By Chris Mitchell
On Monday, Anthony Davis and Rich Paul’s camp told the Pelicans that Anthony Davis was, for all intents and purposes, done with playing in New Orleans. Davis, 25, informed the team that he would not be down for signing a supermax contract with the Pelicans and went so far as to request a trade, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
“Anthony wants to be traded to a team that allows him the chance to win consistently and compete for a championship,” Paul said to media outlets. “Anthony wanted to be honest and clear with his intentions and that’s the reason for informing them of this decision now. That’s in the best interests of both Anthony’s and the organization’s future.”
So, where could Davis end up? He’s got some options.
The first option, and the one that first popped up in everyone’s minds was a trade to the Los Angeles Lakers. LeBron James and Anthony Davis both share the same agent and have talked about playing together for some time now, the Lakers have a respectably deep pool of young players that they could offer to the Pelicans, and the Lakers have the cap space to extend Davis in 2020, and perhaps sign another star should they want to join LeBron and Davis in LA.
There’s one huge barrier to this deal going through. In the extended time that LeBron has missed playing due to a groin injury he suffered in a Christmas Day loss to Golden State, the young Lakers have not been impressive.
There have been some high points, like forward Kyle Kuzma recording a 40-point game in early January, Point guard Lonzo Ball racking up triple doubles, and center Ivica Zubac flashing potential as a solid two-way center (especially during that Christmas Day game), but all-in-all, it’s been a lackluster stretch of games that may have also made Lakers head coach Luke Walton’s seat even hotter than it already is.
If the Lakers wanted to put together a trade package that would please the Pelicans, they would probably have to throw in all those players, at least a first-round draft pick. They might also have to include guard Brandon Ingram or Josh Hart on top of that.
It would be expensive, but a player of Davis’s caliber doesn’t come cheap, and Davis coming to the Lakers may just be enough to court some other star free agents this offseason like the Warriors’ Kevin Durant, Charlotte’s Kemba Walker, or even Boston’s Kyrie Irving- depending on how his situation with the Celtics goes. There’s a lot riding on this for a Lakers team and organization trying to push themselves into the “Best-in-the-West” conversation, so expect some swift action from president Magic Johnson and the whole organization to make it work.
Speaking of Boston- they’re in on Davis too. Out of all the teams trying to poke their noses into the sweepstakes, the Celtics have the young talent that, if combined into a trade package, could provide the most equitable value for Davis. On top of that, the Celtics have an established star in Kyrie Irving that would pair exceptionally well with Davis. There are a few roadblocks that the Celtics would have to navigate to make this a reality, though. According to the designated rookie extensions of both Irving and Davis, the Celtics can’t make a big push for Davis until the summer. The Celtics would have to keep Kyrie happy while also elevating the value of key role players like Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown, and Gordon Hayward (all of whom have been underperforming for most of the season). If the Celtics can steer clear of a Lakers team with an itchy trigger finger, they might be in a good spot to land Davis, although the Celtics may prove to be more into their home-grown talent movement than bagging outside superstars.
The Knicks have also been making headlines this week as another team that’s aggressively formulating a package together to court the Pelicans into giving up Anthony Davis. While currently in the middle (start?) of a rebuild, trying to accrue top draft picks and young talent to build around star forward Kristaps Porzingis, the news of Davis being available for a trade is too good for any able team to pass up. While head coach David Fizdale has been adamant about “sticking to the plan” and not worrying about Davis, there is something undeniable about the allure of Davis playing for the Knicks.
As of right now, the plan for the Knicks is to clear their books well enough to have enough cap space to sign a free agent like Durant, Walker, or Irving to give Porzingis and Fizdale something to work with, even if the front office hasn’t come out and said it.
If the Knicks want Davis, they need to pony up a hefty bounty to the tune of Kristaps Porzingis, improving rookie Kevin Knox, and their 2019 first round pick in a top-heavy draft. If that trade were to somehow work, maybe with some players like Frank Ntilikina and possibly Tim Hardaway Jr., all of a sudden, the Knicks look like a good spot for those free agents they want so bad to land.
The prospect of having all those all-stars rounded up on the same roster for the first time since the Mike Woodson days, and to a greater extent the Pat Riley days, is incredibly tempting. On top of that, as much as it hurts to say it as a Knicks fan, you remove a lot of question marks of potential if you swap out Porzingis for Davis, a known quantity who’s just about to hit his prime.
The name of the game for this iteration of the Knicks, though, has been patience. Of course, minds get changed all the time, and Anthony Davis was not putting himself out there when the Knicks front office was postulating about playing the long con, but there are some risks that come with being aggressive in trade talks like this. For starters, what happens if Porzingis finds out he’s on the trading block for Davis and the trade doesn’t work out?
Do you risk alienating your young, talented core for Davis and the prospect that he’ll help buck the trend of big name free agents not signing with New York? What if it ends up like a situation much like the Carmelo Anthony trade and the Knicks’s first attempts to sign LeBron James?
What if the Davis trade works, but you can’t move Courtney Lee or Hardaway Jr. and you’re still stuck with those bloated contracts? The risks are considerable, but if the Knicks play their cards right, the rewards could be something not seen since I was too young to even comprehend what a basketball was.
Edited by Garrett Jones | Gcjh23@mail.missouri.edu