The time has come, the New Orleans Pelicans will trade Anthony Davis.
It’s a phrase I didn’t legitimately believe I would say until the loss to the Brooklyn Nets on January 2, 2019 really turned my stomach. The Pelicans bench was abominable, yes, but the team lacked the requisite fight and enthusiasm playing together to warrant a legitimate future. Coupled with today’s trade request, it’s imperative ownership and the front office, whomever that may be (Troy Weaver call me), get on the same page about making a Davis trade in the best long-term interests of the franchise.
Chatter league wide is at a fever pitch so let’s examine all the fluctuating elements involved with executing a trade.
Timing is everything, and the Pelicans have a handful of dates circled on the calendar in order to best leverage their strength.
February 7, 2019 - Trade Deadline
The date fast approaching at which New Orleans will no longer be able to make any trades for the duration of this NBA season.
April 10, 2019 - End of the Regular Season
With the season completed, the Pelicans would be allowed to make trades with any non-playoff or eliminated team.
May 14, 2019 - Draft Lottery
The Zion Williamson sweepstakes will undoubtedly be a factor in the Pelicans decision making.
June 16, 2019 - Last Possible Date of the NBA Finals
This date will unequivocally be the end of the playoffs and allow for every team in the league to again be trade eligible.
June 20, 2019 - NBA Draft
An always active day for trades, the 2019 Draft could be unusually active or quiet depending on Davis’s status.
July 1, 2019 - First Day of NBA Free Agency
The absolute day of reckoning because it will be the first day in which Boston, while employing Kyrie Irving under a new extension, may make a trade offer for Davis.
Long time admirers of Davis, the Celtics have been resolute in holding their “war chest of assets” for a superstar deal in sitting out the various other star trade opportunities that have come along; save for Kyrie Irving whom they were able to acquire for an already washed Isiah Thomas and what became Collin Sexton. I would expect them to unload the canons, including picks and Jayson Tatum to start, if they are able to get in the bidding this summer. Danny Ainge is a tough negotiator, but when he has his eyes set on a target, he tends to go all in and there’s so few better to chase than AD.
No surprise here as LeBron James has already openly pined for his fellow Klutch Sports companion to join him in LA. The Lakers, however, lack the top assets to entice the Pelicans in any deal. LeBron’s age may be the only less than advantageous factor among the Lakers assets for Davis, especially if he stays longer on the market.
Quietly positioned with a bevy of assets to unload for a Davis trade, the Knicks could be the favorite should they land a top 3 pick in the draft lottery and have ‘wink wink’ deals (Kevin Durant) lined up to make a splash in Free Agency.
The Sixers are realistic as an option only if they want to be. Their potential trade chip of Ben Simmons would likely top any offer not featuring Zion Williamson. If Philly doesn’t have interest in dealing Simmons; however, they have no realistic path to make a deal.
Dark Horse Destinations
The defending Champs appear to be at the end of their dynasty as presently constituted and have long been a rumored suitor for The Brow. Should Anthony Davis force his way to playing with Stephen Curry, they would continue their run of sustained excellence.
An attempt to bet on their culture and winning ways, pairing the two best individual players from the 2012 Draft in Damian Lillard and Anthony Davis would make for a truly dynamic duo.
Lacking the requisite assets, the Clippers would still make the call immediately in hopes of pairing AD alongside a star free agent signing like Kawhi Leonard. Our own David Fisher has lined up the Clippers as a potential landing spot for Jrue Holiday, which makes more sense in the aggregate.
If the Raptors can retain Kawhi, they should be interested in entering the Davis’ sweepstakes — it might be Masai Ujiri’s next gamble. With Lowry and Leonard in the fold, gambling on Davis becomes far less worrisome as it would pair him with another in his prime Top 10 player on the wing.
If Ernie Grunfeld remains in charge of Washington, one of the simplest ways he may hope to reignite the franchise could be an all-in Davis trade to pair him with their other SuperMax player John Wall. Wall is the most untradeable player in the league at present, but should the team trade for Davis and somehow rekindle Wall’s fire upon his return from injury, it could become a successful pairing. Theoretically.
Okay, this would be dumb by Grunfeld but when has he been prudent?
Consistently mentioned in the past as a team vying for All-Star talent, the Suns could put together a very appealing package and remain competitive. However, LeBron buddy James Jones current position as GM may keep them from being as aggressive as they could be.
