It finally happened. New Orleans Pelicans‘ all-NBA center Anthony Davis has informed the team he will not be signing an extension, and subsequently is requesting a trade. This move was highly anticipated around the league. Davis is approaching his 7th season in New Orleans and would have to sign the extension before that last season. Now that we know the extension will not be signed, the Pelicans are looking for trade options. It’s sad to see another great player leave the small-market team that drafted him. Gordon Hayward, Paul George, and Kawhi Leonard are also examples of all-star guys that asked for a trade away from the small market team that drafted them. But Davis is on a whole other level. He will arguably be the best player to be traded since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1975 or Moses Malone in 1982.
Davis’s Contract Situation
Anthony Davis’s contract expires next summer, as in 2020, about a year and a half from now. Contract extensions must be signed before the last season of a player’s previous contract, so AD’s had to be signed before next season. He informed the team he won’t sign, so they’re gonna start looking for trades. The team that acquires Davis will get at least a full season of his play. However, the concern of free agency in 2020 will be looming over any possible suitor. It’s reminiscent of Kawhi and Paul George in that way. If you trade for him, you better hope you can keep him more than one season.
Deadline vs. Summer
The next question is… when? The NBA trade deadline is quickly approaching, it’s February 7, only ten days after Davis’ trade request yesterday (Monday) morning. However, there are a couple of suitors that cannot trade for him until the summer. One by rule, one because they’d need to include their draft pick if they win the lottery. Because of this, the Pelicans may want to wait until after the season to execute a trade. However, other teams may be willing to overpay for AD right now, because they want to have him for the rest of this season and the playoffs. I could see a trade happening soon should the Pelicans get an offer that just blows them away, but they’ll likely wait until summertime to get all the bidders involved.
What does New Orleans want in exchange?
The other big question that always comes up in superstar trades…what do they want in return? Well, there are plenty of options. They may want to continue to compete and win now. In a market like New Orleans, you have to sell your fans on something, you have to keep them interested. A Philadelphia-level tank job wouldn’t go over well… they may find themselves relocated to Seattle.
However, trading Davis for older players that are declining also doesn’t make a lot of sense. The sweet spot is young players that already look like future all-stars. Jayson Tatum, Ben Simmons, those types. Another caveat for New Orleans is locking players up. As we’re seeing with Davis, the Pelicans aren’t exactly the type of organization that keeps free agents easily. So it wouldn’t make sense to trade for players whose contracts are expiring this summer, like Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe (sorry Milwaukee), because they could just leave New Orleans in five months, anyway. In this piece, players heading to NOLA on expiring deals will include an asterisk, because they’re just there for salary fillers. You want draft picks, young players, and guys who are locked up to stick around for a while.
Other Pelicans on the block?
If the return package for Davis is younger, and NOLA wants to hit the reset button, per se, we could see other Pels being traded. Take Jrue Holiday, who said Davis was “like 90% why I stayed” in New Orleans. E’Twaun Moore could be traded as well, and Nikola Mirotic is on an expiring contract. Julius Randle has a player option, too, so the Pels will probably only get to pick one of those two bigs. Chances are they keep Randle and trade Niko. Meanwhile, Solomon Hill is on a 2-year, $24 million contract so NOLA will likely try to get off him, too. Let’s get into the teams.
Category 5: Crazy Hypothetical Blockbusters
This category includes the three teams that are 3rd, 4th, and 5th in the West. Each could sacrifice its second and third best players (or first and third) in exchange for Davis, pairing AD with a superstar, but losing some depth. These are fun but obviously unlikely.
Untouchables: James Harden
Best Offer: Chris Paul, Clint Capela, Eric Gordon, Danuel House, 2019 1st, and 2021 1st for Anthony Davis, Solomon Hill, Nikola Mirotic, and Darius Miller
Rockets’ Potential Lineup: Harden, Ennis, Hill, Mirotic, Davis
Pelicans’ Potential Lineup: Paul, Holiday, Gordon, Randle, Capela
The triumphant return of CP3 and EG to New Orleans. Obviously, as it says in the category, this one is purely a fun hypothetical that is extremely unlikely. NOLA’s future still wouldn’t look great, but they could try and make the playoffs now. It’s also tough for Houston, who would probably try and find an additional guard somewhere, but Harden and AD vs. the Warriors would be so much fun.
