Where Could Anthony Davis Go?
With a fine of $50,000 toward Anthony Davis, he and his agent, Rich Paul, are wondering where, oh where, could he go next. Both have made it known to the New Orleans Pelicans that Davis won’t sign a supermax extension with the team after his contract expires next season. In other words, he wants out of New Orleans. It would be in the Pelicans’ best interest to trade him and recoup value for the young superstar. With Davis under contract through the 2019-2020 season, the Pelicans are in a position to take their time and find the best offer. With the NBA trade deadline in under two weeks, here’s a look at who could make a push for Davis and their best time to strike.
Move NOW: Pre-Deadline Suitors
Los Angeles Lakers
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Lakers are Davis’ preferred destination and he’d become a rental player until 2020, when the player option in his contract comes up, if traded anywhere else. That gives other teams a sense of urgency to trade for Davis and convince him that it’s worth staying with them. However, this doesn’t mean the Lakers should sit back and wait for Davis to come to them via free agency.
The team is young but with a 34-year-old LeBron James on the roster, they have a short window to go out and chase a championship. Acquiring Davis would be a massive step forward in that direction. Further driving the ties between the two parties, Anthony Davis and LeBron James share an agent in LeBron’s longtime friend Rich Paul. Given that the Pelicans are the ones who ultimately have control of Davis and his contract, they can simply choose the best deal, which would likely be waiting until the offseason when the Boston Celtics can put forward their offer (more on this later).
The risk here is evident: the Lakers missed out on Paul George prior to last season and the Thunder were able to convince him to sign with the team long term, rather than go home to Los Angeles, in the following offseason. The Lakers were also unable to get Kawhi after his trade demand from the Spurs this offseason. In Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, Kyle Kuzma, and Ivica Zubac, the Lakers have a number of young, enticing pieces to offer New Orleans in exchange for Davis. They need to strike now and get their second superstar to complement LeBron and compete for the Western Conference with the juggernaut that is the Golden State Warriors.
Masai Ujiri and the Raptors struck gold this offseason in trading for Kawhi Leonard and with Davis available, they have the opportunity to do so once again. Leonard enters free agency this summer so Toronto’s window is right now to go for a championship and convince Leonard to stay in the 6. Trading for Davis would go a long way in showing just how far Toronto is willing to go to compete for a championship and it might not carry the risk that many might think.
They’d surely have to give up valuable assets like Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby, as well as a draft pick and a contract like Serge Ibaka or Jonas Valanciunas’ to make it work. However, if it’s truly a rental and Kawhi bolts after this season, the Raptors might be able to trade Davis before next season’s trade deadline to recoup some assets before he departs. There are many variables at play for the Raptors and perhaps the most important for them would be getting a deal done before the trade deadline so they could make at least one run with a Leonard-Davis nucleus before the uncertainty of the following offseason hits.
Philadelphia is another team with an urgent championship window due to an impending free agency. Jimmy Butler, whom the 76ers traded for early on this season, will hit free agency this summer. The 76ers have two young stars in Ben Simmons and Embiid that give the team a bright outlook regardless of Butler’s decision but a trade for Davis, who’s still only 25, could vault them to the next level. The catch is that Simmons would likely have to be involved in the trade, so it comes down to a question of fit.
Simmons and Butler’s games don’t complement each other too well. Davis provides them with a better fit and player, also the duo of Embiid and Davis in the post could give the league nightmares for years to come. It remains to be seen whether the 76ers would even be interested in such a trade but it’s certainly something worth considering if they want to keep Jimmy Butler, whose next contract will take him into his 30s, and attack their immediate championship window.
Patience is a Virtue: Offseason Suitors
New York Knicks
The Knicks have been preparing for this offseason by clearing cap space to sign two max-level free agents from a stacked class that includes Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. These moves are highlighted by the trade of Kristaps Porzingis, once thought to be the future of their franchise, to the Dallas Mavericks. While Porzingis could have served as the centerpiece of New York’s deal for Davis, the team still has several assets that could interest the Pelicans, like Kevin Knox and Frank Ntilikina. Their most important asset, however, is their 2019 first round pick.
The Knicks currently hold the league’s worst record at 10-40, giving them a 14% chance of getting the number 1 overall pick. If they were to get the top pick in the draft, they could offer New Orleans the possibility of building around the player of their choice, likely Zion Williamson. It’s impossible to know for sure where that pick will land now, so they must wait until after the draft lottery to put their best offer forward. If they were to land Davis, they could use their cap space to get Davis a max-level superstar teammate in free agency and instantly vault into title contention.
With a deep, young core and a stable of first round picks, the Celtics can likely offer the Pelicans the best deal for Anthony Davis. Players like Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, and Terry Rozier could be included in a deal as Ainge recently said that anyone besides Kyrie Irving would be available in a potential deal for Anthony Davis. The problem is that the Celtics can’t trade for Anthony Davis until the offseason, when Kyrie Irving’s contract comes off the books, due to the Rose Rule. A team can’t acquire two players on Rose Rule rookie-level extensions via trade and both Davis and Irving meet that criteria.
Danny Ainge has had his eye on Anthony Davis’ situation with the Pelicans since missing out on Kevin Durant in 2016 free agency and he’s been gathering assets, including up to 4 first round picks in the coming NBA draft. The timing of Davis’ trade demand is ideal for New Orleans because they can pick and choose the best deal. While the Celtics have the most to offer, the timing hurts their leverage but if Davis remains a Pelican through this year’s trade deadline, they have a great shot at getting their prize.