29+ Trade Ideas for Anthony Davis
Anthony Davis wants out of New Orleans and the League is on high alert. What do the other 29 teams in the NBA have to offer?
This was always going to happen.
In a 7:09 A.M. tweet that plunged the basketball world into chaos Monday morning, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Anthony Davis had no intention of signing a $240 million “supermax” contract extension with the New Orleans Pelicans, and that he wished to be dealt to a franchise that offered him the best shot at competing for a championship.
New Orleans, time and time again, have proven that it is not that organization.
Now in year seven of the AD era, the Pels have only two postseason berths (2015, 2018) and one series win (4–0 sweep over the Trailblazers in 2018) to show for their efforts at building a competitive roster around their franchise star. Through 52 games, the Pelicans sit at 23–29, thirteenth in the West and 5.5 games behind the eighth-seeded Clippers (28–23). The Pelicans are on track to miss the playoffs yet again.
For a 25-year-old star averaging 29.3 points, 13.3 rebounds and 2.6 blocks, this is unacceptable. Davis wants to win and he’s made this known for quite some time.
Following a 112–104 loss to the Lakers in December, Davis told Yahoo Sports that lucrative incentives and high dollar contracts were not his priority. No, it was his legacy that mattered most, and that meant doing one thing: Winning.
“I’d take legacy over money. I want to have a legacy. All my people that look up to me, the younger kids, I want them to know about AD’s legacy. Championships, the things I do in the community, being a good teammate, playing hard. All that stuff matters the most to me. Don’t get me wrong, money is amazing. But I think in that sense, money or legacy, I think my legacy will win that battle every time.”
A pursuit of winning. The notion of “legacy over money.” The timing of the quote. The hiring of Klutch Sports’ Rich Paul. The posturing and rumors that are making other destinations seem like inadequate options.
It’s evident that AD prefers to end up donning purple and gold in Los Angeles with LeBron James and co., and based on LA’s willingness to move the heavens and earth to make this possible, it’s fair to say that the feeling is mutual.
Los Angeles isn’t alone in the AD sweepstakes, though. The Knicks and Celtics are reported to be two other teams AD would consider staying with following a trade, and the Bucks, Raptors and Nuggets are all also expected to make offers for the 6-foot-10 bigman in the days leading up to the Feb. 7 trade deadline.
The Pelicans, despite the apparent power play made by the Klutch Sports/LA/LeBron conglomerate, are in the driver’s seat. They can choose to make a deal in the coming days whenever the Lakers are frantic, or they can wait until the offseason when the Celtics are able to make their own offers that would likely increase the price for acquiring AD.
Trades aren’t simple, especially when they involve irreplaceable franchise cornerstones such as Davis.
The inevitable AD trade will alter the course of New Orleans, the organization that he lands with, and the League as a whole.
In all likelihood, The Brow will end up among one of the teams rumored to be after him.
But let’s say that no teams are off-limits (even if many should be).
What would their best offers be?
[NOTE: Creating hypothetical/fake trades is a wholly subjective process. No idea is right or wrong, and few ever seem fair to either side of a deal. For the sake of this exercise, five factors will be considered in regards to crafting trade packages: (1) the state of both the sending and receiving teams, since no trade takes places in a vacuum; (2) the potential peaks/primes/ceilings/outcomes of players involved and the likelihood that they reach their ceilings; (3) the potential impact on winning/meaningful basketball from the assets/players involved; (4) the quantity and/or quality of an organization’s asset collection; and (5) total shenanigans and utter tomfoolery if I feel like straying away from logic and reason.
Additionally, unless otherwise noted, draft picks will rarely be specifically mentioned in the following deals, as they are often mandatory throw-ins and sweeteners to put the finishing touch on a transaction. Some trades will have specific draft capital mentioned, based on how significant the value of said capital is and whether or not the specifics matter for this discussion or not.
Spending hours on the trade machine and posting one’s musings online is common practice. It’s fun. It’s time-consuming. While some hypothetical deals involve robbing a team of all assets and players of value, others involve the sale of stars for pennies on the dollar. I’m merely trying to find a middle ground, one that lies amidst the two extremes and somewhere relatively close to reality (for the most part, anyway). These trades, thusly, might not be the best that they can offer, but it might be the most reasonable that they can offer; concessions will be made occasionally, however.
And, yes, AD would probably bolt from most of these teams—that’s just one less thing to mention in most of these hypotheticals.
Also, get to know the names of Ian Clark, Tim Frazier, Kenrich WIlilams and Darius Miller. They may or may not be mentioned in approximately all of the following trades for salary and body-matching purposes.
And, finally, if you’re reading this and don’t like the fake trade that involves your favorite team, remember this: #IHateYourTeam.]
Enough with the chitchat. Let’s look at what all 29 teams have to offer for Anthony Davis.
Hawks receive: Anthony Davis, Ian Clark, Tim Frazier, Darius Miller
Pelicans receive: John Collins, Trae Young, Kevin Huerter, Kent Bazemore, draft picks
I tried my best to come up with a trade that didn’t include Trae Young, since the Hawks (and people who like watching fun basketball) would love to have a Young/AD pairing bring national attention to the city of Atlanta. But there is no way that New Orleans accepts a package based on Collins, Huerter, salary filler and multiple first-rounders (Dallas’ 2019, their own 2019, etc.).
Collins has all-star potential. Huerter looks like a steal who should’ve gone earlier in the draft. Those picks, which will likely land in the early/mid-lottery, hold value for a rebuilding team.
