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Revisiting trading Anthony Davis to the Lakers by sending Lonzo Ball to the Chicago Bulls

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A three team trade scenario now that Zion Williamson is on his way to New Orleans

NBA: Chicago Bulls at Los Angeles Lakers Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Our own Oleh Kosel discussed yesterday how the arrival of Zion Williamson in New Orleans could pave the way to trading Anthony Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers and LeBron James. His idea was relatively simple, revising the initial offer the Lakers made near the trade deadline. Unlike Oleh, I am less bullish on the Lakers young prospects. Thankfully, there is one team who may be interested — the Chicago Bulls.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported prior to the lottery that should the Bulls pick slide outside of the top two they could check in on the availability of Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball. As we now know, the Bulls pick landed at seven in this years lottery. Any Lakers trade for Anthony Davis will include the fourth overall pick, and David Griffin and his New Orleans Pelicans staff would rightly be hesitant to adding too many rookies in the same season. What if, though, there was a way for the Bulls and Lakers to get what they want?

Naturally, the trade machine fired up. Before we move onto possible trades, there is some housekeeping to do in terms of the salary cap. For that, first we visit Keith Smith.

One thing to note here, these cap space numbers include the cap holds of the first round slots these teams have been awarded. So while the Lakers have $32.5M in cap room that is also including the $7.1M cap hold for their fourth overall pick. Now, onto the trade.

The trade says it failed, but only because the Lakers do not currently have any cap space and the outgoing draft pick does not count as salary yet. The Lakers could consummate this deal on June 30th at 5PM central after the moratorium ends, which has thankfully been moved up from midnight.

The Lakers in this scenario are sending out roughly $20M in salary with AD’s $27M in return. Working backwards off Keith Smith’s number that leaves the Lakers about $25M in cap room after this deal and Brandon Ingram is still on their roster. The outgoing in this trade is less than the reported offer in February by Adrian Wojnarowski, but with the added benefit of the Lakers lottery luck moving their pick to fourth.

Los Angeles Lakers president Magic Johnson made a more robust bid for New Orleans Pelicans All-Star Anthony Davis on Monday, offering multiple young players, including Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma, as well as draft picks and salary-cap relief to the Pelicans, league sources told ESPN.

The Bulls in this scenario retain their 2019 pick at the cost of their 2020 first round pick (likely with 1-4 protections at minimum) and add both Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma to go with a couple late second round picks from the Pelicans. Kuzma’s inclusion is important, as it (hopefully) encourages the Bulls to route smooth shooting big man Lauri Markkanen to New Orleans. Chicago would start Lonzo Ball, Zach LaVine, Otto Porter, Kyle Kuzma, and Wendell Carter Jr. on opening night with their seventh pick coming off the bench.

Let’s focus on what the Pelicans receive in this trade now. First, with the fourth pick in the draft the Lakers would select Jarrett Culver on behalf of the Pelicans. The trade would be announced on draft night, but to take effect once the moratorium ends.

Culver measured out in fantastic fashion at this year’s NBA combine, with legitimate wing height and length. The Big 12 Player of the Year led Texas Tech to the Final Four and nearly to their first national championship in school history. Most importantly, Culver relishes defending and would be a superb understudy for Jrue Holiday. There are holes in his game: his shooting stroke was shaky at Texas Tech and his ability to stretch the floor efficiently around Zion Williamson is questionable at this point in his career. The culture that could be built around the sheer effort of both Culver and Williamson could be worth the risk though.

Speaking of stretching the floor, that’s the precise reason of adding Lauri Markkanen to this trade. The sweet shooting Finnish big man is a legitimate seven footer who has shot 36% behind the arc on a high volume (9.6 3PA/100 possessions) and his free throw percentage of 86% suggests there is nothing about his performance that is a fluke. Markkanen averaged 18.7 points and 9.0 rebounds a night last season in 32.7 minutes per game in his second season. More telling, the Bulls were a better rebounding team with Markkanen on the floor than off, snagging 74.2% of available defensive rebounds when he played compared to 71.7% when he sat.

Markkanen is not without his weaknesses. Despite his size, he is not much of a shot blocker or rim protector. Opponents shot 65.6% at the rim with him defending, a poor mark for a seven footer. A defense with Jrue Holiday, Jarrett Culver, and Zion Williamson alongside him is likely to mask that weakness to a degree while Markkanen’s marksmanship opens up the offense on the other end. On May 22nd Lauri Markkanen turns 22, and he will have two more years on his rookie deal before reaching restricted free agency in the summer of 2021. He fits the timeline of Zion Williamson (19 on July 6th) and Jarrett Culver (turned 20 on February 20th).

Culver and Markkanen are not the only players returning in this deal, only the headliners. The Pelicans also snag Josh Hart from the Lakers for wing depth (my love for Hart is well-documented) as well as future first round picks in 2020 (from Chicago) and 2021 (from the Lakers). New Orleans also gets to see if Aaron Nelson can work his magic on Denzel Valentine, as Michael McNamara suggested on Bourbon Street Shots, and brings Antonio Blakeney back to Louisiana.

David Grubb, Kevin Barrios, Oleh Kosel, and I will be podcasting this afternoon to discuss other possible trades involving Anthony Davis and Chicago. Be sure to send your questions to us on Twitter or add them in the comments below.