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After Anthony Davis trade, Lakers just a point guard away from title contention

USA TODAY SPORTS logo USA TODAY SPORTS 6/16/2019 Jeff Zillgitt
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The Los Angeles Lakers are a point guard away from becoming championship contenders.

They just acquired All-Star Anthony Davis from New Orleans, they have superstar LeBron James, who has to be invigorated by the trade, and now all they have to do is add an All-Star caliber point guard in free agency and the Lakers will have the kind of team capable of reaching the NBA Finals, especially in a wide-open West given the injury problems facing the Golden State Warriors next season.

With Toronto winning the championship and Golden State’s run looking finished, maybe the era of the super team is over.

Well, the Lakers are trying to put one together. The Lakers also have other roster issues to address, such as 3-point shooting and quality depth.

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But get a point guard, and the other pieces can fall into place for general manager Rob Pelinka, who is beginning to make amends for the job he did last season.

MORE ON THE DAVIS TRADE

The Lakers will have salary cap space in free agency to offer another player close to a max salary — anywhere between $27.8 million and $32.5 million, according to ESPN front-office insider Bobby Marks.

Who could the Lakers sign in free agency? They need to come up big, like they did on the Davis trade.

Kyrie Irving, Boston Celtics: Irving will be a free agent, and though the All-Star once no longer wanted to play with James in Cleveland, it appears James and Irving have repaired any damage to the relationship, especially after Irving called to apologize to James for his antics as a younger player.

Is he willing to re-join James with the Lakers? It’s an option that looks attractive for any top point guard.

By many accounts, Irving is interested in playing in New York, and the Knicks and Nets are both possibilities. Irving could also return to Boston. But his time with Boston was rocky, and the Celtics losing out on Davis increases the chances of Irving leaving.

Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets: The Davis trade opens the door for Walker to leave Charlotte. Walker recently told reporters he was open to taking less than the max to stay in Charlotte. No. 1, there’s no reason Walker should take less than the max to return to the Hornets, and No. 2, if he were going to take less money to play for a team, it makes sense to take it from a team that can contend for a championship.

Add Walker to the Lakers with James and Davis, and that’s a fantastic inside-outside combination that can cover a lot of ground offensively and defensively.

Walker, 29, had one of his best seasons in 2018-19, averaging a career-high 25.6 points along with 5.9 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 1.2 steals while shooting 43.4% from the field and 35.6% on 3-pointers. He was an All-Star for the third consecutive season. On a better team, those assists and shooting numbers can improve.

If Walker is interested in a deep playoff run and a shot at a championship, this is an option he should consider.

D’Angelo Russell, Brooklyn Nets: The is a far-fetched option. Russell, a restricted free agent, was drafted by the Lakers and then traded to Brooklyn when it wasn’t working out for him with Los Angeles. But times have changed and Russell has developed into an All-Star. If Irving were to sign with Brooklyn, that would leave Russell looking for a place to play. Would Russell consider it? Would the Lakers? It would be a heck of a story.

Malcolm Brogdon, Milwaukee Bucks: Brogdon, also a restricted free agent, isn’t as flashy as the other three and not an All-Star. But he is solid and one of the reasons the Milwaukee Bucks were as good as they were this season. He averaged 15.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists and shot 50.5% from the field and 42.6% on 3-pointers. Brogdon can also play off the ball at 6-5, which would be beneficial for James, who likes to run the offense. Milwaukee would have the right to match any offer and retain him, but keep in mind the Bucks have financial decisions to make over the next few seasons.

Ricky Rubio, Utah Jazz: It seems like Rubio has been around the NBA for a long time. But he’s just 28 years old. Rubio is not a scorer like Irving and Walker and he’s not a great 3-point shooter. But he can run the point with solid play-making and passing and still play some defense.

Follow Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: After Anthony Davis trade, Lakers just a point guard away from title contention

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