But none of that compares to Young, who the Hawks viewed as a preferable alternative over Luka Doncic. The Pels, knowing this (in this fictional scenario), would likely tell Atlanta, “F—k your rebuild, give me everything you have, here’s AD.”
Celtics receive: Anthony Davis
Pelicans receive: Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart, Guerschon Yabusele, Robert Williams, SAC 2019 first-rounder (better of SAC/PHI, top-1 protected), MEM first-rounder (protected 1–8 in 2019; 1–6 in 2020; unprotected 2021)
The Boston Celtics have been plotting for this moment for years. Trade after trade, move after move, Danny Ainge and Mike Zarren have been posturing to accumulate enough assets to make a move for such a star as Anthony Davis. The only holdup: They can’t make the move until after July 1, when Kyrie Irving has a chance to opt out of his current contract and become a free agent (due to entirely random and unnecessary ‘Rose Rule’ complications).
Waiting might not be something Dell Demps and the Pelicans want to do right now. Maybe it is.
But it’s something they unquestionably should do.
The offseason gives New Orleans a richer trade market, with Boston raising the price for AD by offering their own smorgasbord of valuable players and draft picks.
Boston is capable of offering New Orleans the best possible offer, if they choose to put it on the table. And they should. No other team has the assortment of young players on rookie-scale contract with all-star potential (Jaylen Brown) or superstar potential (Jayson Tatum) nor a collection of several valuable draft picks (SAC in 2019; MEM in either 2019, ’20, or ’21; LAC in either 2019 or ’20; and all of their own firsts).
The Celtics want to add Davis to join an existing core of Kyrie Irving and the aforementioned Tatum. A package consisting of Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, and other salary fillers and valuable picks (i.e., all of them) would be an offer that’s hard for other teams to beat; perhaps no one can. But if it somehow was, or if the Pels were leaning elsewhere, then Tatum must be thrown into the deal. He has to. It will hurt, but having Irving and Davis in Boston longterm—to go along with Brown, Gordon Hayward, Al Horford, and several others—would be worth it, as painful as the trade may be at first.
Boston would be getting the star they’ve always wanted.
Things would be pretty nice for the city of New Orleans, too.
New Orleans would be getting a potential star in Tatum, a cheaply-priced and under-appreciated Marcus Smart (who can maybe shoot now?), Time Lord himself, and a bevy of early first-rounders. (Sacramento’s will likely be late-lottery, barring a surprising Cavs-esque leap come lottery night; Memphis’ pick likely won’t convey until 2021, and if they give up on Grit ’n’ Grind for good, that could be early-lottery; Los Angeles’ would land in the teens/20s this year if it conveys, and could be in a similar spot next season barring any unforeseen jumps/falls.)
Who else can offer what Boston can?
That’s the question Dell Demps should think deeply about over the next week-plus. Maybe he likes other offers more. Maybe he doesn’t. One thing is for sure: Trader Danny isn’t afraid to shoot and he damn sure has the ammo.
(Maybe this is blasphemy, but I don’t care: If I’m Boston, I’d rather trade Jaylen Brown than Marcus Smart. Brown has a higher ceiling, sure; but the Smart-Irving backcourt—we really need to get the “Cobra Ky” train moving, it’s an incredible nickname—is for real, and losing him would be a real blow, especially considering Terry Rozier’s imminent exit this summer. The Pels would probably prefer Brown anyway; but for salary-matching purposes, the above package is easier to build than one that includes Brown. And sure, the Celtics could trade Terry Rozier in a sign-and-trade in a hypothetical AD deal, but S&T deals are very, very difficult to structure and are pretty damn rare.)
Nets receive: Anthony Davis, Elfrid Payton, Darius Miller, Ian Clark
Pelicans receive: De’Angelo Russell, Caris Levert, Allen Crabbe, Jarrett Allen, BKN 2019 first-rounder, 2019 DEN first-rounder (protected 1–12)
Brooklyn is a sneaky candidate to both make a worthy offer for Davis at the deadline and to convince him to stay long-term. Sean Marks has done a terrific job turning a trash-heap franchise into one with potential; Kenny Atkinson is a favorite of many players and has a strong system in place; and there’s a real avenue to creating max cap space this summer to go grab another star player (e.g., Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, or Jimmy Butler, who had the Nets on his original list of teams when he demanded a trade out of Minnesota earlier this season).
Russell, Levert, Allen and two late first-rounders would give the Pelicans a trio of young players who’ve flashed varying degrees of potential throughout the season. New Orleans would have to manage Levert’s recovery timeline and Russell’s upcoming restricted free agency, but those concerns aren’t too daunting.
If the Nets were to balk at demands for Levert’s inclusion in a deal, or if the Pels were scared off by his ankle injury, then a Solomon Hill salary dump could be seen as a reasonable alternative. Swapping out DeMarre Carroll for Levert and Hill for Miller would work financially. New Orleans wouldn’t get as much in terms of talent/potential/assets, but they’d be getting off of dead money, and could easily flip Carroll to a playoff team (HOU, PHI, etc.) for draft picks.
Hornets receive: Anthony Davis
Pelicans receive: Malik Monk, Miles Bridges, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, 2019 CHA first-rounder, 2021 CHA first-rounder, + more?
Would God apologize for f—king Charlotte over in the 2012 draft lottery by giving them a second chance at getting AD in a purple and teal uniform? For Monk, Bridges, salary filler and picks?
(OK, on a semi-serious note: Kemba Walker would 100% sign a longterm max deal to stay in the Queen City if he got to play alongside Anthony Davis, even if only for 1.5 seasons.)
