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April 25, 2019

What will the Lakers look like after the NBA trade deadline? Melo is waiting in the wings

February 10, 2019

Before we get to the Lakers, a little something to chew on: The Knicks were the No. 1 choice of Anthony Davis last week on the day that Kristaps Porzingis was traded to Dallas … but Porzingis’ unwillingness to commit to a long-term deal with New Orleans killed that deal.

Yup, the Knicks almost had him.

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And they still might be able to get him prior to Thursday’s 3 p.m. NBA trade deadline, but for now the Lakers are the frontrunners.

You can kill LeBron James all you want for trying to surround himself with superstars, but the guy did lead a B-list of castoffs to the NBA Finals last season in Cleveland. And if you think the guy has no interest in playing for a championship for the ninth consecutive year, there is a bridge spanning the East River that is available at a very special discount just for you.

Los Angeles is willing to offer New Orleans a package of five young players – Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Ivica Zubac, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart – along with multiple first-round draft picks, a source close to the Pelicans told the Daily News on Tuesday on condition of anonymity.

LeBron’s team could look a lot different come Friday. And Melo might get the call. (Harry How / Getty Images)

However, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday that the Lakers had pulled out of the talks because the Pelicans were seeking too much: the players listed above, plus six to eight draft picks. ESPN added that the Lakers are at this point waiting for further counter-proposals from the Pelicans. So keep in mind that dead trade talks can be revived in the NBA, where every team exhausts every possible option before minds get changed on Thursday morning.

“If a deal gets done, it’ll go right down to the deadline,” the source told the Daily News. “The Lakers can offer the best package right now.”

So pay no attention to the fact that LeBron’s crew currently sits in 10th place in the Western Conference, just a game above .500.

All they need to do is finish in the top eight, and they’ll take their chances against anybody.

Additionally, the Lakers are planning to add Carmelo Anthony to their roster once a roster spot is opened.

The trick for the moment is getting the Davis deal done, and ESPN reported Tuesday that Lakers executives Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka are frustrated by the Pelicans’ hesitancy to engage. Davis’ father told ESPN that his son has no interest in playing for the Boston Celtics, who cannot make a deal for Davis this season unless Kyrie Irving is one of the outgoing players.

The Celtics want the Pelicans to wait until after July 1 when they can load up the wheelbarrow with players and picks — they have four first-rounders in the upcoming draft, but Davis’ camp has made it clear to Celtics president Danny Ainge that if he acquires Davis, it’ll only be as a rental. (Davis has one more season plus a player option on his current contract.)

But could LeBron, a new star and the remains of the roster contend?
But could LeBron, a new star and the remains of the roster contend? (Mark J. Terrill / AP)

What the Clippers and Bucks may or may not offer is somewhat of a mystery, but Bucks officials who were in Brooklyn on Monday night said they were disinclined to tinker with a roster that has the NBA’s best record.

And so the waiting game continues, and that will likely remain the case right up until 3 p.m. EST on Thursday.

If the Pelicans decide to keep Davis (unlikely, given that they have already removed his image from pre-game video introductions), the Lakers will have other options to explore. Kawhi Leonard has not told the Raptors whether he will return next season or become an unrestricted free agent, and if his camp informs Toronto executive Masai Ujuri that he will test free agency, the package that the Lakers are offering to the Pelicans would undoubtedly be enticing to the Raptors.

Also, the Grizzlies are shopping Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, though neither would seem to be a fit for a Lakers team that already has Rajon Rondo at the point and JaVale McGee and Tyson Chandler at center (along with Ball and Zubac, of course.)

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Historically, about 8 or 9 trades are made on deadline day in the NBA. But history matters little in this particular NBA season, with more than half the player population set to hit free agency in the offseason.

Most folks think the Golden State Warriors cannot be stopped.

LeBron James is not among those people.

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