Four Best Theoretical Offers
*Deals Contingent on Lottery & Cap Movement*
Boston Gets Their Man
Pelicans Recieve: Jayson Tatum, Domantas Sabonis, highest two of Memphis, Sacramento, LA Clippers and Boston 2019 First Round Picks.
Pacers Receive: Gordon Hayward, Robert Williams III, potential draft compensation from Boston
Celtics Receive: Anthony Davis
Rationale: A slam dunk for New Orleans as they would return two young blue chip prospects on cost controlled deals whose rights they would retain for a soon departing Davis. Tatum and Sabonis would immediately start and take the reigns of New Orleans future with or without Jrue Holiday in the fold, but they would allow for a very easy transition given they would be flanked by likely at least three 2019 lottery picks.
This is toughest for Indiana, but they will have to make a decision on Myles Turner or Sabonis soon enough and this helps them alleviate that issue while Victor Oladipo gets healthy and Hayward gets reps without any expectations. The Pacers take a gamble on the hometown hero in Hayward, but should he return to form alongside the injured Oladipo, they would make for a fearsome duo in the East alongside Myles Turner.
Boston...well Boston realizes their dream.
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Pelicans Receive: Kristaps Porzingis, Courtney Lee, Lance Thomas, Frank Ntilikina, Knicks 2019 First Round Pick
New York Knicks Receive: Anthony Davis; Cap Room to Sign Stars
Rationale: It doesn’t rid them of the Hardaway contract, but shedding Lee, Thomas and the responsibility of resigning Porzingis would be a massive win for New York in acquiring Davis. This would certainly require some under the table deal making, but pairing AD with some combination of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson or even DeMarcus Cousins, would catapault the Knicks into the upper echelons of the East. If they can dump Hardaway and pull off a 2010 Heatles trio, what’s not to like?
For the Pelicans this represents a simple and straightforward reset. The team would acquire a Top 6 pick along with their own lottery pick and young stud Kristaps Porzingis’ rights in his upcoming restricted free agency. But come December 15 (or January 15th?) and if Porzingis is unhappy with remaining in New Orleans, being able to deal him on a long term contract would be just as valuable.
Trust the Process?
Pelicans Receive: Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz, Wilson Chandler, 2019 Philadelphia 1st Round Pick, 2019 Chicago 2nd Round Pick, 2021 Miami 1st Round Pick
76ers Receive: Anthony Davis, Elfrid Payton
Rationale: Breaking up Simmons and Joel Embiid may be short sighted, but pairing Davis and Embiid could be world breaking. The duo could seamlessly play together in a supersized version of what the Pels were trying to do with DeMarcus Cousins. Flanking them with a shooter like JJ Redick and all around elite wing like Jimmy Butler only elevates Philadelphia’s long term ceiling.
New Orleans acquires a Top 15 NBA talent in Simmons whose rights they’d also control. Simmons would alleviate the playmaker issue and allow the roster to retain Jrue Holiday going forward along with perhaps head coach Alvin Gentry who could be a perfect figurehead to push Simmons to another level.
Treading Water to Sell Tickets
Pelicans Receive: CJ McCollum, Zach Collins, Anfernee Simons, Al-Farouq Aminu, 2019 Portland 1st Round Pick, 2021 Portland Top 4 Protected 1st Round Pick
Blazers Receive: Anthony Davis, Solomon Hill, E’Twaun Moore
Rationale: Obviously a gamble by Portland on themselves, but we’ve seen this trend recently pay off in spades for Oklahoma City and possibly Toronto should Kawhi see the potential in his situation with the Raptors.
The Trail Blazers have the culture, leadership and winning heritage to potentially keep Davis around if his pairing with Lillard and co. were to prove fruitful over the next 12 months. The Pelicans would/should only make this deal if ownership is absolutely determined to remain competitive as possible and maximize local interest. McCollum would provide a dynamic scoring backcourt mate for Jrue Holiday and decent prospects in Collins & Simons to pair with their draft hauls.
This deal is the least appealing possibility as a fan, but one we should entertain.
All things said and done, the lone prerogative of this franchise at the moment is establishing a new leadership hierarchy to execute other deadline deals and waiting until the lottery balls sort things out to make any decisions on the future of Anthony Davis. Let him rest and remain healthy while the team jockeys for position to attain Zion Williamson or one of the other top talents in the 2019 Draft.