point guard, Garland falling past the fourth slot has to be considered a huge victory for Phoenix. The Cavaliers, after drafting Collin Sexton, have broached trade discussions at No. 5 and seem to prefer De’Andre Hunter or Jarrett Culver anyway, rather than another score-first guard like Garland.
It now appears that unless the Pelicans deal the pick to a team in desperate need of a point guard, Garland will be available when the Suns pick on Thursday.
The Davis trade also signifies the momentary end to Ball’s flirtation with Phoenix, which was magnified when his father came on local radio to yell about not wanting to end up with the Pelicans. The family has no leverage to force the Pelicans’ hand in this, and Ball is an interesting fit with Jrue Holiday in the Crescent City. They would be smart to keep him and try to make it work.
Despite the haul ultimately approaching what the Lakers were offering for an extra half-season of Davis in February (they were able to exclude Kyle Kuzma this time around), Los Angeles nevertheless improved its title chances with this trade. They will, as is an annual tradition for franchises led by James, become a hotbed for cheaper veterans who want to compete for a championship. The Lakers may also be able to improve their chances of signing another star in free agency, which they still have the cap space to do.
So while the Warriors’ injuries might remove a high-level championship contender from the mix momentarily, the Lakers are now much improved, and the Clippers could be right behind them. From a Suns perspective, this means their division and conference schedules will be even tougher than before. Remember, the Suns even beat the Warriors once on the road this season and still only came away with 19 total wins.
You wouldn’t be blamed for tiring of constant Lakers chatter and the ease with which Los Angeles is able to upgrade its roster despite inner turmoil and mismanagement. Worse yet, the Suns’ road back to the West playoffs is even tougher as a result of the Lakers pulling off this blockbuster.
The team can find some solace, though, in Garland, an enticing player at a position of need being more likely available on draft night than was previously expected.