Bulls receive: Anthony Davis, Ian Clark, Cheik Diallo
Pelicans receive: Lauri Markannen, Wendell Carter Jr., Robin Lopez, 2019 CHI first-rounder (top-1 protected)
Anthony Davis returning to his hometown? What could go wrong?
Well… from ESPN’s Brian Windhorst on the latest episode of Zach Lowe’s podcast, “The Lowe Post”:
“This could change, but I do not believe that Anthony Davis would like to play for the Bulls, even though it’s his hometown. I mean, you talk about Wendell Carter and Lauri Markannen and their first round pick, I’m not saying you give all three but those assets right there are enough to get anybody interested in any deal. But I do not think that you will hear Anthony Davis saying that he would like to play [for his] hometown.”
Ah, so, not a good idea.
(Giving up Markannen, Carter and a high draft pick would be a costly price to pay for AD, for sure, but it would give Chicago a hometown hero and would give the Pelicans two bigs with great potential and a pick that could give them another valuable piece to their rebuilding puzzle.)
Cavaliers receive: Anthony Davis, Elfrid Payton, Darius Miller, Ian Clark
Pelicans receive: Collin Sexton, Cedi Osman, Jordan Clarkson, JR Smith, 2019 CLE first-rounder (protected 1–10), 50% stake in the Cleveland Cavaliers, the kitchen sink (like, a literal sink), etc.
(Poor Cleveland, man. A core of Sexton, Osman, Ante Zizic and an aging, overpaid Kevin Love? Yikes.)
Before Thursday’s internet-breaking trade, this is what I had written for the Mavericks’ options if they were to pursue an Anthony Davis trade:
After acquiring Kristaps Porzingis, Tim Hardaway Jr., Courtney Lee and Trey Burke for Dennis Smith Jr., DeAndre Jordan and Wesley Matthews and two future firsts, the Mavs have effectively taken themselves out of the hypothetical running for AD.
Nuggets receive: Anthony Davis, Tim Frazier, Solomon Hill, Ian Clark
Pelicans receive: Jamal Murray, Paul Millsap, Michael Porter Jr., Malik Beasley
According to The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor, the Denver Nuggets are a potential team that could enter the AD sweepstakes if they decide that shaking up their chemistry amidst a successful season would be worth it for a chance at trading for and keeping AD.
Disrupting team chemistry is a real concern, sure, but an AD/Jokic frontoucrt would be INSANE—basically two 7-footers saying “f—k small-ball” and wreaking havoc. (Like, how the hell do you defend a Jokic-AD pick-and-roll? Pray? Cry? Both?)
The Nuggets would still have a starting lineup of Morris/Harris/Craig/AD/Jokic and bench unit consisting of IT/Barton/Hernongomez/Lyles/Plumlee, which, I mean, HOLY SHIT.
For New Orleans, the returning package would be loaded: A potential borderline all-star guard (or, most likely considering his suboptimal playmaking/defense, a super-fun gunner) in Murray; a wildcard prospect in MPJ who, if fully healthy with no further concerns over his back, could turn into an all-star down the road; a fun prospect in Beasley; and a vet in Millsap who you could either use in a playoff hunt or flip elsewhere for more assets. (Denver would probably add draft picks, too, but they wouldn’t miss the future picks that would likely land in the late-20s.)
This is one of the best offers New Orleans can get. IF something like this is actually offered, they should think long and hard about possibly accepting it.
Pistons receive: Anthony Davis, Solomon Hill, Ian Clark
Pelicans receive: Andre Drummond, Stanley Johnson, Luke Kennard, 2019 DET first-rounder, 2021 first-rounder
I’m not even going to comment on the actual proposed trade here. (It’s trash anyway.)
Someone, please, anyone, save Blake Griffin.
He doesn’t deserve that.
He’s dead inside.
Get him to a better team and a comedy club ASAP.
Golden State Warriors
Warriors receive: Anthony Davis, E’twaun Moore
Pelicans receive: Klay Thompson, Draymond Green
Oh God, please no.
(In all seriousness, it’s highly unlikely that Bob Myers and co. would part with an offer such as this, and it’s arguably just as unlikely that the Pelicans would accept this offer. It’s not for a lack of talent — Jrue Holiday, Klay Thompson, Nikola Mirotic, Draymond Green and Julius Randle is an interesting lineup that would compete out West — but for the fact that Thompson is set to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and I highly doubt he’d want to stay in the Big Easy, especially when nicer options such as the Lakers, Clippers, Knicks, and Nets are capable of offering max money in more attractive situations. Meaning, a package for AD from Golden State would likely revolve around Draymond Green and Shawn Livingston plus whatever else they could throw together, and that’s simply not enough for AD.)
Rockets receive: Anthony Davis, Ian Clark
Pelicans receive: Clint Capela, Eric Gordon, 4 first-rounders
Is this just the proposed offer Houston made for Jimmy Butler, with Capela replacing Tucker?
…Yes, and just like the Butler sweepstakes, this offer isn’t enough for AD, either.
(Although it’s worth noting that the potential Nets-esque slide certainly has some appeal to New Orleans if they think that Chris Paul’s play/hamstrings will continue to decline and that AD could leave after 1.5 seasons. Without AD, Capela, Gordon, a healthy CP3 and draft picks to improve the roster, the Rockets could fall into a cycle of mediocrity, perhaps even becoming a bottom-dweller. This is all hypothetical speculation, of course. For what it’s worth, that is a legitimate risk for Houston, and is why so few trades involving that many future picks actually take place outside of 2K MyLeague. For New Orleans, the chance that those Houston draft picks increase in value is real, but is that something they can truly bank on? Probably not.)
