Before the NBA’s trade deadline expired last Thursday, many Los Angeles Lakers fans weren’t just disappointed when the team wasn’t able to trade for Anthony Davis. In addition to failing to acquire the New Orleans Pelicans’ superstar forward/center, the team also traded promising backup center Ivica Zubac, along with veteran forward Michael Beasley, to the Los Angeles Clippers, getting journeyman big man Mike Muscala in return. As opined by Fansided’s L.A. Sports Hub, the loss of Zubac may have been hard for Lakers fans to take, but there could be multiple reasons why trading him to the rival Clippers could pave the way for Davis’ arrival in Los Angeles during the 2019 offseason.
In the weeks leading up to the trade deadline, Zubac began to emerge as a threat for the Lakers, filling in for JaVale McGee when he was out due to injury, then coming off the bench as the team’s top reserve big man. According to L.A. Sports Hub, it was this strong run that made the Croatian center a “huge fan favorite.” However, the publication pointed out why trading Zubac to the Clippers could pay off for the Lakers in the long run — the possibility that Lakers management is planning ahead for a blockbuster trade for Davis.
At the moment, the Lakers’ center rotation is led by veterans McGee and Tyson Chandler, with rookie Moritz Wagner seeing little playing time as a third-stringer. As both McGee and Chandler are on expiring one-year contracts and are not guaranteed to re-sign with the Lakers this summer, there’s a chance Wagner could end up as the team’s only “long-term” center despite his lack of experience. L.A. Sports Hub posited that it’s “hard to believe” Lakers management would trust an incoming second-year center like Wagner, or allow a projected mid-to-late first-round pick to play meaningful minutes at the position.
While the Los Angeles Lakers could try free agency and pursue players like Nikola Vucevic, DeAndre Jordan, or Enes Kanter, L.A. Sports Hub pointed out that these centers wouldn’t be good enough to make the Lakers instant championship contenders. Furthermore, all three are expected to command asking prices that could prevent the Lakers from signing a top-tier free agent like Kyrie Irving or Kawhi Leonard.
The above reasons, plus the fact that Zubac will be a restricted free agent this summer, makes Davis the most logical player to chase for in the offseason, the Fansided blog added.
“The team struck out on the Anthony Davis deal and could not include Zubac in discussions in the summer unless it was a sign-and-trade,” wrote L.A. Sports Hub’s Jason Reed.
“They knew that they were going to get a center that plays 35+ minutes per night. So instead of holding onto the restricted free agent and either paying him too much to play 12 minutes per game or letting him walk, the team got something out of him.”
Not mentioned in the report were the players whom the Lakers could theoretically include if they were to trade for Anthony Davis in the 2019 offseason. However, the Los Angeles Times reported shortly before last week’s trade deadline that the Pelicans were demanding “six to eight” future draft picks, on top of several young players and veterans before the Lakers pulled out of trade talks.