The Lakers are 25-24 on the season, and LeBron James is in danger of missing his first postseason since his second year in the NBA. James has been inactive since Christmas Day with a lingering groin injury, but he's on a day-to-day basis now. The Lakers, of course, knew that building a team around James would be a process.
Los Angeles apparently would like to expedite that process, and it's willing to go all-in to do it.
According to The Athletic's Bill Oram, the Lakers are approaching two types of trades -- to be blunt, the same two kinds of trades any team would presumably look at for the Feb. 7 deadline: a trade that "shores up the current roster" to get them into the playoffs, or "a blockbuster that lands the Lakers a second superstar." The latter, of course, would presumably be to nab Anthony Davis off the Pelicans, a player who Lakers fans have been eyeing all year.
The second is obviously the priority, even if it means parting with some combination of Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma. Ideally, the Lakers would be able to land a second star in free agency and keep the core intact. However, with Anthony Davis unlikely to become available by the deadline, that particular dilemma may be a moot point this season.
The Lakers do have a backup plan, according to Oram, if they aren't able to land Davis:
A team source said the Lakers will pursue any three-point shooter on an expiring deal, a group expected to include former Laker Wayne Ellington, Orlando's Terrence Ross, Memphis' Garrett Temple and Trevor Ariza, who many believe could be on the move again before the deadline if Washington continues to falter in the East.
The Wizards are 20-27, yet they still find themselves just 2.5 games out of the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference. As long as they're in the race, they don't appear interested in blowing it up, but netting some young pieces for Ariza could be a more lateral move for them than teams the Lakers are trying to acquire a superstar from.
The Pelicans are in a precarious situation with Davis. There's the obvious fact that he's signed with Klutch Sports' Rich Paul, James' agent. But the team has underperformed this year. They're 22-27, 12th in the West and they've been hurt by injuries. The team is preparing to offer a supermax to Davis, and if he turns it down in the summer, the word will be out that Davis is on the block.
That is to say: The Pelicans have more leverage now that there is uncertainty about his future than they ever will. The problem, of course, is that the Celtics have also been clamoring for a shot at Davis for the past year. They can't trade for Davis yet due to the Rose Rule, however, but come the offseason they could offer the Pelicans a deal. The Pelicans, meanwhile, have shown no interest in parting ways with Davis under any circumstances, so they may be willing to ride it out until the summer and beyond.
Davis' thoughts themselves must also be factored in. Davis has said that money won't be a deciding factor in his eventual decision to stay or go, and The Athletic's Shams Charania reported that Davis will evaluate his career in the summer.
Right now, Davis clearly just wants to right the ship in New Orleans the best that he can. At the moment, the value of Ball, Kuzma and Ingram probably isn't even that high -- all three players have struggled for stretches this season.
The Pelicans still have Davis for about a year and a half, but with the Lakers, back in action on Sunday against the Suns (9:30 p.m. ET -- watch on fuboTV), being willing to part with their young core, you have to wonder if there's a dark horse candidate that they want to trade for -- especially now with Mike Conley and Marc Gasol by the Grizzlies. With that being said, Lakers president Magic Johnson and GM Rob Pelinka have to know that any trade that doesn't get the Lakers Davis will lead to a lot of side-eyeing from fans in Los Angeles.