3. The Lakers gave up too much draft capital
The NBA still isn’t as bad as the NFL when it comes to overvaluing draft picks, but sometimes it sounds like it’s headed in that direction.
In the NFL, you can get a proven league MVP candidate for the price of two draft picks that aren’t even in the first round. That’s exactly what the Oakland Raiders gave the Pittsburgh Steelers to acquire Antonio Brown. He is arguably the best wide receiver in the game, and Oakland gave up a third-round pick and a fifth-round pick for him.
In the NBA, you still usually need to give up real players — and good players — to get a superstar. Draft choices are valued, but not the be-all, end-all in most cases.
One popular opinion is that L.A. gave up too much draft capital in the Davis trade: This year’s No. 4 pick, plus two future first-round picks. It’s really not that much to give up when you think about it, and if you have a sense of recent history.
The 2019 NBA Draft has three players who are head-and-shoulders above the rest in terms of potential and hype. Zion Williamson, Ja Morant and R.J. Barrett have been at the top of every mock draft and big board since the day the lottery results were revealed, with no changes. Meanwhile, the No. 4 pick that now belongs to New Orleans has been all over the place.
Jarrett Culver, Darius Garland, De’Andre Hunter, Cam Reddish and Coby White are among the prospects whose names have been slotted fourth. It’s possible that one or all of them could become stars, but none of them are viewed as can’t-miss, sure things like the top three.
If the Lakers are immediately as good as expected with Davis, LeBron James and whichever free agents they sign this summer, how valuable are those future first-round picks? They will most likely land in the late-20s, closer to the second round than to the lottery. Go back and look at the last few drafts and see who has been picked in the late-20s.
In 2018, the last five picks of the first round were Landry Shamet, Robert Williams, Jacob Evans, Dzanan Musa and Omari Spellman. In 2017, it was Caleb Swanigan, Kyle Kuzma, Tony Bradley, Derrick White and Josh Hart. In 2016, it was Furkan Korkmaz, Pascal Siakam, Skal Labissiere, Dejounte Murray and Damian Jones.
There are a few standouts in that group: Siakam, White, Murray and Kuzma (who the Lakers got to keep despite his being named in a lot of Davis trade rumors). The majority of players in that range become role players at best, G League talent at worst, and are mostly forgettable.
The picks L.A. gave up in this trade are valuable, but let’s not go overboard and act like they gave up three sure-fire future stars in addition to Ball, Ingram and Hart.