Pacers receive: Anthony Davis, Ian Clark, Tim Frazier, Kenrich Williams
Pelicans receive: Thaddeus Young, Myles Turner, Corey Joseph, Aaron Holiday, draft picks
Pacers receive: Anthony Davis
Pelicans receive: Myles Turner, Domantas Sabonis, Aaron Holiday, draft picks
Now or later?
Kevin Pritchard, in this hypothetical pursuit of Anthony Davis, would have two courses of action: Either offer a worse deal before the deadline that would likely get declined, or offer a second package post-July 1 whenever Myles Turner’s extension kicks in and his salary jumps up to $18 million, allowing you to offer the best players at your disposal? Obviously, Dell Demps would hang up o Pritchard for the pre-deadline offer; the second one, though, would draw intrigue.
While Thaddeus Young could be flipped for more draft assets elsewhere, New Orleans would be getting better value in Domantas Sabonis, banking on a current NBA player (and good one, at that) and not some unknown future player (whose draft spot might not be great).
Receiving both Sabonis and Turner would present Demps and co. the responsibility of determining whether they want to keep one over the other, or if both players (who are best optimized at the 5) should be kept longterm. The youngest of the Holiday clan, Aaron, looks to be a promising point guard prospect for the Pelicans to develop with his older brother, Jrue.
(No, I didn’t just throw in Aaron so he could be with Jrue… OK, it was a major reason, yeah, but not the only reason.)
(If this hypothetical trade was to happen in my hypothetical world, I’d hypothetically hope that the Grizzlies would hypothetically buy-out Justin Holiday so he could hypothetically join his two brothers in New Orleans. Hypothetically, of course.)
Clippers receive: Anthony Davis, Ian Clark, Tim Frazier
Pelicans receive: Tobias Harris, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jerome Robinson, draft picks
Steve Ballmer brought Jerry West in for occasions such as these, with the dream of adding stars to a franchise hoping to compete with their arena-sharing counterparts.
The Clippers are long-rumored to be hopeful suitors of Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, and/or Jimmy Butler. While they currently have a strong front office, respectable coach, improved team and max money to offer, they don’t have a star. (Their free agency predicament parallels several star-chasing teams—they’re not alone.)
Grabbing Anthony Davis now would improve their shot at one of the aforementioned stars dramatically. The Clippers still have a great shot at luring premiere free agents away from their current teams this summer, but having an in-house star would do wonders for their odds. Adding Davis to a team with leftovers Lou Williams, Danilo Gallinari, Montrezl Harrell and others would be a fine addition, one that would cement a playoff berth this season.
Acquiring Shai Gilgeous-Alexander would be a coup, as the Pelicans would have their point guard of the future; Jerome Robinson, despite playing very little this season, is still a lottery selection and shouldn’t be slept on nor ignored; and with Tobias Harris, the Pels are getting a borderline all-star (21.2 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.6 assists) who could be kept or dealt, either of which could present future value to the team (either in a future playoff hunt or a trade that garners valuable draft assets, which Harris is certainly worth).
Will this happen? Probably not.
But maybe it does.
Anthony Davis wants to end up in Los Angeles anyway, right?
Lakers receive: Anthony Davis, Ian Clark, Tim Frazier, Darius Miller
Pelicans receive: Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, draft picks
If LeBron wants something, he gets it. Right?
LeBron and his Klutch Sports counterparts are gaming the system and have been proponents of player empowerment ever since The Decision in 2010. Working to get Anthony Davis in purple-and-gold—tanking or no—would be a coup d’etat for LeBron and co.
The best chance of the Lakers landing AD is before the trade deadline next Thursday. If they are desperate enough (which they seem to be), they should be willing to part with everything but LeBron: Lonzo, Ingram, Kuzma, the Shaq statue, a couple banners, whatever. Nothing should be untouchable for AD. Nothing. Sure the Lakers could head into the offseason AD-less and hope that they can quickly grab a max free agent before trading for him (the money would work), but can they risk him still being there by then? And would they really waste a playoff run with LeBron on the roster? (GM, Coach, and Player LeBron wouldn’t like that very much.)
If Davis is dealt before the 3 o’clock deadline next Thursday—signaling an internal preference for getting the inevitable split out of the way now, instead of waiting to field more offers in the offseason—it likely would be to Los Angeles. Of the teams capable of making offers right now, LA is the lone team ready to put everything on the table, even if it meant disrupting the team’s chemistry entirely (which it would, since they’d be getting rid of everybody). Although Milwaukee, Toronto and Denver are all rumored to have interest, it’s hard to see them disrupting their sustained success with a big move.
LeBron James and Anthony Davis would be the among the best duos in the NBA, if not the best. Although the Lakers wouldn’t have as much cap space as they’d like next summer, they would still be capable of adding meaningful role players to accommodate their star core. And, as far as a 2019 playoff run goes, they would still have Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson and Michael Beasley to trade (although they’d likely keep them, since, as I said, they would’ve just traded their whole f—king team).
New Orleans would be getting Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma, two players with promising-yet-questionable upside. With LeBron sidelined with a groin injury, none of the Baby Lakers really impressed anyone with their play, Ingram and Kuzma included. There are flashes, sure, but the questions/flaws remain.
