Anthony Davis trade could get a lot more costly for the Lakers

The Pelicans have a decision to make on a first-round pick from the AD trade.
Los Angeles Lakers, Anthony Davis
Los Angeles Lakers, Anthony Davis / Jonathan Bachman/GettyImages

The Los Angeles Lakers have already reaped the benefits of the 2019 Anthony Davis trade with the Pelicans, but it required the front office to give up a hefty return to reach that point. Los Angeles has been chasing another LeBron and AD championship since 2020, and 2023-24 could be their last shot.

LeBron's said he wants to stay in Los Angeles, but because of his $51.4 million player option for 2024-25, there's no guarantee he will. How the rest of the Lakers' season plays out could be the deciding factor in his future. One team that should be rooting extra hard for the superstar to leave LA is New Orleans, and it goes deeper than wanting LeBron to possibly leave the Western Conference.

The Pelicans received three first-round picks from the Lakers in the AD trade, including a 2024 or 2025 unprotected pick. New Orleans could defer the pick to 2025, which will consist of a stronger draft class than 2024 and could be a higher pick.

LeBron James' free agency decision could result in Pelicans 2025 lottery pick

If LeBron declines his option to become a free agent and leaves the Lakers, the Pelicans could wind up with a 2025 lottery pick. At the very least, the pick would fall somewhere in the middle of the first round.

LA has had issues with roster construction, so while the Lakers could still be competitive in 2024-25 without LeBron (especially if they were to trade for a star in the offseason), they could also be worse off than they are this season. The team currently sits in the No. 9 spot in the West, which is Play-In Tournament range.

In The Athletic's latest 2024 NBA mock draft, the Pelicans selected Kentucky's Rob Dillingham with the No. 14 overall pick (subscription required). New Orleans could play it safe and stick with a player like Dillingham or even Isaiah Collier (projected to go No. 15 to the Heat) or take a gamble and defer the pick to 2025 in hopes that LeBron will leave.

The Lakers and Pelicans both received high grades for the AD trade after it happened, and New Orleans would get an even higher grade when all's said and done if they end up with a 2025 lottery pick.

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