Likelihood: Virtually Zero
Portland Trail Blazers
Untouchables: Either Damian Lillard or C.J. McCollum
Best Offer: C.J. McCollum, Jusuf Nurkic, Zach Collins, 2019 1st, and 2021 1st for Anthony Davis and Solomon Hill
Blazers’ Potential Lineup: Lillard, Turner, Aminu, Harkless, Davis
Pelicans’ Potential Lineup: Holiday, McCollum, Moore, Mirotic/Randle, Nurkic
There’s been talk of Portland splitting up its backcourt for a few years now. It seems they can’t get out of the first two rounds. Going in for Anthony Davis would be a way to raise their ceiling. Chances are NOLA wouldn’t accept this deal, they’ll get better offers. Maybe if Portland would include Lillard, they could make a better pitch, but I’m not sure they would do that.
Likelihood: Virtually Zero
Oklahoma City Thunder
Untouchables: Paul George
Best Offer: Russell Westbrook, Steven Adams, Hamidou Diallo, Nerlens Noel, Terrance Ferguson, and 2021 1st for Anthony Davis, Nikola Mirotic, Solomon Hill, and Wesley Johnson
Thunder Potential Lineup: Schroder, Roberson, George, Mirotic, Davis
Pelicans’ Potential Lineup: Westbrook, Holiday, Moore, Randle, Adams
This one may be the most unlikely trade in the article, but it also may be my favorite. It would be anarchy in OKC if they traded Russ, but the truth is, he’s shooting 25% from three, the worst anyone has ever shot at his attempts. His efficiency is way down, and his supermax contract, over $35 million this year, and projecting at $47 million by its last year, is really starting to look like an awful contract. Meanwhile, Paul George is an MVP candidate, and this trade would be going all-in on PG and AD. Meanwhile, the Pelicans could try to win now, Russ and Holiday would fit well together, and they’d have Russ and Adams locked up for four more and two more years respectively.
Likelihood: Zero. Literally Zero
Category 4: Not Good Enough to Re-Sign Him
These two teams are considerably attractive free agent destinations. One also happens to be Davis’s hometown. This draws inevitable trade buzz, but there’s a problem. Both of these teams are pretty short on talent. They’d have to give up all their assets just to get Davis, which would leave him on a team just as bad as the Pelicans right now. They just wouldn’t have a good enough team to hang onto AD in a year and a half.
Best Offer: Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr., Jabari Parker* (Player Option), Denzel Valentine, 2019 1st for Anthony Davis and Solomon Hill
Bulls’ Projected Lineup: Dunn, LaVine, Hutchison, Portis, Davis
Pelicans’ Projected Lineup: Payton, Holiday, Valentine, Markkanen, Mirotic/Randle (+ top 5 pick)
Davis is from Chicago, which is one of the reasons the Bulls are a naturally intriguing destination. They have the assets to get the deal done, and they can easily come up with the salary (Thanks Jabari), but the concern is re-signing him. Davis’ camp has made clear that he has no special interest in Chicago when it comes to free agency, so it may not be smart for the Bulls to sacrifice their future for what sure looks like a rental.
Likelihood: Virtually Zero
Best Offer: Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow, Bam Adebayo, Derrick Jones Jr., 2019 1st, 2023 1st for Anthony Davis
Heat’s Projected Lineup: Dragic, McGruder, Johnson, Davis, Whiteside
Pelicans’ Projected Lineup: Winslow, Holiday, Richardson, Mirotic/Randle, Adebayo
This is actually a sneaky good deal. The problem with Miami (and most of the teams we’ve seen so far) is that they don’t have a guy in that sweet spot – 22 to 25 years old, and a guaranteed multiple-time all-star. Given, there are only five or 10 of those guys in the league, but Davis is one, so NOLA should expect one back. Anyway, J-Rich, Bam, and Winslow aren’t a bad trio, plus Miami’s pick could be solid this season and that 2023 one could end up good, too. Miami is a glamour market, and a respected organization, but would AD re-sign to play with Goran Dragic and James Johnson? If the Heat were to do this, they’d be looking to land another free agent like Jimmy Butler.
