Lakers rework Anthony Davis trade to allow for another max contract

Lakers star LeBron James guards Anthony Davis during a game between the New Orleans Pelicans and Lakers on Dec. 21.
(Harry How / Getty Images)

The Lakers will have a new No. 23 next season, and now have the capability to sign a third superstar.

According to people familiar with the deal, the Lakers have reworked the terms of the Anthony Davis trade to send Moe Wagner, Isaac Bonga and Jemerrio Jones to the Washington Wizards and have received a commitment from Davis to waive his trade kicker. The Wizards also will receive the Lakers’ 2022 second-round draft pick.

Meanwhile, Davis received a little gift from his new teammate. LeBron James has agreed to give up the No. 23 jersey number he has worn for most of his NBA career. James wore No. 6 when he played for the Miami Heat, who had retired No. 23 in honor of Michael Jordan. James tweeted the number 6 along with an emoji of two hands praying on Thursday evening.

The moves agreed to on Thursday will earn the Lakers an extra $8 million dollars in salary cap space that was not negotiated into the original deal to which the New Orleans Pelicans agreed on June 15.

Consequently, the Lakers are expected to have about $32 million to spend in free agency, which should be enough to sign a player on a maximum contract. It also gives them more cash to spread among lower-tier free agents, should they fail to receive a commitment from one of the top players in this year’s free-agent class. Free agency officially opens on Sunday, June 30 at 3 p.m. Pacific time, while teams can begin to schedule meetings at 3 p.m. on June 29.


According to reports, Kawhi Leonard is planning to meet with the Lakers but will reserve his final meeting for the Toronto Raptors. Charlotte Hornets point guard Kemba Walker and Boston Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving are also in line for maximum contracts. Walker is unlikely to consider the Lakers according to a person familiar with his thinking, while Irving has been connected to the Brooklyn Nets for weeks.

The original terms to trade for Davis sent Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart to the New Orleans Pelicans as well as three first-round picks and the option to swap another. One of those three first-round picks was the No. 4 pick last week. The Pelicans traded it to the Atlanta Hawks, who chose Virginia’s De’Andre Hunter.

The trade is expected to be executed on July 6 when the moratorium lifts on the new league year. Completing the trade in late July would have afforded the Lakers more salary cap space. The trade was initially set to be completed on July 6, but the Pelicans remained open to considering moving the date if the team to whom they traded the No. 4 pick agreed to do so. The Hawks did not. Completing the trade in late July would have prevented them from playing Hunter in the Las Vegas Summer League, which begins next week.

The last two weeks have emphasized the Lakers’ commitment to the present rather than the future. The team has had lottery picks for the last six seasons, having missed the playoffs in an unprecedented stretch for the franchise. None of those players remains with the team. In fact, with the departures of Wagner, a first-round pick last season, and Bonga, a second-round pick last season, the Lakers only have one player on their roster that they drafted themselves: Kyle Kuzma.

Julius Randle, selected seventh in 2014, saw the Lakers renounce his rights late in free agency last season. D’Angelo Russell, selected second in 2015, was traded to the Brooklyn Nets in 2017. Russell, who will be a restricted free agent, could reunite with the Lakers this summer if the Nets choose to move on from their All-Star point guard.

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Ingram and Ball were second overall picks in 2016 and 2017, respectively. Hart was a late first-round pick in 2017. The Lakers also traded Larry Nance Jr., a late first-round pick in 2015, and Jordan Clarkson, whom they got through a trade in the second round in 2014, before the 2018 trade deadline.

The expansion of the trade also means that the Lakers have only one home-grown player on their roster — Kuzma, whom they staunchly refused to trade while negotiating with the Pelicans. Wagner was selected in the first round last season, and Bonga was a second-round pick. Jones was with the South Bay Lakers last season, called up to the Lakers late in the season.

With only three players committed to their roster for next season, Lakers officials have work to do to complete their team. But they now have the salary cap flexibility for several options.

Staff writer Broderick Turner contributed to this report.

Twitter: @taniaganguli