Lonzo Ball went from No. 2 overall pick in the NBA Draft to trade bait remarkably quickly. Once the Los Angeles Lakers signed LeBron James, it was no secret that Ball could be used as a chip to help acquire a second All-Star in his prime to play alongside him. His availability in an Anthony Davis deal ahead of the trade deadline was well-known, but according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, other teams began looking into trades for Ball far earlier than that.
"The Lakers involved Ball, Kuzma, Ingram and Hart in trade talks for New Orleans All-Star Anthony Davis. Once the Lakers received James’ commitment last July, some teams began attempting to gather information on Ball and his health in case he became available, sources told The Athletic. He has several steps remaining to be cleared for full basketball activities, but teams will clearly go through the same process this summer if he becomes a trade target."
Whether or not Ball was actually available in July is impossible to know, but other teams had plenty of reason to believe it. When the Lakers signed Rajon Rondo, they signaled to the NBA that they wanted to win right away.