The Race for Anthony Davis: Who Will Land the Brow?
What a tough year it's already been for the city of New Orleans. In football, you lose Super Bowl dreams off a blown call. And today, the face of the Pelicans basketball organization in Anthony Davis announced, via his agent Rich Paul, that he will not sign an extension with the team and wants to be traded.
Davis is eligible to sign a five-year, $240 million super max extension this summer. After this season, he will have one final year left on his contract with the Pelicans and can become a free agent in the summer of 2020.
Even though next week is the NBA trade deadline, there is no rush for Davis to be traded, his agent and sources told ESPN.
"Anthony wants to be traded to a team that allows him a chance to win consistently and compete for a championship," 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."
Davis, who is still just 25, averages 29.3 points and 13.3 rebounds per game and has been one of the more elite big men of the league.
So the next question is simply where does the Brow want to go next?
Lakers go all in way too early
It's no secret that the Lakers want to be at the center of this trade. LeBron said it "would be crazy" to play alongside Davis. And for Davis, he's already with LeBron's close friend Rich Paul in Klutch Sports, so it would be too perfect of a fit.
The only problem here is the Lakers might be dressing up their assets way too nicely right now and the Pelicans see right through that. Los Angeles will likely offer a pair of their four supporting cast members: Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram or Josh Hart, along with just about anyone else who is not named LeBron James.
Ingram and Kuzma are exciting and could mesh nicely with Jrue Holiday and the rest of the Pelicans.
There are a couple problem here with New Orleans in a possible trade scenario with the Lakers. The Lakers have been the most vocal about this trade possibility, while the Pelicans don't seem to want to trade Davis within the Western Conference or trade for pieces that may or may not work.
The Lakers best option is involving a third team, like Orlando, when dealing for Davis. If they can send off assets to Orlando in exchange for the Magic to send either Nikola Vucevic or Aaron Gordon to New Orleans, the Pelicans may agree to a three-team trade.
- Lakers get: Anthony Davis
- Pelicans get: Nikola Vuvevic, Terrance Ross, Brandon Ingram
- Magic get: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Josh Hart, Ivica Zubac
Boston waits until summer, goes all in for AD
Three extra 2019 draft picks (Memphis, LA Clippers & Sacramento/Philadephia) look like winning lottery cards for Danny Ainge and the Boston Celtics, and their quest for Anthony Davis looks like it's only getting clearer.
Getting out the technicalities, Boston cannot trade until July 1 because the Collective Bargaining rules won't allow both Kyrie Irving's and Davis' contracts to be on a roster together under that provision. Irving becomes a free agent on July 1, where he is likely set to re-sign for big bucks with the Celtics. Boston can theoretically agree to a Davis trade with New Orleans before Kyrie re-signs and then finalize a trade afterward.
Here are some roadblocks Boston faces, though: Boston could lose both Marcus Morris and Terry Rozier, who would have been viable trade chips, at the end of this season to free agency. Players like Jayson Tatum have started to grow exponentially in value, which makes him something New Orleans would theoretically want, but a weapon Boston doesn't want to give up.
Then there's the case in which Kyrie Irving doesn't re-sign, which would make depth crucial for the Celtics. They might be hesitant to let go of role players like Tatum, Jaylen Brown or Gordon Hayward.
The Celtics best option is to get the most out of this trade with as little of a dent to their roster as they can. As much as they love their golden child in Jayson Tatum, he has to go, along with Marcus Smart, a first round pick and some salary cap filler. The Pelicans might not like it, but Tatum can become the next face of their franchise and the tandem of Holiday, Tatum, Smart and company could be the foundation of a rebuild.
- Celtics get: Anthony Davis
- Pelicans get: Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart, Semi Ojeleye, Aron Baynes and Memphis' 2019 first round pick
Or, if Boston wants to get really daring:
- Celtics get: Anthony Davis
- Pelicans get: Gordon Hayward or Kyrie Irving (sign-and-trade scenario) and Memphis' 2019 first round pick
New York fantasizes and somehow lands the Brow
New York has also become a trade destination and free agent target among the NBA for a storied organization that has been patiently waiting for greatness again. Free agents on their radar include Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker and Kevin Durant. Anything is possible with the Knicks.
The Knicks could also land a top-5 draft pick in 2019, which could sway the Pelicans in a trade. But the problem is New York has almost no trade chips to offer anyone right now, so they need to get creative.
That's where Kristaps Porzingis comes into play. If the former prized possession becomes healthy again, who knows what kind of star-power Porzingis could have. It would have to come with a guarantee physical and medical clearance, however.
The Knicks best option is to get lucky and test their luck even further. If New York gets a top-5 pick, they could use that plus Porzingis to sway New Orleans toward their way. It's a stretch and would probably mean that New Orleans' return for Davis hasn't been great (which probably won't happen).
- Knicks get: Anthony Davis
- Pelicans get: Kristaps Porzingis, Emmanuel Mudiay, Tim Hardaway Jr., Trey Burke and 2019 First Round Pick
Rockets want to soar to the top
With title-contender talks and Davis' hopes to join a team that will chase championships, he needs to look no further than the Rockets, who continue to jab at the Warriors for the West. But there are so many problems with the Rockets in terms of salary cap, which makes this nearly impossible.
However, there are some slight instances to rope New Orleans in. There's Chris Paul, who was the hero in New Orleans before Davis joined the organization. We also saw how the Rockets were willing to package off four future first round picks for Jimmy Butler. That's another possibility. Give New Orleans another starter like PJ Tucker or Eric Gordon and you could have a strong bulk of options.
The Rockets best option is to be heartless. Trade everyone and anyone not named James Harden. Give away the future too—countless picks, future guarantees, cash exemptions... anything! Go all in for a star that can elevate Houston's title chances.
- Rockets get: Anthony Davis, Solomon Hill
- Pelicans get: Chris Paul, PJ Tucker, four future first round picks (2019, 2021, 2023, 2025)
Mixing up the process
Although Philly has sped up "the process" with the trade for Jimmy Butler and Joel Embiid having a monstrous season, it's always good to look for the next best thing. Ben Simmons and Embiid also have shown us that they might not be able to coexist with one another for the long run.
Now is the time for Philadelphia to sell high. Here's the ultimate buyer: New Orleans with the best big man in the league. Putting both Embiid and Davis in a single frontcourt would compare with some of the all-time greatest frontcourts in NBA history. Davis' title hopes would grow exponentially in the East and Philly could be the best spot for him.
The 76ers best option is to rethink their approach and rethink their future stars. As much as the organization values Ben Simmons, Philly is still Embiid's team. Simmons for Anthony Davis, plus salary cap fillers, might also be the best return the Pelicans could get.
- 76ers get: Anthony Davis
- Pelicans get: Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz, Wilson Chandler and 2020 second-round draft pick from Dallas
Other trade scenarios:
Golden State loads up even more
You can never count the Warriors out, especially with the thought of losing Kevin Durant in free agency.
Warriors get: Anthony Davis
Pelicans get: Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Quinn Cook, Kevon Looney, 2019 first round pick, 2021 first round pick
Raptors trade up-and-comers
The ultimate pitch for Kawhi Leonard to stay in Toronto: get Anthony Davis.
Raptors get: Anthony Davis
Pelicans get: Jose Valanciunas, Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, three future 1st round picks