Category 3: It’s Worth a Phone Call
These are teams that may not quite have the assets for AD. The first two are the second-most famous teams in the U.S.’s two huge cities. Each could try to scrape up every asset it has for Davis, and hope he re-signs, while preserving cap space for a second max guy. But their assets may not be enough. Similarly, the other three teams are contenders with obvious untouchables. They can try to scrape together the rest of their roster, but it may not compare to the trade packages in categories 1 and 2
Best Offer: D’Angelo Russell, Jarrett Allen, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, DeMarre Carroll*, 2019 1st, and Denver’s 2019 1st for Anthony Davis
Nets’ Projected Lineup: Dinwiddie, LeVert, Crabbe, Dudley, Davis
Pelicans’ Projected Lineup: Russell, Holiday, Hollis-Jefferson, Mirotic/Randle, Allen
Now these are starting to get intriguing. To be fair, Brooklyn may have to include either Dinwiddie or LeVert to get this done, but the way DLo has been playing lately, he’s looking like a future All-Star, maybe this season in the East. The Nets will also have plenty of cap space to go for a free agent. They’re in Brooklyn, they have a great organization, and we’ve already heard whispers about Jimmy or Kyrie. That’s a good way to convince Davis to stick around. This may not be the best offer NOLA will get, but it’s interesting.
Los Angeles Clippers
Best Offer: Danilo Gallinari, Shai Gilgous-Alexander, Montrezl Harrell, Lou Williams, and 2021 1st for Anthony Davis and Solomon Hill
Clippers’ Projected Lineup: Beverley, Bradley, Mbah a Moute (Leonard?), Harris, Davis
Pelicans’ Projected Lineup: SGA, Holiday, Gallinari, Mirotic/Randle, Harrell
This is underratedly one of the best offers we’ve seen so far. SGA has a very high ceiling, and Montrezl Harrell is already averaging 16 and 7 in only 26 minutes. That’s 22 and 9 per 36. Meanwhile, Gallo and Lou are established vets. I guess this offer can’t really match up with Boston or the Lakers, but if you add in Tobias Harris and a little more, it’s getting there. Anyway, the Clips should and probably will go all-in for AD. They really feel confident they’re getting Kawhi, and if the Lakers are Davis’s preferred destination, the Clippers are in the same city and arena, so they have to have a shot at re-signing him, especially if they land Kawhi.
Golden State Warriors
Untouchables: Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson
Best Offer: Draymond Green, Jordan Bell, Shaun Livingston, Quinn Cook, Alfonzo McKinnie, 2019 1st, 2021 1st, Dallas’ 2019 2nd for Anthony Davis and Wesley Johnson
Warriors’ Projected Lineup: Curry, Thompson, Iguodala, Durant, Davis (!)
Pelicans’ Projected Lineup: Payton, Holiday, Mirotic, Green, Bell
You know I had to include them. Looking at this now, it’s not happening, but we know they’ve been hypothetically interesting in making a move for Davis, and now the time has come. The Warriors could (I guess) try and make the trade midseason, but I’m assuming they’ll ride this one out. They’re the overwhelming title favorites at the moment. If they make the trade in the summer, KD and Klay will be free agents anyway, and Boogie will be long gone. Unless the Pelicans really love Draymond or Jordan Bell, it’s just a crazy thought.
Likelihood: Virtually zero
Untouchables: Victor Oladipo
Best Offer: Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner, Doug McDermott, Aaron Holiday, Cory Joseph*, 2019 1st, and 2021 1st for Anthony Davis and Jahlil Okafor
Pacers’ Projected Lineup: Collison, Oladipo, Bogdanovic, Young, Davis
Pelicans’ Projected Lineup: Holiday, Holiday, McDermott, Sabonis, Turner/Randle
I didn’t even realize the Holiday brothers thing until now, I promise. Indiana is a place I’d love to see Davis, just to find out how much he can raise their ceiling when Oladipo returns. However, this one seems unlikely for a few reasons. Unless NOLA really loves Sabonis and Turner, this package really doesn’t compete with those of some other teams. Also, even if they could pull off the trade, who knows whether AD would want to re-sign in Indianapolis.
