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Lowe: Lakers-Pels intersect again, Julius Randle's new snappiness and why Giannis is as dominant as ever
23.02.2024
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This week's eight things I like and dislike include revisiting the 2019 Anthony Davis trade and where the Los Angeles Lakers and New Orleans Pelicans currently stand, how Julius Randle's new decisiveness is helping the New York Knicks and why Giannis Antetokounmpo is as dominant as ever in Milwaukee.

It has been almost five years since the Pelicans, amid the low of Anthony Davis' trade request, enjoyed a simultaneous jolt of euphoria: Winning the Zion Williamson lottery. In the afterglow of that moment in a Chicago hotel ballroom, David Griffin, the Pelicans' executive vice president of basketball operations, dreamed that the promise of Williamson might curb Davis' wanderlust.

"We can be [the Oklahoma City Thunder] with Paul George," Griffin told EasyChamp that night. "We can hold onto [Davis] and let him see what we really are." Griffin likely knew it was a long shot -- that Davis was hellbent on the Lakers. But leverage is leverage.

A year earlier, George had re-signed with the Thunder despite years of rumors dating to George's time with the Indiana Pacers that he would head to the Lakers in free agency -- rumblings that played some part in the Lakers opting against going all-in for George via trade before the Thunder swooped in: Why give up assets for someone we can sign later?

As the Pelicans celebrated their lottery win, Davis was one year from free agency. The Pelicans were confident the Lakers would not risk waiting again, frittering away another year of LeBron's prime -- that Los Angeles would come with a fat offer even though Davis' representation (Klutch Sports Group) had dissuaded other suitors.

One month later, the Lakers traded Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, three first-round picks (including the No. 4 pick in the 2019 draft) and one pick swap to nab Davis.

The franchises reconnected on center stage Thursday night in Las Vegas, a blowout 133-89 Lakers win that showed how dangerous this big, smart, ferocious team can be when they make shots.

The Lakers have gotten about what they wanted out of the Davis trade: One title (in 2020) and a high enough floor to insulate them from the Brooklyn Nets-style nightmare of coughing up a top-3 pick to New Orleans. (The Pelicans selected Dyson Daniels at No. 8 with the Lakers' 2022 pick.) Winning only two playoff series in the three seasons since that title counts as a disappointment -- one the Lakers hope to rewrite with another deep run.

The Pelicans have won zero series since the Davis trade. Williamson has not even appeared in a playoff game.

But their in-season tournament run was an announcement: New Orleans is as healthy and deep as it has been at any point since the Davis drama. It is loaded with perimeter talent around Williamson and Ingram, with more flexibility to play Williamson at center. (It still needs Larry Nance Jr. too; he's out with a fractured rib.) It is developing more flow and a clearer hierarchy on offense.

The Pelicans have picks to trade -- including one more unprotected Lakers pick from the Davis deal. If they stay healthy, the Pelicans are a threat to make the playoffs and win a round -- and perhaps more.

The Lakers are a bit of a Rorschach test: 14-9, but barely a net-positive for the season -- plus-27 total points -- even after destroying New Orleans on Thursday.

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