Early Monday morning, superstar big man Anthony Davis informed the New Orleans Pelicans that he would like to be traded. In 41 games this season, the All Star is averaging 29.3 points on 50.8/32.5/81.2 shooting, 13.3 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.7 steals, and 2.6 blocks while drawing MVP consideration. There is certain to be a fair amount of suitors to acquire the services of “The Brow” due to at least one more season on his contract before hitting free agency after the 2019-2020 season. Let’s take a look at the teams rumored to be involved in the AD sweepstakes and what it would take to land him.
Honorable Mention: Boston Celtics
Boston has been considered a favorite to land AD for a while now, but sadly for Danny Ainge and Co., they cannot trade for Davis as long as Kyrie Irving is on the roster. The reason for this is known as the “Rose Rule”, named after Derrick Rose, which is a component of the Collective Bargaining Agreement that forbids any team from trading for two players signed under that contract, which states:
“The rule allows a player finishing his rookie contract to make 30 percent of a team’s salary cap — up from 25 percent — if he’s twice been voted an All-Star starter, twice been voted All-NBA or won an MVP award.”
Since Irving signed that deal with the Cavaliers prior to being traded to Boston, the Celtics cannot also acquire Davis via a trade. Luckily for the Celtics, Kyrie may not be sticking around much longer after rumors are spreading that he would be interested in rejoining LeBron in LA once he hits the free agency market this summer. In this case, Boston will be able to try to make a deal for Anthony Davis, but like the Lakers, the Celtics will have to give up a ton of assets for the perennial All Star.
Danny Ainge will have to give up at least Al Horford or Gordon Hayward, as well as a combination of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart on top of draft capital. Trading for a superstar is definitely not cheap, and the Celtics will learn that if they continue their pursuit of Davis over the summer.
Los Angeles Lakers
It is no mystery that LeBron James needs the help of a fellow superstar in Hollywood and Davis certainly fits that role. Since LeBron sustained a groin injury on Christmas, the Lakers have went 6-11 in his absence, including a loss to the 76ers last night 121-105 The young core of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart, and Ivica Zubac is simply not getting it done and the Lakers have fallen down to 9th place in the Western Conference standings.
The problem for the Lakers in their pursuit of AD is that they will have to trade away at least three of Ball, Ingram, Kuzma, and Hart in addition to a first round pick to get the deal done. Is Magic Johnson so keen on acquiring another superstar at the expense of giving up on four young players, who haven’t reached their full potential yet, just to decimate their roster depth, which is already a problem, to bring relevance to Los Angeles again? This could end up being a very bad move for the Lakers, especially with their cap situation being less than ideal with almost $15 million in dead money going to Luol Deng.
P.S. LeBron and AD do share the same agent, Rich Paul from Klutch Sports, so there is incentive to get Davis in LA.
New York Knicks
The Big Apple is an unlikely destination as the Knicks do not have many strong assets to deal in a hypothetical Anthony Davis trade, but they have reported that they will be very active and aggressive to attain Davis. The Knicks have been stuck in mediocrity for as long as I remember, even after the Carmelo Anthony-era where the team under-performed consistently.
The face of their franchise, Kristaps Porzingis, hasn’t played since February 6, 2018 and there is still no timetable for his return after tearing his ACL. When healthy, Porzingis is one of the best two-way big men in the entire NBA and if paired with Davis, would be the best frontcourt in the league. So who can the 10-39 Knicks pair in a deal for Davis?
The first names that stand out are Enes Kanter, Tim Hardaway Jr, and Courtney Lee who would simply be involved in the deal to match salaries. Kanter’s $18 million contract will come off the books after this season, while Hardaway and Lee both have one year remaining at the end of this season. The Knicks could pair these overpaid veterans with Frank Ntilikina, who has drastically under-performed since being drafted in the top ten, last year’s lottery pick Kevin Knox, and draft capital. This would not be a terrible return for New Orleans, who is bound to go through a rebuild. In this trade, they could receive Kanter and free up almost $20 million in cap space, Ntilikina who still has potential, and Kevin Knox, a lottery pick who has shown flashes of elite scoring through his rookie campaign. I’m not saying this is the best deal that the Pelicans can make, but it would definitely be better than sending him to the Lakers who are in the same conference.
Recent reports have declared the Blazers as a “dark horse” candidate in the Davis sweepstakes after GM Neil Olshey has expressed his desire to find a third star to pair with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. At first glance, Portland may not look like an attractive destination for AD, but they could put together a sneaky good offer without including Lillard or McCollum. They could build a deal around a core of Zach Collins and Anfernee Simons, two very young players bursting with potential.
Collins, only 21, is a true 7-footer in his second season out of Gonzaga. At 7’0, Collins is averaging 7 points while shooting 34.5% from three, 4.3 rebounds, and 0.8 blocks in only 18 minutes per game. In an expanded role, the former Bulldog could flash the shooting and passing ability he displayed in his one year in college.
Simons is a raw combo-guard prospect at only 19 coming out of high school, but is an electric athlete gifted with explosive leaping ability and speed. Taken with the 24th pick in last year’s draft, Simons is a 6’4 guard with the capability of playing both backcourt positions. He has only played in 10 NBA games this season, receiving only 5 minutes per game, and three G-League games in which he has averaged 19.4 PPG on 47.9/50/83.3 shooting.
Both of these players are projects, but both have very high ceilings for the Pelicans to try to develop. Pair them with Evan Turner, a veteran with a lofty contract with only one year remaining on his deals to match salaries, along with a couple first round picks, and the Blazers could find their third star.
Prediction: No Trade
I do not see Anthony Davis getting dealt prior to the trade deadline on February 7th. The asking price for superstars seems to have gone down in recent years. Jimmy Butler was traded to the 76ers for Dario Saric, Robert Covington, and Jerryd Bayless. Kawhi Leonard, was traded for Demar Derozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a protected first round pick. Paul George was traded for an under-performing Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. The Pelicans may be too far over their heads in what they’re asking, but then again, it’s not often a player of Davis’ caliber is on the trade market.
If Davis were to be traded, the Lakers would be the best bet due to Magic Johnson’s desperation to bring another superstar to LaLa Land, but would be screwing future plans in favor of a win-now mode. If Magic refuses to part ways with his young core, the Blazers are the next best option with an offer of Collins, Simons, draft capital, and salary filler. The Pelicans’ best bet may be to wait until the summer for the Celtics to send an offer. Whatever happens, it will probably take a lot more to trade for Anthony Davis than the other aforementioned stars. At only 25, Davis is one of the top five players in the world with a year left on his contract. Teams just have to decide how much they are willing to give up to get him.
Picture Courtesy of Bleacher Report
University of South Carolina ’21