Sat Jul 13 6:03pm ET
By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) Anthony Davis' year of uncertainty finally felt finished when he stood in the Los Angeles Lakers' training complex and proudly held up his new gold jersey while LeBron James looked on approvingly.
After months of upheaval around his departure from New Orleans, the superstar forward is looking forward to years of success and stability on the West Coast.
Sure, Davis knows the Lakers are rarely stable, and championships are the only success this franchise understands.
The six-time All-Star can't wait for the challenge of winning big in the Hollywood spotlight.
''The most difficult part for me was just not knowing,'' Davis said Saturday. ''When it was announced that I was being traded, I don't want to say it was a relief, (but) it was something that I'd thought about for a long time. Obviously it was tough to leave the city I'd been playing in for seven years, but I think it was best for me.
''When I found out I'd been traded to the Lakers, I realized it was an unbelievable opportunity for me,'' he added. ''To be here with a wonderful organization, and then to be able to play alongside LeBron and the players that we have now ... to get the opportunity to do that and come here and play for an organization that's all about winning, and winning championships, and that's the only goal, I think that was the biggest thing for me.''
The Lakers formally acquired Davis this month in one of the biggest moves of the NBA's tumultuous offseason, but this courtship has been happening for much longer. Davis became determined to leave New Orleans last season, and Los Angeles made an in-season run at Davis before eagerly blowing up its young core to get a second game-changing star to play alongside James.
Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka introduced Davis as ''the most dominant young basketball player in the world.''
''There is no more complete basketball player in the game,'' Pelinka added. ''There is nothing he can't do. He can shoot. He can make plays. He can defend 1 to 5. He can protect the rim. He can handle the ball. His dedication to his craft is unparalleled. To sit here next to him and think he's going to be on our team and he's going to be a pillar in this franchise for many years is just something we're incredibly proud of.''
The Lakers gave up Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and a slew of draft picks to land Davis one year before he could become an unrestricted free agent. While Pelinka clearly expects Davis to sign a long-term deal to stay with the Lakers, Davis didn't make a declaration of his intentions right away.
''Right now, my focus is on this year, and trying to help this organization become a championship team,'' Davis said.
Davis' new jersey will bear a No. 3 after his plan to take his usual No. 23 from James fell through thanks to rules involving jersey supplier Nike, who had already begun planning for next season with James in the No. 23 shirt. Davis will go back to the number he wore in elementary and middle school, although he jokingly said the denial of No. 23 ''was pretty hurtful.''
Davis and James have been kept up to speed on Pelinka's machinations to build a strong roster around them. Davis strongly endorsed the signing of DeMarcus Cousins, his former teammate in New Orleans - and not just because Davis prefers to play as a power forward instead of a center.
''I like playing the 4,'' Davis said to a laughing coach Frank Vogel. ''I'm not even going to sugarcoat it. I don't like playing the 5, but if it comes down to it, Coach, I'll play the 5.''
Pelinka said the Lakers signed Cousins and re-signed JaVale McGee precisely so that Davis wouldn't wear down his body guarding centers.
Davis was asked about load management, and he dismissed it: ''I'm playing. I'm 26 years old. I love the game of basketball. I'm ready to play.''
Davis also waived a $4 million trade kicker in his contract so the Lakers would have cap room to take their failed run at Kawhi Leonard, a move that Pelinka praised as selfless.
''Anytime you're able to acquire a player like Kawhi, I think you have to do almost everything to get a guy like that,'' Davis said. ''It didn't work out for us, but I wanted to make sure I did whatever I could to help the team.''
Basketball-loving Los Angeles is still buzzing after its two teams were turned into immediate contenders during free agency, but they're hardly alone in a league that might have achieved a measure of parity after years of Golden State dominance.
While Leonard and Paul George landed with the Clippers, Davis and James are confident about the future ahead for the 16-time NBA champions, who are exponentially more beloved in their hometown than their local rivals. Davis has lived in Los Angeles during the offseason for several years, and he loves everything about it but the traffic.
''It's going to be fun,'' Davis said of the new-look league with its new crop of superstar pairings. ''I'm excited about it. I think the league has grown. I think it's better. (With) all the players teaming up and spreading that talent throughout the league, it's going to be a fun season. I like our roster. I like every player that we have, from one through 14.''
The Lakers have been the worst team in the NBA during their team-record six consecutive seasons out of the playoffs, but Davis and James expect to end those struggles and drought in the year ahead.
They're aiming for much more, too.
''I know we'll talk about it and do whatever we can to definitely make this team a championship team next season,'' Davis said, before correcting himself: ''This season.''
