Anthony Davis or bust? Lakers reportedly not in the running for elite free agents

Jason Owens

It sounds like it’s Anthony Davis or bust for the Los Angeles Lakers this summer.

Coming off a disastrous season that featured a 10th-place finish in the West, an injured LeBron James and a public split with team icon Magic Johnson that exposed a running spigot of internal turmoil, the Lakers have a lot resting on the upcoming NBA free agent class.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, fans of the purple and gold should temper their expectations.

Report: Top free agents not interested in Lakers

During an NBA draft special on the network, Wojnarowski reported that the Lakers aren’t on the radars of top-tier free agents.

‘Not a frontrunner’

“Right now, they are not a frontrunner or even really a major consideration for any of the elite free agents,” Wojnarowski said of the Lakers. “If they don’t get Anthony Davis, they’re going to have a hard time putting a team on the floor next year that LeBron James is going to be happy about.”

That is a bitter report for Lakers fans. The Lakers signed James last offseason as the first piece in a plan to build a super-team. If they can’t rally top talent around him, then they’re just a mediocre team with an aging superstar that won’t come close to competing in the West.

And James would have wasted the tail end of his prime on a bad team that improperly banked its future on its legacy.

The Lakers' plan to build around LeBron James could hinge entirely on getting an Anthony Davis deal done. (Getty)
The Lakers' plan to build around LeBron James could hinge entirely on getting an Anthony Davis deal done. (Getty)

Where are the top free agents leaning?

The pending free agent class is full of potential difference makers. Many of them have been reported to be leaning toward specific destinations with very few of those connections being made with the Lakers. Wojnarowski’s report confirms that the Lakers are indeed hurting to attract talent.

Kevin Durant was considered the prize of the free agent class before the devastating Achilles injury he suffered in Game 5 of the NBA Finals on Monday. Even with his murky future, he’ll still command a max deal. That deal does not appear to be on the table for the Lakers, but more likely the Golden State Warriors, New York Knicks or Brooklyn Nets.

The new king of the free agent market Kawhi Leonard has reportedly had his sights set on Los Angeles. But if he doesn’t re-sign with the Toronto Raptors, his preferred Southern California destination has long been reported to be the rival Clippers.

No Kyrie-LeBron reunion?

Kyrie Irving has been linked in reports to the Lakers and a reunion with James. He presents one of the toughest free agent decisions to predict and also reportedly has his eyes on the Knicks or Nets in a potential New York pairing with Durant. It sounds from Wojnarowski’s report that Irving is leaning New York.

Count Klay Thompson among free agents not likely to consider the Lakers. (Getty)
Count Klay Thompson among free agents not likely to consider the Lakers. (Getty)

Klay Thompson was once reported to have interest in the Lakers, partly because of his father Mychal Thompson’s ties to the team as a role player during the Showtime era. But those reports have long since faded, with the Clippers being reported as a more likely L.A. landing spot. Thompson doing anything but re-signing with the Warriors would come as a significant surprise.

Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris and Kemba Walker will also sign big-money deals this offseason. It sounds from Wojnarowski like they’ll all take a hard pass on the mess that is the Lakers.

Davis reportedly still favors Lakers

Which brings things back around to Davis. Despite the turmoil, Davis is reported to have the Lakers as his top destination along with the Knicks.

The problem for the Lakers is that the decision’s not his call. He’ll remain under contract with the New Orleans Pelicans, who will ultimately determine what team Davis plays for next season regardless of what he wants.

Pre-draft deal reportedly critical for Lakers

According to Wojnarowski, we’ll know by next Thursday’s draft night whether the Lakers were able to smooth over the discord of February’s failed Davis trade talks to pull off a deal with the Pelicans.

“If the Lakers are drafting at No. 4 on draft night, they’re in trouble,” Wojnarowski said. “Because that means they didn’t get an AD trade done.”

The entire Lakers plan could hinge on that deal. If the Lakers do make a trade for Davis, the free agency discussion could change drastically. A team with James and an elite talent like Davis just entering his prime carries considerable more appeal for a player seeking a chance to win championships.

Without Davis, a young player thinking about joining the Lakers is risking tying his prime to a team with an unstable present and a perilous future.

That’s a fate not even the lure of playing with James can overcome.

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