NBA trade retrospective: Who won the Lakers-Pelicans Anthony Davis swap?

Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images /

This week marked the three-year anniversary of the Anthony Davis trade. With the benefit of hindsight, who made out better in this deal — the Lakers or the Pelicans?

The Anthony Davis trade saga is one of the messiest in recent NBA memory. In January of 2019, his agent told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that he didn’t plan to sign the supermax extension the Pelicans would offer him and would like to be traded. He spent the rest of that season antagonizing New Orleans fans as the team held strong, waiting for the best offer they could get.

The Pelicans opted not to move Davis at the trade deadline and kicked the can down the road until the offseason, putting pressure on the Lakers to throw in as many assets as possible. The trade was eventually made on July 6, 2019, and both teams have had their fair share of ups and downs in the three years since.

The basketball world has a tendency to overdo snap judgments on trades, this site included. But in most deals, the two teams are operating on different timelines — someone is trading long-term value for short-term impact. The value of included assets changes over time — young players develop, additional trades are made, future draft picks morph from opportunities into actual players.

This summer we’re going to go back and take a look at a few notable NBA trades and see how the benefit of hindsight changes our evaluation of winners and losers. With the three-year anniversary of the Davis trade just passing, this seemed like a perfect place to begin.

What did the Pelicans and Lakers start with in the Anthony Davis trade?

The initial deal was Anthony Davis for Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, three first-round picks and a pick swap. It was also technically a three-team trade, with Isaac Bonga, Mo Wagner, Jemerrio Jones and a future second-round pick going from the Lakers to the Wizards to help clear cap space. For the Pelicans, many of these pieces wound up being involved in other trades.

The first of the three first-round picks the Pelicans received was the No. 4 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. They sent that pick to Atlanta (who used it on De’Andre Hunter) for the rights to the No. 8 pick (Jaxson Hayes), the No. 17 pick (Nickeil Alexander-Walker), a 2021 second-round pick (which was used to take Herbert Jones), a 2022 second-round pick (which was used to take Vince Williams Jr.) and Didi Louzada.

Lonzo Ball was eventually moved to the Chicago Bulls in a sign-and-trade that returned, Tomas Satoransky, Garrett Temple and a 2024 second-round pick.

And from the pieces of those subsequent trades, the Pelicans were able to send Alexander-Walker, Hart, Louzada, Satoransky, and a future first-round pick and two future second-round picks of their own to land CJ McCollum.

Just over three years later, here are the assets each team still holds either from the deal or that were facilitated by further trades from central pieces of the Davis trade.

What did the Pelicans and Lakers end up with in the Anthony Davis trade?

Los Angeles Lakers

  • Anthony Davis

New Orleans Pelicans

  • Brandon Ingram
  • CJ McCollum
  • Jaxson Hayes
  • Herbert Jones
  • Dyson Daniels
  • Garrett Temple
  • 2023 first-round pick swap with the Lakers
  • Lakers’ 2024 unprotected first-round pick, which can be deferred to 2025
  • Bulls’ 2024 second-round pick

Seeing the specifics, it seems like things worked out close to the best-case scenario for each team. The Lakers won a championship and still have Anthony Davis to use as either a trade chip or as a key piece on another contender (if they can ever round out the rest of the roster).

The Pelicans turned the pieces of that deal into three-fifths of their starting lineup for next season (Ingram, Jones and McCollum), a key bench player in Hayes and a rookie they have extremely high hopes for in Daniels. In addition, they get the better of their pick and the Lakers first-round pick next season, as well as their first-round pick outright in 2024, both of which look extremely valuable given the current state of the Lakers.

But you can also make an argument that the Pelicans actually got the better of the last three seasons out of this deal, even though the Lakers won a championship and posted a 0.564 win percentage over this span, compared to just 0.429 with a single playoff appearance for the Pelicans.

Remember, the Lakers already had LeBron James when they made the trade, creating a big difference in baselines between the two teams. Davis has been productive but also battled to stay healthy, appearing in 40 fewer games than Ingram. From a pure box score perspective, there hasn’t been that much of a difference over the past three years — 24.1 points, 9.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.3 steals and 2.1 blocks per game on a 58.7 true shooting percentage for Davis; 23.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 0.8 steals and 0.6 blocks per game on a 57.6 true shooting percentage for Ingram.

Davis is a far superior defender but, again, has missed 40 more games than Ingram over the past four seasons and ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus estimates that they’ve produced a nearly identical number of wins — 18.60 for Davis, 18.93 for Ingram. And that’s just one player. Ball, McCollum, Jones and Hayes all made meaningful positive contributions to the Pelicans’ win-loss record over the past three seasons, even if LeBron’s finger on the scale gives the Lakers the ultimate edge.

Who won the Anthony Davis trade — the Lakers or Pelicans?

This is the rare trade that I think can be legitimately classified as a win-win. The Lakers won their championship. The Pelicans built what certainly seems to be a much brighter future and has a chance at just the second 50-win season in franchise history this year or next. If the Lakers had come up short in the 2020 NBA Playoffs I think you could argue this was a clear win for the Pelicans. But, tracing the effects three years out, I think both teams would happily make the same trade again.

Verdict: Win-win!

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