Los Angeles Lakers center DeMarcus Cousins has torn his ACL during workouts. With this injury happening in mid-August, Cousins' recovery window means we likely won't see him on an NBA floor this upcoming season. It's a huge blow for a player who was still working to get back to full strength after an Achilles rupture two seasons ago. With Cousins out, expect JaVale McGee to start at center. We could also see more lineups with Anthony Davis playing the five and Kyle Kuzma working as a stretch four.
Point guard Trey Burke has signed a one-year deal with the Philadelphia 76ers. Because the Sixers lack depth at point guard behind Ben Simmons, Burke has a chance to play a decent role on this team if he's able to beat out Shake Milton for minutes. Burke should be able to do that. Still, he doesn't have much fantasy value outside of deeper leagues, because the Sixers are going to rely heavily on their starting five and give Josh Richardson some time at the point.
Despite reports that he already signed a deal to play in Russia next season, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that former Suns power forward Dragan Bender has agreed to a two-year deal with the Milwaukee Bucks. It's hard to see a role for Bender in Milwaukee, as he's basically been a very, very inefficient stretch big for Phoenix. There's a reason it took this long for an NBA team to sign him, so don't expect much production from Bender this season.
Free agent center/power forward Pau Gasol has signed a one-year deal with the Portland Trail Blazers, where he'll likely back up starting center Hassan Whiteside. Gasol's reached a point in his career where his presence on the floor isn't really that useful for anyone, and it's hard to see him having much fantasy value this upcoming season, especially with Jusuf Nurkic (leg) likely to return in the second half of the season, which would make Gasol the third center at best. He's best avoided in fantasy league.
The Philadelphia 76ers have re-signed forward Furkan Korkmaz to a two-year deal. Korkmaz appeared in 48 games for the Sixers last year and started in seven of those. He shot just 32.6 percent from three, averaging 5.8 points and 2.2 rebounds per game. Philadelphia is deeper this year, which makes it hard to see how Korkmaz fits into the team's plans, but with the first year of his contract fully guaranteed, he'll very likely be on the final roster as the 11th or 12th man. Korkmaz should not be drafted in fantasy.
Washington Wizards guard John Wall tore his Achilles in February and is expected to miss the entire 2019-2020 season. While the timetable for Achilles rehab could theoretically put Wall on track to return near the end of next season, the Wizards plan to be cautious with their point guard. Wall should be off the fantasy re-draft radar at this point. Expect to see Bradley Beal and Ish Smith play most of Washington's guard minutes, with Smith in particular in line for an increase in production as the team's starting point guard.
The Los Angeles Lakers have claimed forward Kostas Antetokounmpo off waivers from the Mavericks. Antetokounmpo is on a two-way contract, which will restrict how long he's able to be on the Lakers main roster this season, and it's highly unlikely that the team will give him minutes even when he's available, because the Lakers are in win-now mode with LeBron James and Anthony Davis and don't have time to develop Antetokounmpo. Many seem to think the claiming was done to show Antetokounmpo's brother, reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, that he should come to Los Angeles when he hits free agency in a couple of years. This move doesn't move the fantasy needle for the 2019-2020 season, though it definitely could have some long term implications.
Free agent guard Justin Holiday has signed a one-year deal with the Indiana Pacers, where he joins his brother Aaron. Last year, Holiday split time between Chicago and Memphis, playing in 82 games with 77 starts and putting up averages of 10.5 points and 3.9 rebounds on 38.6 percent shooting. Indiana's a better team and because of that won't afford Holiday with the same amount of minutes, but he gives the Pacers a bench option who can hit a ton of threes. There's late round fantasy value here, but not as much as there was for Holiday last season.
Another NBA player appears to be returning to international play, as power forward Dragan Bender has reportedly agreed to a multi-year deal with CSKA Moscow. Bender, whose team option was declined by the Suns and was a free agent, found the NBA free agency landscape to be a tough place for him and despite interest from the Cleveland Cavaliers, it appears Bender's NBA days are over for now. He averaged just five points and four rebounds in 46 games for the Suns last year, including 27 starts. There's enough promise to hold onto him in deeper dynasty leagues, but he's now a non-factor in redraft.
Last season, Detroit Pistons power forward Blake Griffin dealt with a knee injury that limited his availability at the end of the season and the beginning of the playoffs, which led Griffin to have knee surgery in the offseason. The surgery wasn't expected to keep Griffin out of any offseason activities, and Tuesday's announcement that he's resumed light basketball activities keeps Griffin on track to be a full go for the 2019-2020 season. Knee injuries are definitely something to be concerned over, but as long as Griffin is able to take the court when the season opens, his usage on this Pistons team will make him a strong fantasy basketball option next season. There's injury risk, but Griffin's upside is undeniable.
