The NBA trade deadline got a much-needed jolt of energy Monday morning when it was reported that Pelicans star Anthony Davis has requested a trade and won't re-sign a contract extension with the team.
While the move doesn't come as a total surprise after years of speculation and anticipation, it does nonetheless send shockwaves through the league. Having one of the NBA's premier players on the block means all 29 teams must do their due dilligence to see if he's obtainable. Davis' agent Rich Paul told ESPN that his client wants to join a team that "allows him the chance to win consistently and compete for a championship."
So which teams should call the Pelicans about AD? With the NBA's trade deadline (Feb. 7) rapidly approaching, SI.com asked five writers to offer their most compelling Brow blockbusters.
Celtics get: Anthony Davis
Pelicans get: Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart, Marcus Morris, Clippers’ lottery-protected 2019 first
Unless Boston decides to include Kyrie Irving in the trade, it cannot actually trade for Anthony Davis until July 1, when free agency opens and Irving’s deal comes off the books. Davis and Irving are both presently on Designated Player Extension contracts, and teams can only roster one such player, so unless the Celtics want to deal Kyrie (which doesn’t seem too likely at this point), they are sitting on their hands until after the deadline.
Anyway, because this hypothetical is taking place five months from now, it’s a little bit harder to consider. The Celtics will have some added leverage if New Orleans strikes out on moving Davis at the deadline—Danny Ainge will be armed with first-round picks and can make a better offer than anyone else. Jayson Tatum would have to be the guy the Pelicans stump for in any offer (with Jaylen Brown likely being a lesser alternative), and here, we’ll work under the assumption he’s included. By placing Tatum in the deal, the Celtics show they’re serious, and might not need to include their more valuable picks (namely, the Memphis first that becomes unprotected in 2021), and the Clippers’ pick, provided it stays on track to convey in the teens this year, could do the trick. Boston will also likely have the Kings’ first-rounder, which may fall slightly ahead of the Clippers’ selection and could be an alternative. Adding Smart, who is under team control for three more seasons (but not at a totally unreasonable price at age 24) makes the money work, as does Morris’ expiring contract.
One of Tatum or Brown and at least one of those two picks is probably a baseline offer for Davis, who, provided he would re-sign in Boston, would immediately legitimize the Celtics as Eastern Conference favorites. How much the Celtics end up offering in June would likely be dependent on how serious the Lakers would be willing to get, and with LeBron already there and Rich Paul pulling the strings, L.A. could try and play the waiting game. It’s a situation where Boston may not want to screw around, and finally play all of its cards. The Celtics can get creative with the inclusion of other draft assets as sweetener if need be. As it stands, if June comes around and all parties are operating under the assumption Davis would be willing to stay in Boston long-term, then the Celtics should be able to top any offer. — Jeremy Woo
Nuggets get: Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday
Pelicans get: Gary Harris, Monte Morris, Michael Porter Jr., Paul Millsap, 2021 and 2023 first-round picks
I genuinely like this trade for both teams. Davis makes the Nuggets a legitimate Finals contender in the West, and a Nikola Jokic-AD duo would be hellacious offensively. Denver has already been one of the surprise teams in the West (to some people, anyway); adding a blue-chipper like Davis will make them fearsome this postseason and potentially for years to come. I mean, I don’t need to convince you why the Nuggets should go get one of the best players in the known universe.
