Report: Blockbuster trade has Anthony Davis joining LeBron James in L.A.

The spotlight is about to shine even brighter on a former University of Kentucky basketball star.

ESPN reported Saturday that league sources say Anthony Davis, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft who led UK to its most recent national championship, will be traded from the New Orleans Pelicans to the Los Angeles Lakers. The six-time NBA All-Star and Most Outstanding Player of the 2012 Final Four will join a roster that includes three-time NBA champion and four-time league MVP LeBron James.

In exchange for Davis, the Pelicans will receive Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and three first-round draft picks, including the No. 4 overall selection in this year’s draft, which will take place Thursday night in Brooklyn, N.Y. Davis has two years remaining on a five-year contract worth more than $127 million. He’s set to earn $27,093,019 next season, during which he’ll be 26 years old, and will have the option to forgo the final year of his contract and become a free agent.

Davis’ agent, Rich Paul, told Sports Illustrated in March that the 6-foot-10 power forward would explore free agency regardless of where he plays next season. On Saturday, sources told Yahoo Sports that will remain the case. However, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that sources told him “Davis has long planned to sign a new contract with the Lakers once he becomes eligible for free agency in 2020.”

The Pelicans-Lakers deal cannot become official until the new league year begins July 6.

The move ends months of speculation about Davis’ future after Paul made it clear in January that Davis wanted out of New Orleans and tried to engineer a deal ahead of the trade deadline. Davis played limited minutes the rest of the year and missed New Orleans’ last seven games because of back spasms. He wore a T-shirt that read “That’s all Folks” under his jacket during the Pelicans’ home finale.

Davis will end his seven-year run in New Orleans as the franchise’s all-time leader in points (23.7 per game), rebounds (10.5) and blocks (2.4). The Pelicans made the playoffs twice with Davis. They were swept in the first round by the Golden State Warriors in 2015 and swept the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round in 2018 before falling to the Warriors in five games in the Western Conference semifinals.

Davis finished third in league MVP voting for the 2017-2018 season, during which he averaged a career-high 28.1 points per game, 11.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.6 blocks.

NBA legend Magic Johnson, who resigned as Lakers president of basketball operations in April, praised the trade on social media Saturday, tweeting “Great job by owner Jeanie Buss bringing Anthony Davis to the Lakers! Laker Nation, the Lakers are back in a championship hunt! Congratulations to the entire organization. I know LeBron James has a big smile on his face. I’m loving this!!”

Many other analysts chimed in to praise the move by the Lakers. On Twitter, ESPN’s Dick Vitale wrote it was “great news” for the Lakers getting Davis in exchange for “2 average players at best and 1 solid potential star (Brandon Ingram). Yes they (New Orleans) also received 3 first round draft choices which could hit the jackpot or could be a bust.”

The Lakers won their 16th championship in 2010 and have not made the playoffs since 2013. The Boston Celtics have the most championships in league history with 17.

Josh Sullivan has worked at the Herald-Leader for more than 10 years in multiple capacities, including as a news assistant, page designer, copy editor and sports reporter. He is a graduate of the University of Kentucky and a Lexington native.