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Anthony Davis, one of the N.B.A.’s most dominant big men, is joining LeBron James in Los Angeles after the Lakers agreed to a blockbuster trade with the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday.
In exchange for Davis, the Lakers are sending a vast haul to New Orleans: guards Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart, forward Brandon Ingram and three first-round draft picks, including the No. 4 pick in this year’s draft, which is set for Thursday. But the Lakers were willing to part with all those assets so they could pair Davis with James, who had been clear for months — dating all the way to February, when the Lakers tried and failed to engineer a deal for Davis — that he wanted to play alongside him.
The trade was confirmed by two people with knowledge of the deal who were not authorized to discuss it publicly. ESPN first reported the deal.
The Lakers no doubt felt a great deal of urgency to trade for Davis after a hugely disappointing season, James’s first in Los Angeles. They finished well out of playoff contention with a 37-45 record after James missed a significant part of the second half of the season with a groin injury.
James was still highly productive when healthy, averaging 27.4 points, 8.3 assists and 8.5 rebounds in 55 games. But he is now preparing for his 17th season at age 34, and he has three years left on his contract with the Lakers, who want to maximize the time that he has left as one of the league’s best players.
With that in mind, the Lakers plan to make a strong push to sign Charlotte’s Kemba Walker when free agency begins on June 30, according to two people familiar with their plans who were not authorized to discuss them publicly.
The Lakers are expecting to have more than $30 million in salary-cap space to pursue Walker to fill their void in the backcourt created by the departure of Ball and Hart. Walker, a three-time All-Star, has said he will give the Hornets first crack to re-sign him but is also expected to be pursued aggressively by the Dallas Mavericks as well as the Lakers.
James, a four-time N.B.A. most valuable player, still wants to vie for championships, and the race in the Western Conference next season may be fairly wide open as the Golden State Warriors face something of a modest rebuild of their own after Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant, two members of their All-Star core, sustained devastating injuries in the N.B.A. finals.
Both players are bound for free agency, and while Thompson, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, is likely to re-sign with the Warriors, Durant will still have several suitors despite tearing his Achilles’ tendon in the finals. The Toronto Raptors clinched that series on Thursday to prevent the Warriors’ bid for three straight championships.
Last season, Davis told the Pelicans that he wanted to be dealt ahead of the league’s February trade deadline and listed the Lakers as one of his preferred destinations. But the Pelicans rebuffed several overtures from the Lakers, choosing instead to keep Davis and weigh their options after the season. The Lakers surrendered numerous assets to get Davis, but they did manage to keep forward Kyle Kuzma out of the trade. The New York Times first reported last week that the Lakers were adamant about keeping Kuzma out of the deal.
Davis, a six-time All-Star and the top overall pick in the 2012 draft, averaged 25.9 points and 12 rebounds with the Pelicans last season. Davis, 26, can become a free agent in 2020, but the Lakers are confident they can keep him long-term.
After their season ended, the Pelicans hired David Griffin, the former general manager of the Cleveland Cavaliers, as their executive vice president for basketball operations. Griffin had been on the job for about a month when the Pelicans had the good fortune of winning the No. 1 pick in the draft lottery, a pick they will almost assuredly use on Duke’s Zion Williamson, a phenomenal talent.
In addition to the three first-round picks, the Pelicans are receiving three promising players from the Lakers.
Ball, 21, was the No. 2 pick in the 2017 draft but had two injury-marred seasons with the Lakers. Last season, he averaged 9.9 points and 5.4 assists in 47 games. Ingram, 21, has revealed glimpses of brilliance as a lanky scorer, averaging 18.3 points while shooting 49.7 percent from the field last season. Hart averaged 7.8 points last season.