The NBA offseason is just about upon us. You know, that time of year when you’ve still got hope that your team won’t blow the Draft and even the wildest free agency and trade speculation gets you excited (don’t deny it). Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer wrote a great column in March whose title spoke for itself:
You should read it. The Pelicans also have Boogie to do a lot of what makes Davis great, which makes him as expendable as a young future Hall-of-Famer can be. Barring some major change, they would be smarter to deal him for a huge ransom early than either let him walk for zilch or get a diminished return for him near the deadline of his final season in NOLA.
Here are five trades that make sense for New Orleans over the next year but won’t happen, because they’re stupid and either think they can get Davis to stay long-term or that he and Boogie will fit well together, or both.
(Note: some details may have to be changed to meet CBA requirements, but these are the core parameters.)
New Orleans gets Jaylen Brown, the 2017 #1 overall pick (or Markelle Fultz if the trade is post-draft, à la Kevin Love-Andrew Wiggins), the Nets’ 2018 pick (almost guaranteed to be top four, in a 4-5 player draft), Jae Crowder, and Terry Rozier
Boston gets Anthony Davis
The Celtics could also throw in another first-round pick of their own in addition to, or instead of, Rozier. I suggested this trade on Twitter and the reaction was generally “you’re an idiot – that’s way too little for someone as great as Anthony Davis.” In response, I would suggest that when he does end up getting traded someday – probably the summer before free agency so New Orleans can avoid an OKC/Durant situation – it will be for considerably less than what this deal would amount to. Brown is at minimum a borderline star in the making, Fultz is going to be the (legit) #1 overall pick – you know, the same as Davis – and next year’s pick could net a player like Michael Porter with more upside than either of them. Throw in Crowder and Rozier and it’s hard to imagine them realistically getting anything better in return.
The real question is whether the Celtics would even do this. They aren’t beating the Warriors any time soon, so it would be pointless to trade away young players and picks since there are no titles in the immediate future. However, if they’re committed to keeping Isaiah Thomas and trying to win now and/or soon, there are few better catches than Anthony Davis. They could build around IT, Avery Bradley, Al Horford, and Davis, while (maybe) still having money left for Gordon Hayward. And the Pelicans could instantly go from a team with no future to having the brightest future in the league.
New Orleans gets D’Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, and Jordan Clarkson
Los Angeles gets Anthony Davis
The Lakers may have to offer New Orleans a choice between D’Angleo Russell OR the #2 overall pick (or Lonzo Ball/De’Aaron Fox, if the draft has already happened) to make this deal work. They could also throw in their 2019 unprotected first-round pick. Then LA could build around either Ball/Fox/Russell (whoever is left), Paul George (who might as well have a Laker logo tattooed on his face at this point), and Anthony Davis, while still retaining a lot of cap space. Ball is basically a finished product at this point (at least for a one-and-done guy), so that team should be able to hit the ground running. The Lakers are also the ultimate star-fucker franchise, and LA is the ultimate star-fucker city, so Davis would be welcomed with open arms, no matter the cost.
In return New Orleans gets a young, cheap, ready-made team to surround Boogie with and potential star upside with Ingram and (possibly) Russell…and certainly Ball/Fox if they end up with the pick instead. It obviously isn’t exactly what you want in return for Davis, but compared to the possibility of losing him for nothing, it doesn’t sound that bad.
New Orleans gets Jimmy Butler, Bobby Portis, Denzel Valentine, Nikola Mirotic, and the Bulls’ 2018 and 2019 unprotected first-round picks
Chicago gets Anthony Davis and Omer Asik
This is getting into less desirable territory for New Orleans, although Butler represents more of a sure thing than anyone in this entire piece. But if you add in a bunch of young roster pieces with varying levels of upside (not to mention two draft picks that may end up being good) and agree to take on Omer Asik’s contract (which was terrible even before he began literally wasting away), the Bulls may have a chance to bring their hometown hero back to The Loop.
Since they would be giving up their future draft picks, the Bulls’ only chance to actually win with Davis would be through the free agency route (tons of space + big market). Far from a guaranteed thing, but would you rather build around a disgruntled Jimmy Butler with little cap space or a happy-to-be-home Anthony Davis and tons of cap space?
New Orleans gets Jabari Parker, Khris Middleton, Malcolm Brogdon, and Milwaukee’s 2018 and 2019 unprotected first-round picks.
Milwaukee gets Anthony Davis and E’Twaun Moore
The big risk here for New Orleans is injury. If all of those players are healthy, it represents a pretty decent return. Also, depending on how you feel about Jabari Parker, you may be getting a star, a really good role player (Middleton), and a good role player (Brogdon), all of whom complement Boogie (and Jrue Holiday, if you keep him).
For the Bucks, the lure is clear: they don’t mind clearing out every asset they have outside of Giannis Antetokounmpo because the result would be a terrifying combo of Giannis and Davis. It may be hard to put pieces around them with no draft picks and being in Milwaukee, but the Davis/Greek Freak combo could be enough to draw free agents, and they also have Thon Maker in the stable. Plus, Davis would be more likely to re-sign long-term because Milwaukee is only 90 miles from Chicago.
New Orleans gets Ben Simmons, the 2017 #3 overall pick, and whichever of the Sixers’ 2018 first-round picks (one coming from the Lakers) is higher
Philadelphia gets Anthony Davis, Omer Asik, and Solomon Hill
In this scenario, New Orleans gets a #1 overall pick back, a guy in Josh Jackson/De’Aaron Fox/Lonzo Ball who could be a #1 overall pick in another year, and (probably) a top-5 pick in a fairly loaded 2018 Draft. The issue? No proven NBA talent. However, there is a lot of upside on the table with Simmons and the ’17/’18 picks. New Orleans could also ask for Saric (or another pick) if they wanted.
Philly also has so much cap room that they could take on two contracts that New Orleans would love to rid themselves of. Whether or not New Orleans could draw good free agents on whom to use that cap space is a different matter, but at least they would have it. Whether Philly would actually make this move is debatable, considering their high hopes for Simmons, but Embiid would play better with Davis than Boogie did, and he’s only 24, so the process could continue unabated.