Why should the Pelicans do it? Gary Harris is underrated, and he could potentially take a Victor Oladipo-esque leap while on a very reasonable contract. Monte Morris is a starting-caliber guard on a cheap deal as well. Michael Porter Jr. is a bit of a wild card but he’s an extremely worthy gamble for New Orleans. And the Paul Millsap-Jrue Holiday swap clears some salary for the Pelicans as soon as this summer. — Rohan Nadkarni
Los Angeles Clippers
Clippers get: Anthony Davis and Solomon Hill
Pelicans get: Tobias Harris, Lou Williams, Jerome Robinson, Avery Bradley, 2021 first and a 2020 second
If the Clippers want to make a run at Davis then they may as well use the blueprint that they tried in the Chris Paul trade two offseasons ago. The Pelicans need to think of this like a baseball trade: There is absolutely no way to recoup Davis’ value, so what teams can provide you controllable future assets? The lead piece will either be Danilo Gallinari or Tobias Harris: Harris is the better player, but Gallinari has two more years left on his contract and is still capable of 20+ points per game in an Alvin Gentry offense. If GM Dell Demps insists on Harris, that’s reasonable, but there’s a higher likelihood he departs in free agency. Lou Williams is signed to one of the most team-friendly contracts in basketball and is one of the most valuable bench pieces around; the man gets his buckets. Robinson is a high-floor, low-ceiling guard and Bradley can serve as a place-holder during the rebuild. The Clippers can assume Solomon Hill’s expiring contract as a favor for acquiring one of the game’s top-five players.
The Pelicans should demand Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Montrezl Harrell, but it’s unlikely that the Clippers would part with either. Since it is Anthony Davis on the other end of the deal, perhaps the Clippers can’t deem anyone untouchable. They probably shouldn’t part with Gilgeous-Alexander in any circumstance, but if it means bringing in Davis now and Kawhi Leonard later, maybe it’s time to clear the decks.— Gabriel Baumgaertner
76ers get: Anthony Davis
Pelicans get: Jimmy Butler, Markelle Fultz and Miami's 2021 first
Would it be crazy to move on from an All-Star you acquired less than three months ago? Perhaps, but this is Philadelphia. Markelle Fultz remains the strangest story in sports and the Brian Colangelo fiasco lingers in the rearview mirror. Everything is on the table. Jimmy Butler’s future in Philly is already a source of speculation, so why not flip him for bigger and better?
If you’re the 76ers and this is an option, it’s an enticing option. Anthony Davis and Joel Embiid would form the best frontcourt since Tim Duncan and David Robinson, while being versatile enough on both ends to compete for a title.
If you’re the Pelicans, no other trade lands you a proven star who might be willing to re-sign the big deal that AD is eschewing. And there’s still hope around the league that Fultz could recover his potential with a scenery change.
If you’re Jimmy Butler, you told us that you only care about winning. But you seem to be concerned about your role in an offense and money, too. NOLA could take care of you on both those fronts.— Ben Teitelbaum
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Los Angeles Lakers
Lakers get: Anthony Davis
Pelicans get: Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Rajon Rondo, Michael Beasley, 2020 first
The NBA needs a new word. Tampering and recruiting just feel obsolete. LeBron James is way too smart to get caught up in that nonsense. Instead, let's say James orchestrated AD's arrival to Los Angeles. He outsmarted the system. Don't be mad just because he's the first one powerful and savvy enough to do it.
While New Orleans did everything in its powers to keep Davis, the team's powers ultimately pale in comparison to The King's. Surrounding AD with Jrue Holiday and DeMarcus Cousins and other complementary players was a valiant effort, but it wasn't enough. LeBron wants to play with a second superstar and has let it be known he'd like that player to arrive before the deadline. And guess what? LeBron's agent also happens to be the agent of Davis, who would also like to be moved before the deadline. If only there was a way of solving their problems in one mastermind swoop...
Rich Paul and AD have left Pelicans GM Dell Demps in a brutal position. They technically could wait to deal Davis, but what if Paul has yet to play a trump card that we haven't considered? With such a public trade request, you've got to assume Paul is thinking 2–3 steps ahead. If AD ends up on the Lakers it will feel like a forfeit. Forget the upper hand, Demps is about to propose trades granny-style. The Pelicans should still be able to nab Kuzma, a future All-Star, and prospects and parts as an exit package, but it's back to the drawing board after that. — Matt Dollinger