Lonzo Ball, if he were to be dealt, would need to land elsewhere. His camp—also known as his father—has communicated to the Lakers front office that Ball would wish to be dealt to a third team, ideally New York, Chicago, or Phoenix, according to multiple reports. Missing out on acquiring Ball (whose upside is as promising and murky as Ingram’s and Kuzmas’) would be a tough blow for the Pelicans; if they were to recoup value from a third team, it’s tough to picture them getting a player or asset shares even comparable value to that of Ball; and if they were to hold onto him, ignoring his wishes, well… we’d see a new version of LaVar Ball that I don’t think the world is ready for.
Grizzlies receive: Anthony Davis, Ian Clark, Kenrich Williams,
Pelicans receive: Jaren Jackson Jr., Dillon Brooks, Jamychal Green, Garrett Temple, draft picks
Shipping out promising rookie Jaren Jackson Jr. and a hot commodity in Dillon Brooks would send the message throughout the League that Grit ’n’ Grind will never die (until Conley and/or Gasol get injured yet again—then it’ll be time to take G&G behind the shed and put it out of its misery, ‘Old Yeller’ style). For the meantime, a trio of Conley/AD/Gasol would put Memphis back in the playoff race (although they’d have to wait until next season to actually crack the top-8), but its window would be narrow considering the contracts/ages/injury histories of the two last remnants of G&G.
JJJ would be one of the best young players New Orleans could feasibly get in a hypothetical return for AD, and would firmly be their new (potential) franchise cornerstone to build around as they rebuild. Brooks’ value, despite recent near-trades, isn’t that high; he’s a nice role player whose second contract will likely be pretty cheap. Green and Temple are simply here for salary-matching purposes and could be moved elsewhere for second round picks and salary fillers. (Korkmaz/Chandler/picks from the 76ers? Bradley/LMAM/picks from the Clippers? Knight/Chriss/picks from the Rockets?)
Heat receive: Anthony Davis, Darius Miller, Ian Clark, Tim Frazier
Pelicans receive: Josh Richardson, Justice Winslow, Bam Adebayo, Dion Waiters, 2019 MIA first-rounder, future draft picks (post-2022)
Pat Riley is always clamoring and scheming to get stars to join South Beach, and Anthony Davis would be his newest attempt at doing so.
With a roster full of bloated multi-year contracts and not enough young talent, it seems like a trade would have to focus on perhaps their best players: JRich, Winslow, and Bam. That seems (and is) tough, but using unattractive, bulky contracts instead would lead to the Pelicans asking for even more assets in return, so this seems to be the only viable option for Miami.
Goran Dragic, Wayne Ellington, Rodney McGruder, Anthony Davis and Hassan Whiteside isn’t the best of playoff-contending lineups (neither is a bench of Dwyane Wade, Tyler Johnson, Derrick Jones Jr., Kelly Olynyk and James Johnson), but it’s enough to sneak into seeds six-through-eight in the East.
New Orleans would consequently have an improved core that could theoretically compete for the playoffs next year and beyond, pending future roster changes (and it would definitely make the playoffs in the East—removing conferences altogether for playoff seeding sounds like a pretty good idea). Nonetheless, playoffs or not, the Pelicans could do a lot worse than a return like this, and, knowing Pat Riley, it would be foolish to count the Heat out of the AD sweepstakes (no matter how unlikely a trade may be).
(Keeping #WaitersIsland along coastal regions seems smart, too.)
Timberwolves receive: Anthony Davis, Ian Clark, Darius Miller
Pelicans receive: Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Josh Okogie, Taj Gibson, draft picks
Wait a minute… isn’t that essentially the Jimmy Butler package with Okogie and Gibson thrown in?
…Yep, and it’s arguably the best offer the T-Wolves can make. Although the Pels could view Andrew Wiggins as an interesting flier, considering he’s still young (23) and could potentially (???) grow into a better (a.k.a., “not-bad”) player in time, it’s probably safe to assume that they wouldn’t want to take on that experiment at such a hefty price tag. (Minnesota, on the other hand, would LOVE to move Wiggins instead of RoCo/Saric in a trade for AD, considering, you know, that RoCo/Saric are actually good at basketball.)
Instead, receiving RoCo in the first year of a bargain contract (4 years / $46 million), a promising 3&D rookie prospect in Okogie, Saric still on his rookie contract, and an expiring contract in Gibson (plus draft picks, of course) would be the preferred option over getting a bloated Wiggins contract. And, if New Orleans doesn’t feel like holding onto any of those guys, they could flip them for future draft assets, since plenty of teams would line up to acquire their services.
Bucks receive: Anthony Davis, Ian Clark, Tim Frazier
Pelicans receive: Khris Middleton, Tony Snell, Malcolm Brogdon, draft picks
Having that much length on one team would be unfair. Absolutely unfair.
Having two 7-footers terrorizing courts across America (and part of Canada) would be unfair. Absolutely unfair.
But it probably won’t happen.
Khris Middleton, Tony Snell and Malcom Brodgon make for a win-now package that Dell Demps would consider if he was still eyeing the playoffs. But if he’s been taking calls for Julius Randle, E’twaun Moore, and Nikola Mirotic, that signals that winning isn’t in their future plans. (New Orleans could change plans by rolling with a Holiday/Brodgon/Middleton/Mirotic/Randle lineup, which, to be fair, is actually pretty good, but at this rate it seems unlikely.)
Flipping all these guys to other teams is a possibility, but a complicated one. Adding additional teams to any deal calls for complicated negations, and with a week until the deadline, that’s a tall task for such a short window.
(Or I could simply be wrong and Milwaukee ends up with two real-life versions of Gumby f—king up the NBA for years to come. That could happen, too.)
