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Nuggets reportedly contacted Pelicans about Anthony Davis trade; what that means for the Lakers

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The Lakers are hoping to land at least one superstar this summer, but their path forward Anthony Davis is trickier than you might think.

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NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Los Angeles Lakers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

With the end of this season just weeks away and the Los Angeles Lakers on the verge of yet another “most crucial offseason in franchise history,” the focus is either on draft prospects to keep an eye on during March Madness, free agents they’ll consider bringing back or what talent they can acquire on the trade market.

Anthony Davis resides at the very top of the list of trade candidates but, according to Sam Amick of The Athletic during an episode of “Locked on NBA” hosted by some hugely talented superstar in the making, they’ll have plenty of competition.

I raised the hypothetical of the Denver Nuggets making a run at Davis to consolidate their talent if the playoffs don’t go according to plan, and Amick added some validity to the scenario:

“That’s a good observation. I mean, look, to fill in the gaps there, (Denver) had interest and called on AD at the time when he became available. They have an aggressive front office in Tim Connelly, who just got re-upped so now you have stability there. Tim worked in New Orleans and was part of the team that drafted AD back when he first entered the league.

“And they have the mentality, I know, regarding Anthony that even though all the focus has been on L.A., he’s a pretty low-key guy who ... really legitimately, genuinely just wants to win and to win it all. So I think the only question there would be that: Is there any way at all that there’s a deal that doesn’t involve (Nikola) Jokic. That’s the one, I just don’t see them coming off of Nikola. But, I think, for sure, the interest is there. That’s something they’ve been kicking around.”

When Kawhi Leonard hit the market, few would’ve predicted he’d end up in Toronto. Paul George going to and then staying in Oklahoma City is the kind of thing he’ll probably get asked about until well after he’s retired. Kyrie Irving going to Boston shocked legitimately everyone. I could keep going if you want, but the point here is that mystery teams are usually the ones that walk away with the superstar in situations like this.

In theory, yes, the Lakers could benefit from a dwindled market with teams we expect to be in on Davis, but there’s simply no way to account for some other team out there saying the assets they give up are worth the gamble of trying to convince Davis to stick around beyond next season. For Denver, they probably won’t be able to pay all their guys, so why not see if a winning environment is enough to keep Davis long-term?

Here’s how a deal could theoretically look (plus two first-rounders going from Denver to New Orleans):

If Portland ever wants to get off the treadmill of relative mediocrity they’re on with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, perhaps a trade like this might make sense (and again, Portland would have send over a haul of picks):

In both cases, Davis would operate obviously as a shot in the arm in the short-term and also as a potential long-term reset button on an expensive contract, even if he doesn’t stick around.

It all really depends on what New Orleans is looking for. By several accounts, they aren’t interested in a complete tear-down-and-rebuild as they already struggle to get people to the arena as-is. So if they want a combination of players who can prepare them for the future while also maintaining some semblance of competition now, these are the kinds of deals the Lakers would be up against.

Well, that plus dealing with an organization not at all interested in sending Davis where he wants to go or make any kind of trade happen with the Lakers specifically.

L.A. also has some major questions facing the players who would be the centerpieces of a Davis trade. Lonzo Ball has yet again missed a huge chunk of a season, and Brandon Ingram is dealing with a legitimately scary health concern at the moment. The Lakers say both are going to be able to make full recoveries, but there is no way to know that for sure until they do.

Could the Lakers overcome all this make a Davis trade? Sure! Crazier things have happened — like me hosting a podcast that Sam Amick would willingly hop onto. But the idea that the market for Davis might shrink even a little is probably a bit far-fetched, no matter how much work Rich Paul puts in to get Davis to Los Angeles. Davis is too good a player not to have some team willing to risk a minor step back for the chance at a major leap forward, and that’s one of the many impediments the Lakers will face in their efforts to chase him this summer.

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