The New Orleans Pelicans have become the last group of people on Earth to be notified that Anthony Davis won’t be re-signing with them and wants to be traded.
“Anthony wants to be traded to a team that allows him a chance to win consistently and compete for a championship,” his agent Rich Paul told ESPN. “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.”
The Pelicans strongly denied any talks of dealing their franchise cornerstone prior to this moment, hoping that they could have enough success to convince Davis to stay while they build a championship roster around him. The reality is that Davis has only won one playoff series during his career and looks no closer to postseason success after a dismal 22-28 start to this season.
Despite the front office’s best attempts to quell trade talk, the chatter has increased around Davis throughout the entire season. Los Angeles Lakers All-Star LeBron James, who is also represented by Paul, did them no favors when he described Davis as a player he would love to play with.
New Orleans attempted to prevent this from happening. They had their chances. Nerlens Noel and a 1st Round Pick turned into Jrue Holiday in 2014. Holiday has been brilliant ever since including being a key component in the Pelicans’ impressive defeat of the Portland Trail Blazers in the 2018 playoffs. Other risks have not panned out as well. Acquiring Demarcus Cousins cost them Buddy Hield and another pick. Now Hield is breaking out in Sacramento and Cousins has tipped the scales for the Golden State Warriors.
I want to once again reinforce what an unbelievable wasted opportunity it has been having Anthony Davis and not winning more
All Time NBA Career Leaders in PER
3) Anthony Davis
5) David Robinson
6) Wilt Chamberlain pic.twitter.com/dcl5OnRxLz
— T-Bob Hebert (@TBob53) January 28, 2019
Now the Pelicans face the unfortunate situation of having to lose a top-five player during his prime. When trading a superstar you never get equal value back. However, the Pelicans have a chance to begin the process of rebuilding and will be able to acquire young talent and assets to begin their process with. Even with Anthony Davis, New Orleans had a tough time attracting high-value free agents to the Big Easy. By starting young they can build a homegrown contender and attempt to entice free agents with a competitive young core.
The Brow has requested to play for a contender but the Pelicans don’t have to honor anything besides their own best interests. Their leverage is limited by the fact that teams would be signing Davis, who will be a free agent in 2020, on a rental. Without a promise of a long term commitment from Davis, teams will hesitate to give up prime assets for a player they might lose.
The popular consensus is that the Lakers and Celtics are the top contenders to land AD as they have the most enticing combination of young players and assets. So will it be Boston, Los Angeles, or the field for AD?
Any deal with the Lakers no doubt has to include Kyle Kuzma or Brandon Ingram along with multiple other players and picks. This has been the plan the entire time for Los Angeles who now has to decide whether to aggressively pursue a trade before the February 7th deadline or wait for the Boston Celtics to join the fray this coming summer. Regardless, this is a major part of the plan for LeBron James and Magic Johnson going forward.
Hearing from sources if Lakers want Anthony Davis, who has requested a trade, LA has to start the deal with Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Ivica Zubac, No. 1 pick.
— Brad Turner (@BA_Turner) January 28, 2019
A package of Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, and a pick are already enticing pieces to get started with. Lonzo is a special passer that also projects as an above average defender. Kuzma has displayed the ability to play at an All-Star level and can score on every level of the floor. The key phrasing here is “start the deal” so it is possible that the Pelicans can try to convince the Lakers to also include a third piece like Brandon Ingram or Josh Hart. The Pelicans would become a team that could play at great pace and a Lonzo Ball/Jrue Holiday backcourt would be one of the best defensive guard tandems in basketball. If Ingram and/or Kuzma ever reach true All-Star status their combination with Julius Randle and Nikola Mirotic could cause some fits going forward.
The general rule of thumb is not to trade with Danny Ainge but that is difficult when Danny Ainge has all the best assets. The Boston Celtics have the best and widest array of assets to offer the Pelicans. The deal will surely be built around Jayson Tatum and involve the multiple high-value picks that Boston currently holds. This brings the promise of a proven scorer in Tatum that will come along with potentially valuable picks to join him in New Orleans. New Orleans is a small market but would certainly become more attractive to free agents if Tatum meets or exceeds his lofty expectations.
Boston knows that its championship window is closing and that Toronto will be a thorn in their side especially if they are able to secure Kawhi Leonard beyond the conclusion of this season. Adding Davis will give them a starting lineup that gives them a better chance to topple Golden State with their own multiple All-Star lineup of Kyrie Irving, Davis, Gordon Hayward, and Al Horford.
If the Celtics and Lakers fail to get Anthony Davis things will get more interesting. Here are a few interesting scenarios to consider.
- Toronto sells out and offers Pascal Siakim, OG Anunoby, Jonas Vananciunas, filler in order to unite Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard, and Kyle Lowry and make a title run. The Pelicans get long, versatile wings and can build if they land another Superstar.
- Anthony Davis returns home to Chicago and joins Zach Lavine and potentially Lauri Markkanen if the Bulls somehow are able to hold on to him in a deal. Davis’s motivation is to compete, but Chicago’s offer of Wendell Carter Jr, Jabari Parker, and a couple of picks could look more attractive if other options around the league have dried up.
- The Los Angeles Clippers have room to sign two max free agents this summer. By trading for Davis, they would take one of those slots while providing a strong incentive for another max player to come to join him. The Clippers have multiple high-value contracts like Tobias Harris who has been borderline All-Star level. Shai-Gilgeous Alexander is one of the more impressive rookies this season and has the potential to be a great player. Milos Teodosic is one of the world’s best passers and can run alongside Holiday as a pass-first floor general.
- The Knicks tank and get the number pick and offer everything including the kitchen sink (but besides Kristaps Porzingis) plus a chance to sign Zion Williamson. If the Pelicans want Zion they could just hold on to see what team lands the number one pick and start negotiations from there.
There is no doubt that the Pelicans were hoping to avoid this situation but there is a silver lining if they handle things accordingly. Anthony Davis has provided them with the opportunity of time and options. Their execution now will drastically change the franchise’s outlook for years to come.