Likelihood: Virtually zero
Untouchables: Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry
Best Offer: Pascal Siakam, O.G. Anunoby, Fred Van Vleet, Norman Powell, and 2021 1st for Anthony Davis
Raptors’ Potential Lineup: Lowry, Green, Leonard, Ibaka, Davis
Pelicans’ Potential Lineup: Van Vleet, Holiday, Anunoby, Siakam, Randle
Toronto probably has the best chance of all the teams in this category. Pascal Siakam is a borderline All-Star, and the other three players are young and promising, too. However, none of those four project as a star. Even Siakam, the most promising of the four, really seems to max out as a supporting role player, never a leading scorer. There’s a world in which the Raptors throw in Kyle Lowry, but that would really be something else. I mean, they traded DeRozan. But the way Lowry runs their team on both sides of the ball, he seems to be untouchable. With Siakam and other young pieces, it’s tough for Toronto’s offer to compete with the teams coming up.
Category 2: Have to Wait ’til Summer
There are two teams in this category for far different reasons. Boston can’t have Kyrie Irving and Anthony Davis both under contract at the same time since they’re both on a max rookie extension. Kyrie’s contract is expiring, so the Celtics can take Davis on as soon as this summer. So basically Boston has to cross its fingers until the February 7 trade deadline, and then they can get into the bidding over the summer. Meanwhile, the Knicks’ trade package is totally reliant on their draft pick. If they can win the lottery and land the Zion pick, they’d be acquiring a great trade chip. They’ll have to wait until the lottery to make a trade.
New York Knicks
Best Offer A: Kristaps Porzingis, Frank Ntilikina, Enes Kanter*, and 2019 1st (2nd to 5th) for Anthony Davis
Knicks’ Projected Lineup: Mudiay, Hardaway, Knox, Vonleh, Davis
Pelicans’ Projected Lineup: Ntilikina, Holiday, Barrett/Morant/Reddish, Porzingis, Randle
Best Offer B: Kevin Knox, Frank Ntilikina, Enes Kanter*, and Zion Williamson (2019 1st) for Anthony Davis
Knicks’ Projected Lineup: Mudiay, Lee, Hardaway, Porzingis, Davis
Pelicans’ Projected Lineup: Ntilikina, Holiday, Knox, Williamson, Randle
As you gathered, Offer A is what happens if the Knicks don’t win the lottery. R.J. Barrett, Ja Morant, and Cam Reddish are some of the other prospects projected in the top 5 of this year’s draft. Offer B is if the Knicks win the lottery and get Zion. That will determine which young guy they need to include. Either way, they’ll be in the conversation for Davis once summertime comes along. Zion is a once-in-a-lifetime specimen. What he becomes as a player is yet to be seen, but his size, strength, speed, and athleticism are pretty unprecedented so that #1 pick especially can help the Knicks make a convincing offer. Of course, Kevin Durant is looming over all of the Knicks stuff. He’d be an upgrade from Noah Vonleh, I’m pretty sure.
Likelihood: On the Table
Untouchables: Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum??
Best Offer w/o Tatum: Gordon Hayward, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier, Robert Williams, Kings’ 2019 1st, Clippers’ 2019 1st (15-30), and Grizzlies’ 2019 1st (9-30) for Anthony Davis, Solomon Hill, and Wesley Johnson
Celtics’ Projected Lineup: Irving, Tatum, Morris Davis, Horford
Pelicans’ Projected Lineup: Holiday, Smart, Brown, Hayward, Randle
Best Offer w/ Tatum: Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier, Kings’ 2019 1st, and Clippers’ 2019 1st (15-30), for Anthony Davis
Celtics’ Projected Lineup: Irving, Brown, Hayward, Davis, Horford
Pelicans’ Projected Lineup: Holiday, Smart, Brown, Tatum, Randle
There are lots of options here. We really don’t know if Jayson Tatum is on the table yet, but if he is, Boston can put together the best trade package of anyone, hands down. Tatum has the highest ceiling of any of the Laker guys and paired with Brown, Smart, Rozier, and picks, the Celtics can outbid anyone. If they can hang on for the next nine days, they can become the favorites, ahead of the Lakers. But if they don’t want to trade Tatum, things get interesting. But Anthony Davis has always been the prize in Boston. Danny Ainge has had his eyes on Davis for years, and this summer, it’ll finally be time to make the deal.
