- Anthony Davis has requested a trade from the New Orleans Pelicans.
- Trading a young star player like Davis could result in the next blockbuster trade between now and the February 7 trade deadline or after the season is over.
- Based on rumours and reports about what the Pelicans want, where Davis wants to land, and who is available, we came up with basic outlines for six blockbuster trades, ranked from most to least likely.
Anthony Davis’ trade request from the New Orleans Pelicans has sent the NBA world into a tailspin.
It’s rare that a player of Davis’ talent and age hits the market, and every team around the NBA has interest. Making a deal can be tricky, however, because Davis will be a free agent in 2020.
The Pelicans have two paths to take with Davis: trade him before the February 7 trade deadline, or wait until the offseason until after the NBA draft lottery has been decided and when the Boston Celtics (the team with the best assets) can make an offer.
We came up with six trade scenarios for Davis, based on reports and rumours floating around about possible destinations, with the idea that the Pelicans would like a package of good players and future assets in return. Each one is ESPN Trade Machine-approved.
We didn’t get into specifics on draft-pick protections or what the Pelicans would send back to make trade packages work. We did, however, leave talented, difference-making players like Jrue Holiday out of any deals.
Here’s a look at six possible trade destinations for Davis, ranked from most to least likely.
1. Los Angeles Lakers
What a trade could look like: The Lakers send Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Lance Stephenson, a future first-round pick, and a future second-round pick for Davis and Solomon Hill.
Why the Lakers do it: The Lakers desperately need a second star around LeBron James, and their options are limited. Davis and James put the Lakers in championship contention. Taking on Hill lightens the Pelicans’ payroll and gives the Lakers some depth on the wing, even if it eats into their 2019 cap space. It’s worth it for Davis.
Why the Pelicans do it: People expect Davis to let the Pelicans know that the Lakers are his preferred destination, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. That gives the Pelicans less wiggle room in negotiations with other teams.
It might not be a home-run deal, but Ball and Ingram have untapped potential and could generate fan interest. Kuzma is already a solid rotation player with borderline All-Star potential. Caldwell-Pope’s and Stephenson’s contracts come off the books in the summer, and they get two picks in return. It’s not the worst segue into the post-Anthony Davis era for New Orleans.
2. Boston Celtics
What a trade could look like: The Celtics send Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, their future first-round pick, and the Memphis Grizzlies’ protected 2020 first-round pick (assuming it doesn’t transfer this year) for Davis and filler.
Why the Celtics do it: The Celtics are widely regarded as having the best package to offer the Pelicans, but they cannot make a deal until July because of an obscure Collective Bargaining Agreement rule regarding Kyrie Irving’s and Davis’ contracts.
So for making the Pelicans wait, the Celtics give in and send Tatum, one of the most prized young players in the league. In Davis and Irving, the Celtics have one of the most formidable tandems in the league, plus veteran talent in Al Horford and Gordon Hayward, even if it costs them their best young assets.
Why the Pelicans do it: If the Pelicans want to play hardball, they ignore Davis’ trade request this year and take it to the summer so they can hear the Celtics’ offer. But for waiting, they demand Tatum, who looks like a future star. Brown is no slouch either, and Smart is a valuable on-court and locker-room presence. This is one of the only deals that might help keep the Pelicans competitive now while promising a brighter future.
3. New York Knicks
What a trade could look like: The Knicks send Kristaps Porzingis, Tim Hardaway Jr., Frank Ntilikina, and their 2019 first-round pick to the Pelicans for Davis and filler.
Why the Knicks do it: It’s costly for the Knicks, trading their first homegrown star player in years in Porzingis, plus a pick that could end up as No. 1. But Davis is better than Porzingis, and it comes with the hope that Davis attracts another star talent in free agency to join the Knicks. (Kevin Durant?)
Why the Pelicans do it: This package might be the highest-risk, highest-reward trade for the Pelicans. Porzingis is a true star, but he’s also a 7-foot-3 big man coming off an ACL tear and heading for restricted free agency this summer. If he’s healthy, he keeps the Pelicans relevant and in the playoff hunt. If the Knicks’ pick lands at No. 1, the Pelicans add Zion Williamson, giving them a young, exciting, star-driven front-court.
4. Chicago Bulls
What a trade could look like: The Bulls send Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr., their 2019 first-round pick, and a future second-round pick for Davis and filler.
Why the Bulls do it: Davis isn’t interested in joining the Bulls, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, but he is from Chicago, so the Bulls take a gamble that they can persuade Davis to stay home in the long term. He gives a wayward team in a big market a true star, and though the Bulls give up a lot for a potential rental, they hope Davis can attract other star players.
Why the Pelicans do it: It’s not the most stunning return, but Markkanen looks like a future star, Carter is an interesting rookie big man, and LaVine is an exciting scorer who, while overpaid, has obvious talent. The 2019 draft pick might end up in the top three. It’s a safe, reasonable return with the potential for big upside if the Pelicans want to move quickly.
5. Denver Nuggets
What a trade could look like: The Nuggets send Jamal Murray, Paul Millsap, Michael Porter Jr., and a future first-round pick for Davis and filler.
Why the Nuggets do it: Murray has been off the table, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, but the Nuggets give in for the tantalising prospect of teaming up Davis and Nikola Jokic. They have enough pieces to surround those two and remain competitive, even while giving up two of their four best players.
Why the Pelicans do it: Murray is one of the best young players in the NBA, Millsap is a solid veteran who can keep them competitive, and Porter was regarded as a top draft pick until his injuries in college. The Pelicans stay competitive while getting one young star in Murray and a possible second in Porter.
6. Miami Heat
What a trade could look like: The Heat send Josh Richardson, Tyler Johnson, Justise Winslow, Bam Adebayo, and two future first-round picks for Davis and filler.
Why the Heat do it: The Heat are desperate for a star and have the market to persuade a player like Davis to re-sign. They were in on the chase for Jimmy Butler but reportedly balked at the price. For Davis, they throw the kitchen sink at the Pelicans to land their first star since LeBron James left.
Why the Pelicans do it: It’s the least flashy return here. But Richardson is a borderline All-Star on one of the best deals in the league, Winslow has found new life as a point guard, Adebayo is a raw but talented second-year big man, and the Pelicans get plenty of draft capital. The Pelicans could remain competitive with this roster and have pieces to swing another deal for a wayward star or future assets.
Now see which players have made the most in their NBA careers:
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