- Anthony Davis has requested a trade from the New Orleans Pelicans.
- The timing is interesting, as Davis isn’t a free agent until 2020, and the request comes 10 days before the trade deadline.
- Teams may be willing up to give even more for Davis since they would be guaranteed almost 1.5 seasons, as opposed to just one.
- The team that can make the Pelicans the best offer, the Boston Celtics, cannot make an offer for Davis until this summer, due to contract complications.
- It puts the Pelicans in an interesting situation: trade Davis before the deadline and hope teams make their best offers or wait out the season until the Celtics make an offer and hope it forces teams to top it.
The moment the NBA has been gearing up for years has arrived:Anthony Davis has said he won’t re-sign long-term with the New Orleans Pelicans and would like to be traded.
The timing of Davis’ trade request and his contract status throw interesting wrinkles into the entire process.
Davis can become a free agent in 2020. The reason his trade request matters now, however, is it’s a signal he will not sign the five-year “supermax” contract the Pelicans can offer him in this summer.
The clock on Davis starts now, as the Pelicans will want to trade him to get something in return so that he doesn’t leave in free agency.
But it also puts the Pelicans in a tight window. The trade deadline is February 7. If the Pelicans don’t get a deal done before February 7, they will have to wait for the offseason, in which they may find the offers are slightly less. Think of it this way: a competitive team trading for Davis now has the chance to make a playoff push this season and next season, all while trying to convince him to re-sign in 2020. If the Pelicans don’t deal him before February 7, teams have essentially one season to play Davis and persuade him to re-sign.
On the other hand, if the Pelicans are determined to trade Davis this season, it may shut out the team that can make the best offer: the Boston Celtics.
Due to an NBA rule, the Celtics can’t trade for Davis because he and Kyrie Irving are both on “designated” contracts. The league prevents teams from having two “designated” players.
The Celtics, with their treasure trove of talented, young players and future draft picks, can’t trade for Davis until July when Irving becomes a free agent and signs a new deal that no longer makes him a “designated” player.
What do the Pelicans want in return?
The trade packages the Pelicans are offered and what they’re looking for in return could make a difference in whether Davis is dealt this season or next.
The Los Angeles Lakers will surely get in on the bidding, and their offer is likely to be based around some combination of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, and future draft picks. Will those young players – interesting prospects, but not blue-chippers – be enough?
What about the New York Knicks, as ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported? The Knicks have similarly interesting young players, but can also offer their 2019 first-round pick, which looks likely to fall in the top three of this year’s draft? The Chicago Bulls could provide a similar package.
Or might the Pelicans go the route the San Antonio Spurs took this past summer with Kawhi Leonard? The Spurs valued getting back players who could contribute right away to stay competitive. They reportedly turned down players like Markelle Fultz from the Philadelphia 76ers and wanted all of the Lakers’ young players and assets (a step too far for the Lakers at the time).
Instead, the Spurs got an All-Star player in DeMar DeRozan from the Toronto Raptors in return for Leonard. It may not have been the wisest move in planning for a future rebuild, but the Spurs have slotted DeRozan in and kept rolling.
The Pelicans, in one of the smallest markets in the league, might prefer a star player in return, plus a few more modest assets in return to plan for the future. Small-market teams can’t always stomach long, slow rebuilds at the cost of competitiveness and fan interest.
The questions then are how many teams have All-Star players they would willingly move for Davis, and how many of them would pique the interest of the Pelicans?
Would the Pelicans be interested in John Wall, a legitimate star point guard who now has major injury questions and a hefty contract? (Wall is out for the season but would at least give them a star to build around going forward). Could the Pelicans convince the Philadelphia 76ers to part with Ben Simmons? Would it take Kristaps Porzingis and an unprotected first-round pick to get Davis to the Knicks?
Or will the Pelicans have to settle with a secondary type of star with an asset? Would a package involving C.J. McCollum and Zach Collins from the Portland Trail Blazers work? Or Khris Middleton and Malcolm Brogdon from the Milwaukee Bucks?
These are all hypotheticals, but the combination of teams that can get involved in the bidding might change depending on what the Pelicans want in return.
What if the Pelicans ignore Davis … for now?
Many expected the Pelicans to pursue trades this season to try and bolster their team to make a playoff around Davis. Davis’ trade request might not change any of that.
The Pelicans are 22-28, six games out of the playoffs. Davis is out for at least another week with a hand injury, meaning the team could still slide further back.
However, once Davis is healthy, it’s possible the team could make a run for the postseason in the second half. The Pelicans have been hit hard by injuries this season, but have played well when everyone is healthy.
That could help the team from a business standpoint (making the playoffs) and allow them to wait until the Celtics can make their best offer.
Even when scanning the league, it’s hard to find a team that can reasonably top the Celtics’ offer – young, talented players who can contribute right away, plus future draft picks to help the Pelicans through a rebuild. New Orleans could also then string out the game, making teams more desperate and perhaps more willing to top the Celtics’ offer.
The Pelicans are set up to lose a generational star – they should take their time in finding his replacement.
If they signal this to opposing teams, it could also get them exactly what they want – teams so desperate for almost 1.5 seasons of Davis that they go deeper than they usually would be to make the best offer to the Pelicans.