Likelihood: One of the favorites
Category 1: Can Make a Deal Right Now
Our final three teams are on the same level as the previous two. But those two have to wait until the summer, and these can be in trade talks right now, and they could be. It’s in their best interest to get a deal done now, before the deadline, and before the Knicks and Celtics can get involved. All three have that “sweet spot” player, 21 or 22 years old, and a future All-Star.
Untouchables: Nikola Jokic
Best Offer: Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Malik Beasley, Juan Hernangomez, and 2021 1st for Anthony Davis and Elfrid Payton
Nuggets’ Projected Lineup: Payton, Thomas, Barton, Davis, Jokic
Pelicans’ Projected Lineup: Murray, Holiday, Harris, Hernangomez, Randle
Denver is gonna be the under-the-radar team throughout this entire process. Jamal Murray would be an All-Star in the East, quietly averaging 19, 4, and 5. Harris is already a starting guard on the #2 team in the West, and those other two are young and already contributing, too. The Nuggets may try and make another trade to get a guard. Maybe they can get AD without Beasley or Harris. But the point is, Davis and Jokic on the same team is lethal, and Denver’s front office is known for its guts. Don’t sleep on the Nuggets.
Untouchables: Joel Embiid
Best Offer: Ben Simmons, Zhaire Smith, Wilson Chandler*, Landry Shamet, 2019 1st, and Heat’s 2021 1st for Anthony Davis
Sixers’ Potential Lineup: McConnell, Redick, Butler, Davis, Embiid
Pelicans’ Potential Lineup: Simmons, Holiday, Moore, Chandler, Randle
Simmons for Davis rumors have been swirling around for a little while, but at first it seemed to be a hypothetical idea. Now, this deal may legitimately be on the table. Simmons and Embiid aren’t a great fit on the court, no matter how unfortunate for the Sixers, and even Davis would better complement The Process. Those two would be the greatest big man combo in the history of basketball, hands down. I put this stat in my piece last week, but it’s worth another mention. Since the NBA/ABA merger, only four players have averaged 27 points and 13 rebounds: Shaquille O’Neal (once), Moses Malone (twice), and the other two, so far this season… Anthony Davis and Joel Embiid. Putting those two together? Wow. Plus, Jimmy Butler has become Philly’s primary ball handler in the 4th quarter anyways. Meanwhile, Ben Simmons would thrive under Alvin Gentry in New Orleans. He’s got some incredible potential. Put some shooters around him, run the break? Not a bad place to start a rebuild.
Note: There’s a version of this trade where Jrue Holiday gets sent back to Philly. I’m not sure how much the Sixers need to give up to make that happen, but it would be interesting and he’d be a good fit.
Likelihood: On the table
Los Angeles Lakers
Untouchables: LeBron James
Best Offer: Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Ivica Zubac, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope*, 2019 1st, and 2021 1st for Anthony Davis
Lakers’ Potential Lineup: Rondo, Hart, Stephenson, James, Davis
Yes, it’ll take all three, plus Zubac, plus two firsts. The Pelicans are gonna drive a hard bargain. Especially in this window before the deadline, New Orleans will know how desperate the Lakers are, and they’ll continue to negotiate all the way up to LeBron. And honestly? The Lakers should do it. They waited on Paul George. He chose OKC. They waited on Kawhi Leonard. It’s looking like they’re third behind Toronto and the Clippers. Now that they have a shot at a top 6/7 player, they need to go all-in. Now. Don’t wait. Get AD and LeBron on the same team, and meet Golden State in the playoffs. And you can bet they’ll be going hard after Kawhi, Kyrie, Klay, and Jimmy this summer. But it’s time to stop waiting on free agents and get LeBron and Davis together now. But they need to try and do it before the deadline, because once the season ends, Boston may be able to outbid them. Do this now, Magic. Go all-in. Build your super team.
Likelihood: One of the favorites
- Los Angeles Lakers
- Boston Celtics
- Philadelphia 76ers
- New York Knicks
- Denver Nuggets
- Toronto Raptors