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Do not underestimate the Los Angeles Lakers leverage in Anthony Davis trade talks

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LeBron James showing signs of decay and L.A. nabbing the fourth overall pick are pivotal to the equation.

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The Anthony Davis sweepstakes are heating up behind the scenes.

The latest log thrown onto the fire was tossed in by Nola’s Andrew Lopez yesterday. He went on record stating that there are some within the New Orleans Pelicans organization who do highly value certain players and assets on the Los Angeles Lakers.

“The Lakers do have good assets that people in the Pelicans organization value,” Lopez told ESPNLA 710 in a radio interview. “For instance, Alvin Gentry loves the idea of having a Lonzo Ball-Jrue Holiday backcourt.”

While Lopez went on to admit that LaVar Ball is a complication sitting in the background — dad flat out stated he doesn’t want to see his son in New Orleans back in February — and the Lakers might be penalized a tax to jump ahead of any deal offered by the Celtics or Knicks, it’s key to point out that the Lakers are sitting comfortably at the Davis trade table.

“I don’t think David Griffin is under any sort of mandate where he is not allowed to trade with the Los Angeles Lakers,” stated Lopez.

This fact, as well as the one pointing to the Laker assets having notably value, is important to announce loudly to the world. See, teams are currently in the process of posturing. Whether they’re bluffing or maybe outlooks have honestly changed, you can bet a lot of low-ball offers are flying around. Case in point, I’m sure something of the sort is emanating out of Boston.

Milwaukee Bucks v Boston Celtics - Game Four Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The fear that Kyrie Irving will leave the Celtics in free agency grows by the day. If that turns out to be the case and Danny Ainge is unable to lure another star to replace him, how much sense does it make for him to then move such a sizable chunk of his talented roster for Anthony Davis, who at best would be a coin flip to re-sign?

Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders expressed to Preston and I on Friday that he doesn’t believe Davis sits as high on Boston’s wish list as he did prior to the last trade deadline. There are others who feel the Celtics should sit out the AD bidding war if they’re not guaranteed of putting together a super team.

This kind of feels like the right play for Boston. There are strong indications that we need to look past Ainge’s long affinity for Davis. That he implored Dell Demps to wait until this summer, where Boston’s treasures would soon find their way to New Orleans, is of less consequence now.

The Celtics struggled with chemistry throughout the year. Players openly argued with one another and some were vocally unhappy with their roles. Boston bowed out of the playoffs as meekly as a team of their potential could. And Irving, their most gifted offensive player, not only seems keen to leave but the Celtics might actually be happy to watch him walk out the front door.

At the end of the day, it’s much better to take a step back in the Eastern Conference and still be able to point to a young, promising core than sacrifice everything and wind up with nothing to show for it in a year’s time.

Could Boston still put together a deal without the inclusion of Tatum? Sure, but I can’t imagine David Griffin biting and handing Davis over for pennies on the dollar. So this is where the Lakers jump into the picture. The lesser professional team out in Los Angeles remains as eager as ever to make a deal, but more importantly, their assets are good.

I stood alongside Gentry and Lopez when the head coach showered Lonzo with praise. Prior to the deadline, I had heard that some within the Pelicans front office wanted to push the green button. But guess what, a Lakers trade package is now more attractive than ever — despite Brandon Ingram’s blood clot in his shoulder.

Texas Tech v Michigan State Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

When the 2019 Draft Lottery came up roses for the Pelicans, the Lakers experienced a heck of a good day too, moving up from 11th to fourth. Some feel an impact player can be had at the fourth overall pick, say Jarrett Culver, Coby White or Darius Garland. It’s important to note that Griffin has mentioned several times that there are prospects he has his eye on other than Zion Williamson and Ja Morant.

In addition to giving the Pelicans an avenue to two top-4 picks in the 2019 Draft and conceivably watching them grow together over the next seven years, future Laker first round picks look awfully tasty, too.

A LeBron James-led team finished with an unremarkable 37-45 record. While one should certainly expect a Davis-James combo to lead a team to greater accomplishment, it’s not a lock. LeBron will turn 35 next December and his odometer has surpassed 56 thousand minutes. That’s a ton of wear and tear and we may have already witnessed the start of the end when he missed five weeks due to a strained left groin. Previously, LeBron had never missed more than two weeks — dating all the way back to high school.

“I had never been injured before like that,” James said.

Another salient point, where will the Lakers be in the hierarchy of the standings once LeBron retires? Anthony Davis has yet to prove he can individually carry a team to great heights, and adding premier, winning talent next to James has thus far been a problem for Rob Pelinka. The Lakers have all of their future first round picks. Who wouldn’t love to gamble on their 2023 first rounder — the year after LeBron’s contract is up?!

Not long ago, seemingly every person was in agreement about the Lakers needing to trade for Anthony Davis before the deadline because a lot of other teams were expected to kill their leverage during the offseason. While it’s difficult to label the Lakers as clear favorites, don’t discount their chances of continuing to hover near the top. Not when Lonzo Ball is more highly regarded than any young player the New York Knicks can send to New Orleans and the Celtics have to be mulling over the direction of their franchise.