As of this morning, the Anthony Davis sweepstakes is at a fever pitch.
Toronto has just captured their first NBA championship by utilizing what many believe to be a “rental” player in Kawhi Leonard and we also watched in agony Golden State likely lose both Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson for the coming season to potentially career-altering injuries. What this amounts to is a drastically altered public perception of how the AD arms race will play out.
Whichever team finally puts it all on the table to land the superstar will have the opportunity to integrate the Mobil 1 salesman into their culture and try to sell him on a long term competitive home complete with financial security in the event of a similar catastrophic injury which he’s even witnessed first hand with DeMarcus Cousins.
With less than a week before the NBA Draft crystalizes some potential assets into actual players, it’s imperative some of these franchises put all their cards on the table and get the deal done as soon as possible. For New Orleans this will mean determining which of those prized assets takes precedence amongst the pack. Here at The Bird Writes we rounded up the 10 likeliest top prizes on the table and ranked them amongst our staff to see exactly what we most value as a group in a potential deal.
(Note: This exercise did not include potential third team pieces like Bradley Beal, CJ McCollum etc.)
Dennis Smith Jr.
Arguably the Knicks best player to offer in a deal, Smith doesn’t appeal for a variety of reasons including his lack of versatility at the point. An athletic marvel with little else to his game thus far, it’s clear he needs more seasoning.
Recently mentioned by “sources” as the most valuable asset to the Pelicans in a Lakers trade, it’s clear that doesn’t stand out for us. Kuzma is a young player with some potential and has put up good offensive numbers early in his career, but concerns about his ceiling keeps his value lower than what Lakers fans seem to believe.
Heavily mentioned as a key piece in all Laker packages, Ingram did not crack our top 10 list in any AD return. This is attributed to a combination of things including health concerns, play style and advanced metrics which do not favor the young forward.
A much ballyhooed pick, but as we saw with this year’s Kings pick dropping to 14, a somewhat volatile asset. Should it convey next year it will very likely fall in between 7-14 which is good value; however, the dream scenario of the pick jumping up into the top 4 in 2021 with the potential for the ‘double draft’ still in play makes it a tantalizing piece to retain or move in a deal later.
9. Brooklyn Nets - Caris LeVert, 6’7 Forward: 13.7 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 3.9 APG
LeVert exploded at the start of the 2018-19 season averaging 19 PPG through his first 13 performances in the season before a dramatic and fluke injury disrupted his breakout. He returned to post intermittent success late in the season and showed flashes of the multi talented wing he was before the injury. Odds are he won’t be the key piece in an AD deal, but he could be one that tilts the scales in Brooklyn’s favor if David Griffin sees him as a long term fit at small forward.
8. Brooklyn Nets - Jarrett Allen, 6’11 Center: 10.9 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 1.5 BPG
A rim protecting big to slot next to Zion would be a nice addition to the roster in the wake of AD’s departure. Allen has some absolute showstopping blocks on his resume and would surely provide the same flexibility and fluidity for the rest of the roster by keeping the paint in check against high flyers around the league.
7. Los Angeles Lakers - Lonzo Ball, 6’6 Guard: 9.9 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 5.4 APG
There’s a lot to like and dislike about Lakers guard Lonzo Ball. His passing, vision, instincts and defense are all high level skills that generally can’t be coached into a repertoire. However his concerns weigh heavily on him as an asset to be prized in any AD deal. The two most glaring being his lack of a consistent jump shot and the concern of any LaVar Ball sideshow taking up oxygen in New Orleans while trying to cultivate the ideal environment for Zion.
6. Los Angeles Lakers - 2019 #4 Pick
The most valued asset from the Lakers doesn’t crack the top 5. While the #4 pick has solid value and would allow the Pelicans to pair another young piece with Zion for the future, rumors seem to indicate they’d prefer to flip the pick for a currently star under contract. Players to consider with this pick would likely be Jarrett Culver, Darius Garland or my personal preference, Coby White.
5. Boston Celtics - Jaylen Brown, 6’7 Forward: 13 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 1.4 APG
One of the many pieces of Boston’s disappointing 2019 season, Brown still performed at a respectable level amid the turmoil and even accepted a role within the NBPA. He profiles as a high level 3-and-D style wing that should be able to compete at a high level with the top wings in the league for a long time. However he is heading into the final season of his rookie deal and will no doubt be needing an extension which could complicate New Orleans cap situation going forward if that’s something they prioritize.
4. New York Knicks - 2019 #3 Pick
Falling to the #3 selection was gut-wrenching for Knicks fans, and when you combine that with the Durant injury and rumors of Kyrie Irving headed to Brooklyn, New York is in a state of despair — have you seen Stephen A. Smith lately? The #3 pick though does offer the opportunity to either pair Zion with his college running mate and best friend RJ Barrett, or flip it to another team that loves Barrett for additional assets. New York’s primary issue is they lack other inviting pieces for trading purposes to either get Davis outright or grab other assets and reroute them to New Orleans. So even though the number three draft pick is highly regarded, it’s tough to see New York finding a way to ultimately utilize it in a deal.
3. Los Angeles Clippers - Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, 6’6 Guard; 10.8 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 3.3 APG
Within our ranks there is a very clear line of separation for the top assets we’d prefer in an AD return and SGA is the starting point. He’s valued highly by nearly every staffer and with good reason. The young point guard has tremendous intangibles and a fluidity to his game that’s hard to quantify. He was a lower tier recruit before taking off through his lone season at Kentucky and then being drafted onto the entertaining and scrappy Clippers squad. L.A. has every reason to desire holding onto him as a long term cornerstone — but not if they want Anthony Davis.
2. Brooklyn Nets - D’Angelo Russell, 6’5 Guard; 21.1 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 7.0 APG
Arguably the best player in consideration for any straight up Davis deal, Russell comes with a bevy of complications. For starters he’s heading into restricted free agency which would require some cooperation on his part to facilitate any trade to New Orleans. He’s also coming off the best year of his career and we just saw two of the top free agents on the board go down to year long injuries, meaning D’Lo is almost assuredly going to get a max offer in the neighborhood of $27-$30 million next season. Russell also continued a trend of immaturity this offseason when he was stopped in an airport for attempting to smuggle marijuana through security in an Arizona Tea can. Even with all those concerns though, Russell is an intoxicating on court pairing for the Pelicans given his size, style and age. D’Lo is both an elite shooter off catch and shoots or the bounce and an unselfish creator for his teammates. In visualizing a pairing with Jrue Holiday, he’s advanced enough to function as the primary ball handler while giving Jrue the space to attack and also makes for an ideal pick and roll partner with Zion Williamson.
1. Boston Celtics - Jayson Tatum, 6’8 Forward; 15.7 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 2.1 APG
Jayson Tatum is, has and will be the top asset on the board for the Pelicans unless a dramatic outside the box play materializes. If the Celtics had the ability to trade for Davis within the past season, I have no doubt AD would already be suited up in green and white and Tatum holding a Benson umbrella. The complications of any Tatum deal begin and end with Rich Paul’s adamant insistence that dealing for Davis now would function as a one-year rental for Boston. Despite a down season in Beantown, Tatum still glistens with potential as a primary scorer for a title team given his elite shooting stroke, performance in the previous year’s postseason, and untapped potential stemming from a complicated year in the Boston locker room. Lining up the Duke product alongside a fellow Blue Devil in Zion would make for an explosive and dynamic one-two punch that could set the Pelicans up for title runs in the Crescent City for a good while.
Let’s hear how you would rank these assets in the comments below!