New York Knicks
Ah, hello again.
The following is what I originally had written before the Knicks Knicks’ed by trading Kristaps Porzingis to Dallas in a salary dumping maneuver.
Pertaining to Anthony Davis: A trade for AD this season is now all but out of the picture. They don’t have the salaries requried for such a deal, and none of the players acquried from Dallas (Smith, Matthews, Jordan) can be dealt in combination with other players. That leaves the offseason as the only possible time, and with only young former lottery picks remaining on the books, an AD trade would certainly be centered around that 2019 first-rounder (especially if it’s no.1 overall) and the other young guys. The Knicks now have two max-level roster spots available this summer; you bet your ass they’d empty the clip (Knox, Frank, DSJ, Mitchell, the pick, whatever) to have AD already on the roster with the ability to go after guys like Kyrie, Kemba, KD, Kawhi, Butler, etc. in free agency.
But also, pertaining to the Knicks: Um… what the f—k are you doing? Cap space is cool. The best outcome possible is, yeah, pretty f—king phenomenal. But with the Knicks with James Dolan, the worst possible outcome is typically the likeliest. (Poor Knick fans.) Maybe they know something about KP that the general public doesn’t (there’s certainly noise indicating so). Maybe they have inside knowledge on their odds of signing certain (Kyrie, KD) max guys. But what would their free agent pitch even be? “Hey, we have money, we’re New York, please save us”? That’s not a great pitch (unless you throw in that Dolan is bouncing as soon as he can). But who the hell knows?
This could be great for the Knicks or it could be very, very ugly.
There’s simply no in-between.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Thunder receive: Anthony Davis, Wesley Johnson
Pelicans receive: Russell Westbrook
LOL, just kidding. (But, seriously, look at the change in projected wins… Ah, that’s pretty interesting.)
Thunder receive: Anthony Davis, Solomon Hill
Pelicans receive: Steven Adams, Andre Roberson, Hamidou Diallo, Terrance Ferguson, 2024 OKC first-rounder
Giving up Adams would suck.
He’s dope. He’s cool. He’s awesome. He’s practically Aquaman.
But OKC would have to move him and assets to get AD, unless they believe that Roberson/Grant/PatPat and every single pick from now till the end of time would be enough. (Hint: It wouldn’t be.)
Russ/PG/AD would honestly rival that of Steph/KD/Klay in terms of Big 3 talent, and they’d clearly be the second best team in the West (with a shot at being THE best next season if KD were to bolt). This is the biggest no-brainers of no-brainers for Sam Presti and the Thunder.
For New Orleans, this would be a move to shore up the defense and keep them in playoff contention for the next few years. Adams is an All-D level center with plus O/D value; Roberson is All-D as well, and has value despite him coming off of a major knee injury; Diallo/Ferguson are intriguing athletes on the wings. But how high is the upside here? Holiday/Roberson/Adams would be the foundation for a dominant defense, sure, but would they even reach that ceiling with Alvin Gentry (who doens’t exactly coach defense) still as head coach? Probably not. Although there is win-now talent included in this deal, a shortsighted move such as this likely wouldn’t be worth it in the longrun.
Magic receive: Anthony Davis, Ian Clark
Pelicans receive: Aaron Gordon, Mo Bamba, Jonathan Isaac, picks
Anthony Davis would be the first dominant big to grace the hardwood of the Amway Center since Dwight Howard, and the Magic would give up the farm to make it happen. (You may ask, “would they really?” Yes, yes they really would.)
A lineup of DJ Augustin, Even Fournier, Terrance Ross, AD and Nikola Vucevic would be… something? It wouldn’t quite be good, but it wouldn’t be the brand of awful that they’ve been ever since shipping Dwight to LA in 2012.
Orlando ultimately gives their frontcourt logjam problem to New Orleans. The Pelicans get a high-flying attraction in “Air Gordon” and two long players with All-D potential that are years away from actually contributing, signaling a slow not-so-easy (and not-so-good) rebuild in the Big Easy.
(Also, if/when AD inevitably asks out of Orlando, is there any cool name we could come up with that rivals “Dwightmare?” There isn’t, is there? How lame.)
76ers receive: Anthony Davis, Ian Clark, Darius Miller
Pelicans receive: Ben Simmons, Wilson Chandler, Zhaire Smith, picks
If you’re Philly and you make this move, you’re banking on Anthony Davis and Joel Embiid becoming the best frontcourt duo to ever grace the sands of the earth, at least in the past couple decade. Moving Ben Simmons would be incredibly difficult: He’s a 6-foot-10 point forward who is arguably already among the best players in the League at age 22, and that’s without even having a jumper. Plus, he’s still on his rookie deal, and the Pelicans would be getting immense team control for the next 5+ years. That is a LOT of value to trade.
But… Anthony Davis.
Trotting out a starting lineup featuring Embiid, AD, Butler, JJ Redick and Landry Shamet? With some solid bench players and a likely shot at picking up additional players in the buyout market? Yes, please.
On the other side of the deal, New Orleans would—as mentioned above—being acquiring perhaps the best player you could get for AD and they would have him under control for several years. They’d also get Zhaire Smith, who has potential to be an athletic, defensive force with some playmaking/shooting upside (he’s still a project, though). Philly would probably throw in some sweeteners, since they have a massive collection of both first- and second-round picks at their disposal.
Suns receive: Anthony Davis, Tim Frazier, Ian Clark,
Pelicans receive: DeAndre Ayton, TJ Warren, Mikal Bridges, De’Anthony Melton
Robert Sarver despises patience.
