Anthony Davis finally got his trade to the Los Angeles Lakers. As a result, the landscape has changed once again for the Utah Jazz and the rest of the West.
Given the Golden State Warriors’ NBA Finals loss to the Toronto Raptors, as well as news that the Dubs will be likely be without the services of Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson next season, it seemed — if only for a moment — that the Utah Jazz could really make a play for the West’s top honors in 2019-20.
Here at The J-Notes, my partner-in-crime Jared Woodcox wrote about just that scenario a couple of days ago and, man…it was hard not to get juiced reading it. You never root for injuries, of course, and my heart goes to Durant, Thompson and fans in the Bay Area, but still — one couldn’t deny that opportunity was knocking.
Then Saturday happened.
Per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the New Orleans Pelicans agreed to a deal to send Anthony Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and three first-round picks, one of which will be the fourth overall selection in Thursday’s NBA Draft.
That could end up being a huge haul for the Pels, but, in the end, the Lakers got the marquee talent in the trade and a top-five performer league-wide. Now, AD will team with the best player on the planet in LeBron James and, all of a sudden, Utah’s pathway to the front of the Western Conference feels a lot less clear than it did 24 hours ago.
And, even then, it wasn’t exactly a slam dunk. The Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers were already right there to duke it out for the big prize. Meanwhile, the Houston Rockets felt like the favorites out of the gate despite the organizational craziness that seems to be going on there right now.
The Davis trade muddies the waters even more. Sure, there’s always the chance the Lakers could see this thing go sideways on them a couple of years down the line when LBJ is in his late 30s, but in the here and now, the Lake Show is right there with the best of the West (and in the league at large) and we’ve yet to even hit free agency.
Regardless of what happens with them, I’ll And-1 the growing opinion that the time is nigh for the Jazz to take some shots on the open market and shoot for the moon while the Warriors are ailing.
But, even if they do manage to snag a top guy — a Tobias Harris, a Kemba Walker, a D’Angelo Russell, maybe a Mike Conley, maybe Jrue Holiday becomes available — there’s a better-than-average chance now that they’ll still have a hard row to hoe.
As ever, the Western Conference is a murder’s row, even with the Warriors on the mend.
When I started penning this piece, it was actually set to be a piece about betting odds, specifically ’19-20 NBA championship futures. I couldn’t fathom why oddsmakers were already calling the Lakers the favorites in the literal sense; the Ceasers Sportsbook was giving them 4-to-1 odds before they even made a move.
Sure, those numbers are mostly about driving betting action, but it felt like a statement nonetheless. The Lakers were being given credit for moving and shaking without actually having done so and, frankly, it bugged me.
Welp, the moving and shaking has actually happened now.
And while I’m not quite ready to say that the Larry O’Brien Trophy is instantly headed back to La-La Land, I definitely feel less good about the Jazz’s chances of snaking a trip to the Finals.