Memphis Grizzlies rookie forward Brandon Clarke was named the MVP of the Las Vegas Summer League. In six games, Clarke averaged 14.7 points and 9.8 rebounds per contest, showing that he can be a valuable piece of the Grizzlies' rotation this upcoming season. The Grizzlies are a young and rebuilding team, and Clarke is bound to get plenty of minutes in the team's front court this season. He's going to be a valuable fantasy contributor thanks to his ability to score efficiently and rebound well.
The Brooklyn Nets have signed power forward Henry Ellenson to a two-way contract. Ellenson's first three NBA seasons -- split between the Pistons and Knicks -- have largely been disappointments, and he finished last season with an average of six points and 3.5 rebounds per game in just 19 appearances. A two-way deal will limit how much time Ellenson is able to spend on an NBA roster, which means most of his season will be spent with Brooklyn's G-League affiliate in Long Island. Any value Ellenson may have had if he'd signed an actual NBA contract has evaporated with this move.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have waived veteran guard J.R. Smith, clearing the way for Smith to join a contending team. Smith averaged 6.7 points and shot just 30.8 percent from the field last season, but played in just 11 games for Cleveland. A healthy Smith could be a decent bench piece for a playoff team, but he's unlikely to find a role where he'll be more than a team's fourth or fifth guard. That means Smith's fantasy stock is likely to vary wildly on a game-to-game basis, making him someone not worth rostering in most league formats. The only exception would be if Smith doesn't sign with a contender and prioritizes signing somewhere where he'll receive minutes, though it's unclear if a team like that exists.
The Houston Rockets have signed veteran center Tyson Chandler, who played 55 games last season for the Suns and Lakers. Chandler averaged just 3.1 points and 5.6 rebounds per game, and he'll likely be mired in the back of the Houston rotation this year, seeing 10-15 minutes per game on what could be an irregular basis. This signing doesn't matter for fantasy purposes unless Houston's starting center Clint Capela misses time, in which case Chandler may have a little value in deep leagues.
The Houston Rockets have traded point guard Chris Paul to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Russell Westbrook. It's hard to know what to make of the deal for Paul, because so much remains up in the air. ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the Thunder are still looking to move Paul after the deal, so there's a very good chance he never plays a game in a Thunder uniform. If he does, he'll likely see a larger usage rate than he has in previous seasons and receive a boost in his statistical output, but the looming threat of another trade leads us to grade this move as an incomplete.
The Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets have completed a deal that sends point guard Russell Westbrook to Houston, pairing him once again with former teammate James Harden. With Paul George no longer in Oklahoma City, Westbrook was set to have a huge season statistically, but he'll go back to playing a role similar to the one he played last year, when he saw a drop in shot attempts and averaged 22.9 points per game, down almost 10 points from his pre-George numbers. Westbrook will also see a reduction in assists playing beside another ball-dominant player, and it would be a surprise to see him lead the league in that category for the third straight year. Overall, Westbrook's value takes a slight hit, though he'll still probably go at the end of the first in fantasy drafts.
Chicago Bulls rookie point guard Coby White is expected to take a backseat to some of the team's other options this upcoming season. Bulls vice president of basketball operations John Paxson said that White's got a lot of learning to do and that the speed of the game could be an issue for White, while head coach Jim Boylen has already said Kris Dunn is the team's starting point guard. With Tomas Satoransky in the picture too, it doesn't look like White's going to be fantasy relevant in the early stages of his rookie campaign.
Restricted free agent forward Kelly Oubre Jr. has signed a two-year deal to remain with the Phoenix Suns. Oubre is a solid player who's likely to end up starting at the three for the Suns, and he has solid fantasy upside as a guy who can give Phoenix something close to 15 points and five rebounds per game. Last season was also Oubre's most efficient year as an NBA shooter, and he can be a good fantasy pick in the later rounds of fantasy drafts because of his ability to do a lot of things on the basketball court, even if he isn't going to excel at any one thing.
Shooting guard Avery Bradley is expected to sign a two-year, $9.7 million contract with the Los Angeles Lakers upon his clearing of waivers, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. The Grizzlies waived Bradley earlier in the summer, paving the way for the former NBA All-Defensive First Team selection to join a revamped Lakers roster. The second year of Bradley's contract is reported to have a player option, as he'll join Danny Green and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope on the wing in 2019-20. After showcasing his offensive game (16.1 points per contest) over 14 games with Memphis to conclude last season, he may revert to his traditional role of defensive stopper with Los Angeles, which could stunt his upward fantasy trajectory.
The Lakers have signed free agent center DeMarcus Cousins to a one-year, $3.5 million deal. The 28-year-old, who played just 30 regular season games with the Warriors in 2019 after recovering from an Achilles injury the year prior, averaged only 16.3 points and 8.2 boards per contest while playing a career-low 25.7 minutes. He will be reunited with former Pelicans teammates Anthony Davis and Rajon Rondo in his new home in Los Angeles and will look to remain healthy in hopes of getting paid next Summer.