When LaMarcus Aldridge was a free agent in 2015 and the Suns were still years away from even competing for the playoffs (and competing, period), Sarver and former general manager Ryan McDonough pursued a chance to sign him.
To further their shot at him, they signed a then 32-year-old Tyson Chandler to a four-year, $52 million deal.
They missed out on Aldridge and were then stuck with Chandler.
The signing itself was idiotic and shortsighted, as was the original pursuit of Aldridge. It encapsulates Phoenix’s chase of relevancy under Sarver, whose ownership has been marred with poor decisionmaking time and time again.
Would giving up on no. 1 overall pick DeAndre Ayton (and other valuable pieces/players) be the next poor decision? In this hypothetical, Phoenix would be giving up everything of value sans Devin Booker, stripping the team of essentially all assets. Their rebuild would be scrapped for a chance at attaining AD and hoping that a Kentucky duo (and up to $30+ million in offseason cap space) would produce a team that could reach the playoffs for the first time since 2010. (Things wouldn’t be over for Phoenix: They’d still have to hunt for a starting point guard, either in the free agent market or trade market. If this hypothetical was to get really complicated, Jrue Holiday could be thrown into the deal, along with additional assets and salary-matching pieces.
Obviously this would make for a pretty damn good return for a rebuilding Pelicans organization: DeAndre Ayton, fresh off of a no. 1 overall selection in the 2018 draft
essentially … Robert Sarver sells the farm for AD … PHX gives up literally everything of value other than Booker, which they probably should do if this was to ever happen in reality … the Kentucky duo of Booker/Davis plus $30+ million in cap room would be a nice starting place for PHX, whose next step would likely be shopping for a starting point guard (if things wanted to get REALLY complicated, Holiday could be thrown in, too) and shooters/wings to go around them … for NO, you’re getting the no. 1 overall pick who’s ceiling is that of a multi-time all-star/all-NBA (and perhaps even higher, i.e., HoF), a combo-forward with scoring value (could move him), a wing with shooting/defensive value that contributes to winning, and a guard whose potential is that of an elite role player (i.e., secondary playmaker next to elite lead guard) … this would be a great package for AD (not the best, though), but AD would probably leave unless PHX added another star or meaningful player …
Trailblazers receive: Anthony Davis, Ian Clark, Tim Frazier
Pelicans receive: CJ McCollum, Zach Collins, Anfernee Simons, picks
Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum is not a viable backcourt, not for this roster, not if they are wishing to compete for more than just a first-round victory. Although the Blazers currently sit comfortably in the West’s fourth seed at 32–20 with a +3.0 net rating, history says that this team can only go so far come April/May.
The preferable course of action would be to find superior wing talent, building around Lillard and McCollum, but without assets or cap space, that’s an impossible task for Neil Olshey to take on.
That leaves McCollum as the best chip for a trade, both in reality and in this hypothetical scenario.
For Portland, a marriage of two former 2012 draft picks would be one made in heaven. Terry Stotts’ fetish for the pick-and-roll would work nicely between Lillard and a newly-acquired Davis; generally speaking, having two of the best offensive players at their respective positions would work wonders; defensively, adding Davis to a frontcourt featuring Jusef Nurkic and Al Farouq Aminu would create a long, strong frontline, perhaps one that would assuage Portland’s middling defense. Olshey would then be left to add pieces on the wings, which could be done via trade, free agency, or the impending buyout market (Wesley Matthews? JR Smith?).
Shifting over from the Pacific to the Southwest, the Pelicans would be receiving two prospects with plenty of intrigue. Zach Collins projects as a starting center with positive offensive/defensive value and floor-spacing; Anfernee Simons’ range of outcomes span anywhere from bust to starter, but with his immature body and game, it’s simply too soon to project what type of player he’ll turn into in the future. And then there’s CJ.
How would a Jrue Holiday-CJ McCollum backcourt fair in New Orleans? It’s hard to say. While that’s certainly a formidable duo, it’s ceiling—based on the capabilities of themselves and their teammates—is questionable. Trading for McCollum would tell the League that the Pelicans aren’t folding and that they see the playoffs as a reasonable outcome for the next few seasons. How deep in the playoffs could that duo lead New Orleans? Would that duo even lead them to the playoffs? Given the depth of the West, and the team’s current struggles, it’s doubtful, even if this summer shakes up the current landscape of the NBA.
Kings receive: Anthony Davis, Ian Clark, Kenrich Williams, Darius Miller
Pelicans receive: Marvin Bagley III, Buddy Hield, Harry Giles, Iman Shumpert, picks
For Sacramento, they’re pushing in all chips for a chance at becoming relevant for the first time in almost two decades, betting on a duo of Fox/AD and $30+ million in cap space to sign shooters to go around them. They’re giving up immense value in the no. 2 pick (Bagley), a 19 PPG scorer (Hield) and another forward/center prospect with a mix of risk/reward (Giles)… but Anthony Davis is Anthony Davis.
New Orleans would be reacquiring a player they once gave up on (Hi, Buddy) who has grown into a bonafide sharpshooter; 8-9 years of team control with Bagley, whose potential is that of an offensive-minded all-star (sans defensive impact/value); and another lottery ticket for a big who was once viewed as the next Chris Webber before suffering various knee ailments.
