These are some the free agents in the summer of 2019: Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson, Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler, and Kemba Walker. Yet, we are spending most of our time talking about Anthony Davis.
Durant, Kawhi and Davis are in the top tier of NBA players. Superstars who immediately put you in conference Finals contention...unless you are New Orleans and year-by-year depleted your assets, gave out bad contracts and failed to put yourself in a situation to maximize AD.
Durant is enjoying the drama of people speculating where will he play next season, refused to commit to the Warriors in any way (and pissed off Draymond) and was linked to NYC or LA. Kawhi is an enigma wrapped up in a riddle and no-one knows anything for sure. The only thing that leaked is that he would like to play in LA, but all the rumors say the Clippers are favorites as he doesn't want to play next to LeBron.
This is a story that's been developing for some time now, players not wanting to play next to LeBron. KD said playing next to him means playing in a toxic environment. More and more it seems the top free agents that the Lakers need to compete don't fancy playing for the Lakers, more specifically, next to LeBron.
Then we found out Anthony Davis fired his agent and signed with Rich Paul from Klutch Sports. LeBron's agent Rich Paul. Immediately, the speculation began. AD is under contract through 2019/2020, but if he came to the Pelicans and requested for a trade, they would probably honor his wishes. It is not smart to be stubborn, ask Thibs and the Timberwolves.
A superstar like AD would get you almost anything and in a bidding war, the Celtics can outbid anyone, including the Lakers. The only caveat is, because of a rule in the CBA, the Celtics cannot trade for AD until the summer of 2019. That means the Lakers have a time advantage. The other possible benefit is AD letting everyone know he will only re-sign with the Lakers and make giving up a lot for him a higher risk for anyone except the Lakers.
With all that in mind, here's LeBron response when asked about playing with AD (via ESPN):
"That would be amazing," James told ESPN on Tuesday before the Lakers' 115-110 loss to the Brooklyn Nets, referring to the Lakers landing Davis through a trade. "That would be amazing, like, duh. That would be incredible."
Short and simple, but indicative. Superstars like LeBron don't recruit people like that. When you are LeBron, people come to you. This shows us LeBron realizes this "toxic environment" is a real thing around the league and he needs to prove he has changed and is willing to defer a bit more to his superstar teammates.
Even if AD says he wants to leave, the smart move for the Pelicans is to wait until Boston can join the race and create a bidding war. We saw Toronto getting Kawhi despite his wish to play in LA. Paul George stayed in OKC. Teams are willing to risk a lot when a superstar like Davis is on the line.
With the Pelicans falling behind and the Lakers being better than expected, we may find the Lakers bidding a lot to get AD in LA this season and make a playoff push. With AD and LeBron, they would be the second best playoff team in the West.