Woj: Lakers Are Leader in the Clubhouse for Anthony Davis Trade with Pelicans

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJune 10, 2019

New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Tyler Kaufman)
Tyler Kaufman/Associated Press

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN described the Los Angeles Lakers as the early leaders to land New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis.

During an appearance on SportsCenter, Wojnarowski said Davis "wants to sign with [the Lakers]" when he's eligible for free agency in 2020 and that "the rest of the league knows that."

He added the Pelicans would prefer to get a deal done as early as this weekend to invite prospects in for workouts ahead of the 2019 NBA draft on June 20.

Wojnarowski reported earlier in the day David Griffin, the Pelicans' executive vice president of basketball operations, had spoken with interested parties about what he's hoping to get from a Davis trade:

"According to front offices that have engaged in conversations with Griffin, he hasn't sounded convinced that one team is likely to fulfill his wishes for a Davis deal. To that end, Griffin has been working to find multiteam trade scenarios that could redirect assets for players or picks more preferable to the Pelicans, sources said."

The Athletic's Shams Charania also reported Monday that Davis has narrowed his list of preferred trade destinations to the Lakers and New York Knicks, though the Los Angeles Clippers, Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics have inserted themselves in the sweepstakes.

By winning the draft lottery, the Pelicans all but guaranteed they'll get Zion Williamson next week. That development also removed one potential asset—the No. 1 overall pick—from the equation in a hypothetical Davis trade.

As a result, the Lakers might have the most enticing package for New Orleans—be it in a straight-up deal or a three-team move—when before the lottery it seemed they were in a less than ideal position. Los Angeles has the No. 4 overall pick, which it can pair with some combination of its young players.

The Los Angeles Times' Broderick Turner reported in February the Lakers had put Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Ivica Zubac on the table.

Things have changed a bit since then. Zubac is a member of the Clippers, while Ingram underwent thoracic outlet decompression surgery in March. Ingram's procedure might give the Pelicans pause about his value as a trade chip.

In general, NBA fans will know better than to think Davis to the Lakers is a foregone conclusion despite what they have working in their favor.

This is almost exactly the same situation leading up to Paul George's trade from the Indiana Pacers. The Oklahoma City Thunder unexpectedly jumped into the fray to acquire George, despite concerns he'd leave for Los Angeles when he could opt out of his contract in a year.

Instead, George re-signed with the Thunder, later acknowledging he had initially wanted a move to the Lakers but had since been won over by Oklahoma City.

The Toronto Raptors' success after trading for Kawhi Leonard is another reason gambling on marquee stars with expiring deals can be worth it in the end. Even if Leonard opts out of his contract and signs with another team, Toronto's Eastern Conference title more than justifies the trade in retrospect.

The Lakers' failure to land George shows they can't afford to sit on their hands this summer if they want to partner Davis with LeBron James following a disappointing 2018-19 season.