- The New Orleans Pelicans did not trade Anthony Davis at the NBA trade deadline.
- Now, the Pelicans are planning to play Davis for the remainder of the season, though they will reduce his minutes and sit him in most back-to-backs.
- Some think that the Pelicans are doing what’s right for the integrity of the game, and playing Davis, who, after all, gets paid to play.
- Playing Davis comes with immense risk, as an injury could hurt his trade value, and he could worsen the Pelicans’ draft pick by helping them win more games.
The NBA trade deadline came and went on Thursday, and despite a flurry of trades, Anthony Davis did not get moved from the New Orleans Pelicans.
The Pelicans ultimately decided to hang onto their star big man through the rest of the season, giving them the opportunity to re-engage teams when the draft order is decided and when the Boston Celtics can get involved in the bidding.
Now the Pelicans have an awkward situation to face – bringing Davis back into the mix.
Davis sat out while he was involved in trade rumours. Now that he’ll be with the team for at least two more months, the Pelicans are bringing him back into the mix.
“A number of factors contributed to this decision,” the team said in a statement on Thursday. “Ultimately, Anthony made it clear to us that he wants to play, and he gives our team the best opportunity to win games.
“Moreover, the Pelicans want to preserve the integrity of the game and align our organisation with NBA policies. We believe Anthony playing upholds the values that are in the best interest of the NBA and its fans. We look forward to seeing Anthony in a Pelicans uniform again soon.”
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Friday that the Pelicans play to decrease Davis’ minutes per game while avoiding playing him on most back-to-backs.
There are two schools of thought on this decision – the Pelicans are either doing what’s right, or making a silly decision.
Players should play
As the Pelicans noted in their statement, it seems right, in spirit, to let Davis play. That is, after all, what this is about.
NBA players have limited careers. Denying Davis a few healthy months of playing might seem wrong, even if he did ask to leave the team a year and a half before his contract is up.
Teams could also theoretically constantly worry about injuries. That’s one of the arguments for sitting Davis – that he could suffer an injury that could destroy his trade value.
There’s a world where teams go too far worrying about injuries. Should everyone on the trading block sit out? Should the Lakers have sat their young players in the lead-up to the deadline to prevent them from suffering an injury and tanking their trade value? Should impending free agents sit out the final few months of their contract to avoid injuries?
It’s a risk, yes, but Davis is still getting paid to play, and if he wants to play, then he should be on the floor.
It is a big risk, and the Pelicans are incentivized to do the opposite
The Pelicans could worry too much about injuries, but there are some worst-case scenarios here. Davis’ trade value won’t tank if he suffers and injury like broken wrist. It could be majorly affected if he tears an ACL or injures his Achilles. It would be a devastating development for one of the NBA’s best players, and have ramifications for the teams hoping to employ him.
Davis is an injury-prone player. If he were to suffer an injury that would hold him out for several months, extending into next season, what would his trade market look like? Would the team that lands the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft be willing to offer it, especially knowing their rental of Davis could be even shorter? Would the Celtics still offer Jayson Tatum?
Furthermore, it helps the Pelicans to not play Davis. As unsavoury as it is, if the Pelicans know they are going to lose Davis in the next six months, they’d be smart to tank and improve their draft pick. It currently is projected to be the ninth pick in the draft, according to Tankathon. Playing Davis could push it further down the draft order.
There are also some awkward team dynamics to handle. Davis has, by most accounts, handled the situation well, remaining a good teammate and active around the team. Nonetheless, the players know that he asked to leave. They know it’s a short-term situation. Do the Pelicans owe it to play a player who asked to leave well before his contract is up to play him?
Ultimately, it could be a few uncomfortable months for Davis and the Pelicans, as they hope to minimise awkward moments and keep their departing star healthy. That’s just one fallout of the complicated process of trading a malcontent superstar.
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