One of the most explosive statements from David Griffin's introductory press conference regarded his approach to Anthony Davis. Griffin has already spoke with AD's agent Rich Paul and has a sit down scheduled with Davis himself soon.
Naturally, that statement became the biggest national story of the press conference. Griffin, who has history with Rich Paul's Klutch Sports agency thanks to his years in Cleveland, is not yet resigned that Davis must be traded. Griffin followed that proclamation with another, either Davis would be all-in or all-out.
The New Orleans Pelicans, and only the New Orleans Pelicans, can offer Davis the designated veteran extension on July 1st. It bumps his contract value up from 30% to 35% and tacks on another year as well compared to what Davis could receive in free agency. Signing that contract will be the litmus test for Davis being all-in or all-out in New Orleans. Given the length of the contract, it is difficult to believe Davis will do so. Why?
A designated veteran extension can only be signed from the end of the July Moratorium through the last day before the start of the regular season. A player who signs a designated veteran contract or extension can't be traded for one year after he is signed.
Griffin is still in the process of fleshing out his staff. One of his first calls was to get permission from the Los Angeles Clippers to interview his former assistant in Cleveland, Trent Redden. Redden was on hand when the Clippers, just months after signing Blake Griffin to a max extension, shipped him to the Detroit Pistons.
Davis, a player who celebrated being the "CEO" of his career, would be signing away that agency the moment he puts his signature on the line for a designated player extension.
As we said in our immediate reaction to David Griffin's press conference, this is a leverage play for Griffin.
David Griffin out here trying to build leverage for an Anthony Davis trade in his first ten minutes on the job.— The Bird Writes (@thebirdwrites) April 17, 2019
Barring the unexpected dark horse (and we should all expect a dark horse team to insert itself into an Anthony Davis trade, he is still that good), the most likely destinations for a trade are the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Clippers, and New York Knicks. Let's take a look at the potential assets the Pelicans may receive in a hypothetical trade with these franchises.
Jayson Tatum is at the top of the wish list with a bullet. He has two more years remaining on his rookie contract with restricted rights beyond that. Trading for Tatum while still on his rookie contract also opens the Pelicans to possibly offering Tatum a designated player extension after his second contract.
In addition to Tatum, it is likely Marcus Smart would be demanded in an Anthony Davis trade. Trading with Boston is the most win-now option on the table, and given the statements from David Griffin and owner Gayle Benson at the introductory press conference it makes Boston the most attractive potential partner.
How hilarious would it be if the second New Orleans basketball star demanded a trade to the Lakers, only to suit up for the crosstown Clippers instead?
Moving onto more serious matters, Trent Redden's potential presence on the Pelicans staff would give David Griffin a leg up on any other possible trade partner, intimate knowledge of their players. The Clippers have less in pure star power to offer, but a better collection of possible future draft assets headlined by Miami's 2021 unprotected pick.
Do not discount the upside of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. The inclusion of Montrezl Harrell in this trade gives New Orleans a blend of immediate results and playing the long game with future picks. This package makes the most sense in my opinion if the Pelicans get lucky in the lottery and land Zion Williamson or Ja Morant with their own pick.
Of course, the Pelicans may not need their own lottery luck to find Zion Williamson or Ja Morant in New Orleans next season. The Knicks, thanks to their worst season in franchise history, have the best lottery odds in the league. There's reasonable skepticism that the Knicks would be unlikely to trade the first overall pick should their 14% odds convert. The second overall pick? Or even the third with the right team not looking for a point guard at two? Far more likely.
Currently, this trade fails due to salary cap concerns on the Knicks end. A deal agreed on draft night (when I expect any Davis trade to be finalized) that takes effect on July 1st would work. The Knicks motivation for trading a pick to be Ja Morant and the rest of the included players and assets below (2021 Dallas pick unprotected and the Knicks own 2021 pick) is using AD's presence to attract Kyrie Irving.
As for the Pelicans motivations, this trade is far more future focused than any other options. Zion Williamson or Ja Morant would be the foundation the rest of the franchise would be built around, and I would not be surprised if David Griffin at least considered trading Jrue Holiday (maybe to the Clippers for a lesser value version of the above trade?) if this is the Anthony Davis trade.
Where will Davis suit up next season? The Celtics are clearly the favorites. Danny Ainge's ability to offer New Orleans a package in-line with the direction Gayle Benson and David Griffin want to take the franchise cannot be understated. Trading with Boston allows Griffin to sufficiently play the long game (especially if the Memphis pick does not convey this season and is included) while setting up the team to compete immediately.
The NBA Draft lottery is on May 14th and the draft itself follows on June 20th. David Griffin has a very busy two months ahead of him. I would be very surprised if the Davis trade is not agreed on by the draft.