Why the Lakers can thank the Wizards for their 2020 NBA Championship

The Los Angeles Lakers are the 2020 NBA Champions. LeBron James has won his fourth NBA title, and he’s now the first player in NBA history to win Finals MVP with three different franchises, adding one more accomplishment to his all-time great legacy.

Anthony Davis, LeBron’s running mate, now has his first NBA title. Davis spent the first seven years of his career with the New Orleans Pelicans, the franchise that drafted him first overall in 2012. The Pelicans traded their disgruntled franchise star and got back a haul of exciting young contributors: Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart. After winning the 2019 Draft Lottery, the Pelicans immediately got a new franchise cornerstone in Zion Williamson.

The Lakers can thank New Orleans for giving them the missing piece, but that isn’t the only team the Lakers should thank. In fact, there was a third trade partner in the Davis deal that arguably helped the Lakers even more than the Pelicans: the Washington Wizards.

This is what the full Davis trade looked like:

The Los Angeles Lakers receive:
  • Anthony Davis – from NOP
The New Orleans Pelicans receive:
  • Brandon Ingram – from LAL
  • Lonzo Ball – from LAL
  • Josh Hart – from LAL
  • Three future first-round picks – from LAL
  • $1.1 million in cash considerations– from WSH
The Washington Wizards receive:
  • Moe Wagner– from LAL
  • Isaac Bonga– from LAL
  • Jemerrio Jones-from LAL
  • Future second-round pick– from LAL

It’s evident how selfless the Wizards are as an organization. The other two teams helped themselves immensely, but not the Wizards. The Lakers got a top five player to help them win immediately, and the Pelicans got a package of players and draft picks to help build around Williamson for the future. The Wizards got… two bench players, one G-League player and a second-round pick.

Granted, it only cost them $1.1 million, so it’s not like they really had anything to lose. Wagner has developed into a solid forward off the bench and Bonga… is a guard. You could do much worse for $1.1 million. We don’t even know who the second-round pick is yet, it will be used in 2022. It could be the next Admiral Schofield!

All jokes aside, the Wizards are locked into John Wall and Bradley Beal until 2023 (assuming both players pick up their player options, which they would be dumb not to), so adding young, inexpensive players with potential has been a priority. The Lakers needed to clear cap space and roster spots, and the Wizards capitalized on the fire sale.

Of course, the Lakers would not have Davis without the Pelicans agreeing to give him up, but they also wouldn’t have him if the Wizards didn’t take those other contracts off their hands. Sure, the Pelicans are the ones who actually gave up AD, so maybe they deserve the most thanks.

Well that’s only if you take into account the Davis trade. Looking at other players on the Lakers roster, it’s clear the Wizards had a greater impact in this 2020 championship than you may have realized.

Markieff Morris, Dwight Howard and Jared Dudley are three former Wizards that played for the Lakers in these finals. Dudley logged just three total minutes across three games, but both Morris and Howard had actual roles.

Morris played 21.3 minutes per game off the bench, averaging 7.5 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game. Howard logged just under 12 minutes per game, starting every game except the clincher. He averaged 2.8 points and 2.8 rebounds. Morris was the starting power forward for parts of four seasons in DC, while Howard played nearly as many games in these Finals alone (six) as he did for the Wizards (nine).

And who could forget JaVale McGee? He did not play at all in these Finals, but the now-three-time NBA champion got his start with the Wizards all the way back in 2008. Granted, he has not played in Washington since 2012, but that’s still another former Wizard contributing to the Lakers title effort (at least off the court).

I write this all somewhat facetiously (although the trade did help the Lakers get Davis, so there’s some legitimacy to these claims), but when the Wizards franchise has been so irrelevant in the NBA landscape since the 1979 title defense that fell just short, it’s weird knowing that the Washington Wizards actively contributed to a championship.

It would be nice if they were the ones winning the championship, but baby steps. Can’t go from finishing 1-7 in the NBA bubble to hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy right away.

Only the Lakers could pull this off: Spend a bunch of the years in the draft lottery, picking mediocre talent and floundering in the league basement before the best player in the world decides he wants to live in Los Angeles, and then soon after recruits another All-World superstar to team up and become contenders again.

The Lakers didn’t build into anything; LeBron came to town, then Davis, and that was all it took. In fact, the organization did not draft a single player on their Finals roster, unless you count Kyle Kuzma, whom the team traded for on draft day. So good for you, Lakers fans. This “long-suffering” franchise [eye roll] is finally back on top. After sending death threats to one of your own players, despite still leading the series, you get your “deserved” outcome: a 12th championship.

Amidst your celebration, you could at least have the decency to thank those who helped you get there, but since you won’t, I’m left with no choice but to do it for you.

On behalf of the Los Angeles Lakers organization, and Lakers fans everywhere, thank you, Wizards, for acting as the middle man in LA’s ascent back to the top. Maybe LA can return the favor someday. I doubt they will.

Cover Photo Credit: Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

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