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When the Los Angeles Lakers made their blockbuster deal to acquire Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans, they included one draft asset that we haven't seen replicated in any trade since. The final pick included in the deal was an unprotected 2024 first-round pick that the Pelicans could choose to defer to 2025. That choice does not need to be made until after the lottery, however, according to The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor, New Orleans is indeed expected to exercise its right to defer. Assuming they do so, the Lakers would be left with a mid-first-round pick in 2024 and no first-round picks in 2025.

The Lakers, as of this writing, are slated to pick 14th in the 2024 NBA Draft. That could change depending on the final days of the regular season and what happens in the play-in tournament should the Lakers wind up there. The thought of passing up a lottery pick for the mystery box of whatever awaits in 2025 is a tad risky, but there are two primary reasons why the Pelicans would likely take that approach.

The first is upside. The 2024 Draft is widely viewed as a relatively weak class. The 2025 Draft, on the other hand, has several players with perceived superstar potential. The Lakers obviously could be better in 2025 than they are in 2024, but it's probably likelier that they get worse. LeBron James turns 40 in December. He and Davis have combined to miss only 17 games thus far this season, a figure that is likely to increase next season based on their track record. The Western Conference is only going to get better as teams like Houston, Utah and San Antonio age into winning, and with the Memphis Grizzlies set to return to full strength, somebody has to get crowded out of the postseason field. The Pelicans are likely reasoning that the chance at a much higher pick in a better draft outweighs the certainty of a lottery pick now.

The second motivator for New Orleans would be financial. The Pelicans are about to face a tax crunch. They will need to sign Brandon Ingram, Trey Murphy, Jonas Valanciunas and Jose Alvarado to contracts that will kick in over the next two seasons, and with Zion Williamson and C.J. McCollum already on hefty deals, New Orleans might prefer to avoid adding any non-minimum contracts for as long as possible. Deferring the pick not only keeps an extra salary figure off of next season's books but also delays the extension clock on whoever they do wind up picking by an extra year. Cheap players are going to be worth their weight in gold to the Pelicans soon, so that extra year of cheap team control will be important.

The Lakers are probably comfortable with New Orleans holding off for a year. While the possibility of a collapse next season is obviously real, it won't be one that they plan around. They reportedly intend to go all-in to try to acquire another All-Star this offseason, and a 2024 lottery pick to pair with their selections in 2029 and 2031 will give them an interesting package to offer around.

The Pelicans are in a position of strength here. They already have a better record than the Lakers, and their roster is significantly younger. They can afford to be patient if the potential payout is stronger. But the Lakers are doing everything in their power to try to win now, while James is still a star. Even if the 2025 pick is more valuable in a vacuum, a win-now team typically prefers picks as close to the present as possible. The Pelicans will probably benefit from their deferral right in the end, but the Lakers can live with that for enough of a short-term benefit.

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