Lakers get their marquee big man once again
It took longer than usual but with one big swoop the Lakers finally ended up with someone else’s marquee big man once again. The story of the Lakers championships have all had their genesis in trading for coveted “generational” big man from Wilt Chamberlain to Pau Gasol.
Way back in 1968, the Los Angeles Lakers had zero banners because they kept losing to the Celtics and Knicks in the finals. Wilt Chamberlain had one championship on his belt and was by far the best big man if not the best player in the league when he was traded to the Lakers for Jerry Chambers, Archie Clark and Darrall Imhoff. Elgin Baylor was no longer one of the best players in the league but Jerry West still was. Even so, it still took the Lakers a few years before they won their only Championship with Wilt. The 1972 team is the team that I can still recount from heart. West/Goodrich/Hairston/McMillian/Wilt with huge contributions off the bench from Keith Erickson/Flynn Robinson/Leroy Ellis and of course Pat Riley.
By 1975 both Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain had retired and the team was starting a youth movement behind Elmore Smith and Brian Winters. The best big man in the NBA was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and when he became available the Lakers trashed their youth movement and traded their youth movement for the best player in the league. Players headed to the Bucks were Junior Bridgeman, Dave Meyers, Elmore Smith and Brian Winters. Laker fans need to remember that even with Kareem they only won 40 games the first year. It would take time to build a team around him after they gave up their four best players to the Bucks. It wasn’t until Magic Johnson joined the team in 1979/1980 that the Kareem Lakers would win a championship. Together, Kareem and Magic would win five championships.
The Kareem era ended in 1989 and so did the Lakers Championships. The Lakers would not win another championship until they got their next superstar big man. Once again they went after the best player in basketball and signed Shaq in the summer of 1997. They also traded for a skinny young kid named Kobe that same summer. Shaq was never able to win a championship for the Lakers until Kobe came of age, and “together’ they won three straight championships from 1999/2000 – 2001/2002. By 2004, Shaq was gone and so was any attempts at championships.
To get back to a championship level team, the Lakers needed a big man star to team with Kobe and they find their next big superstar big in Pau Gasol. On Feb. 1, 2008, the Memphis Grizzlies traded Pau to the Lakers for his younger brother Marc Gasol, Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, Aaron McKie and two first-round picks. Pau was just what the Lakers needed to team up with Kobe and those two won back to back titles in 2008/2009 and 2009/2010.
Now the Lakers have traded for arguably the best big man in the league today in Anthony Davis. They will team him up with Lebron James. A player in his prime with a player starting his decline years. This isn’t Shaq and Kobe in their prime or Kobe/Pau in their prime, or even a prime Kareem with a budding childman in Magic. It is a dynamic duo but unlike Kareem or Shaq, Anthony Davis has zero titles to his name and hasn’t even played in a conference final yet even though his talents are far above most players in the league. On the other side of him will be Lebron James. On the surface this appears a perfect fit, and it probably will be if they can both stay healthy when the toll of the postseason hits. This summer we saw what happens when you start playing the grueling postseason from start to finish. Lebron may get the team to the playoffs but can the oft-injured Anthony Davis and the old Lebron James survive the postseason marathon to bring another title to the storied Laker franchise? The upcoming season is the perfect season for it to happen with the wounded Warriors having little chance to return to the conference finals with two of their big four out for the upcoming season.
I like this trade for both teams, the Lakers needed Anthony Davis and rolling the dice on him will get the Lakers to a championship level at the speed they need with an aging Lebron James on the clock. The Pelicans might be drafting the best future big man in basketball, and if he is, combining him with the young talent the Lakers are sending their way could make them formidable in very quick order.
Wouldn’t it be great if by 2020/2021 the Western Conference finals was a grudge match between the Pelicans and the Lakers?