If they chose to, Dell Demps could keep the roster intact and push for the eighth seed, since they wouldn’t have a bad team (Holiday, Hield, Shumpert, Mirotic, Randle; Payton, Moore, Miller, Bagley, Giles), but it’s fair to say that they are just too far behind to even think about making such an ill-fated attempt. Therefore, Shumpert would likely be bought out or shipped elsewhere for a second-rounder. Buddy Hield’s upcoming restricted free agency would be a hurdle for New Orleans, but I’d assume that keeping him would be a priority (this time).
But ultimately, even if Davis was to randomly demand a trade to Sacramento of all places, I don’t think they’d do it.
Ha, they’d be fools to do so.
San Antonio Spurs
Spurs receive: Anthony Davis, Ian Clark, Tim Frazier
Pelicans receive: Dejounte Murray, Lonnie Walker IV, Pau Gasol, Jakob Poeltl
Gregg Popovich? Making an in-season trade? That Gregg Popovich? No, he’d never.
But what if he did make in-season trades?
The Pelicans would be getting an all-defensive force in Murray, who, with Jrue Holiday (if they were to keep him), would make for the best defensive backcourt in the entire NBA. With rookie Lonnie Walker IV (who projects as an athletic, sweet-shooting rotation player) and second-year center Jakob Poeltl (who is a sneaky good backup center with starting potential) in the mix, too, this would be a good-but-not-overwhelmingly-great return for AD, considering that no players with star (or even all-star) potential are included. Regarding Gasol’s contract, if the Pels chose to tank, he’d likely be buyout fodder, since it’s hard to picture a team wanting to trade any sort of assets for Gasol (and Gasol’s contract).
For the Spurs, you’d be giving another once-in-a-generation big to a coach who found dynastic success with the likes of David Robinson and Tim Duncan. Additionally, Pop would have a core of AD/DeRozan/Aldridge and several role players in White/Mills/Forbes/Gay, which is a pretty good playoff roster. And, again, they’re all under the tutelage of Gregg Popovich. If anyone could maximize the potential of this group, it’s Pop.
Raptors receive: Anthony Davis, Wesley Johnson, Ian Clark, Kenrich Williams
Pelicans receive: Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, Jonas Valanciunas, Fred VanVleet, draft picks
Toronot’s Masai Ujiri would be making the ultimate all-in move that could atler the fate of the franchise for a long, long time.
A move such as this would be made with the intention of fully capitalizing on the time they have with Kawhi Leonard, who could leave town this summer for Los Angeles (Lakers/Clippers) or New York (Knicks/Nets) if he so chooses. And, if Kawhi were to leave, what would stop Davis from leaving the summer after? And if they were to both jump ship, what players of value would be left on the roster after shipping out the two best young pieces they have?
This move would ultimately be Finals-or-bust.
A Raptors team featuring a starting lineup of Lowry, Green, Kawhi, AD and Ibaka—with a bench unit of Delon Wright, Norman Powell, and CJ Miles—would arguably jump to the top of the East’s hierarchy. A playoff run with this group would likely end in the Finals. And, a Finals run with Kawhi and AD would be one hell of a recruiting pitch to convince both of them to stay up north longterm.
For New Orleans, such a transaction would grant them the freedom to either remain playoff hopefuls by keeping the roster intact, or to sell off other players and rebuild on the fly. Each player in this deal are capable of helping the New Orleans, no matter which course of action is chosen.
The Pels would be getting Siakam, who projects to grow into a borderline all-star (i.e., really valuable, primarily based on his play/impact on winning and less on his name value/popularity); Anunoby, who, despite struggling mightily this season on both ends of the ball, still has the potential to become a valuable/elite role player due to switchability on defense (but his offense still has a long ways to go); VanVleet, who has proven to be one of the League’s best backup point guards, capable of stepping into a starting role if need be; and Valanciunas, who is a useful center despite his bench role in Toronto. (Whatever first round picks are thrown in as sweeteners would likely all fall late in the first round, considering the team that Toronto would be putting on the court night-in and night-out. Granted, a Kawhi/AD-exit would increase the value of future picks, and, if I were New Orleans, I would demand that any picks included in this transaction would have to be ones three or four years down the road.)
The Raptors were laughed at whenever their name popped up during the Kawhi sweepstakes, and yet they still landed him.
Don’t count them out this time.
Jazz receive: Anthony Davis, Ian Clark, Tim Frazier
Pelicans receive: Derrick Favors, Dante Exum, Grayson Allen, Royce O’Neale, 2019 UTAH first-rounder
Dell Demps is lounging in his decadently reposeful silk robe and soft slippers, reclining in the comfort of his favorite chair in his beautiful home. He’s reading—probably something about basketball, I bet—while slowly sipping on a fresh cup of herbal tea.
He is, discernibly, at peace.
“Ah, the phone,” he says to himself, rising from the comfort of his chair.
He heads over toward the phone, which for some reason is all the way across the room, but no bother. Gliding, step by step, across the smooth hardwood floor, Demps reaches the cause of disturbance.
He picks up the phone.
It’s Dennis Lindsey, general manager of the Utah Jazz.
“Ah, hello Dennis. To what do I owe the pleasure of this phone call,” he inquires, bemused.
“ANTHONY DAVIS FOR GRAYSON ALL—.”
Wizards receive: Anthony Davis, Ian Clark
Pelicans receive: Bradley Beal, Thomas Bryant
Anthony Davis doesn’t deserve to land in Washington. No. No. Stop.
[Addendum: Yes, I know that Matt Ellentuck over at SBNation already wrote a similar piece, and it’s likely that others have written posts of a similar ilk for other publications, too. As I mentioned near the top, this isn’t some uncommon idea. Fake trades are fun. Don’t sue me.]