What’s more fun to do on a casual Tuesday than spinning the NBA Trade Machine and delving into a boat load of hypotheticals that might not mean anything in due time? Nothing. You got it. Recently, Pelicans superstar Anthony Davis had this to say about his current team: “I got to play almost perfect every night to give us a chance to win”. That is not what Pelicans management, players, and fans want to hear from their franchise altering superstar who can opt out of his contract after next season. It’s been an up and down road for Davis in his first seven years in the league as he has 2 seasons of +.500 ball and a single playoff round win to show for it. On the other hand, it can’t be deemed his fault either as he’s posted career numbers of 23.5 points 10.4 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game. He’s exactly the type of player that’s perfect in the league today. He’s a versatile big who can score at will from anywhere on the court while also rebounding at a high clip and protecting the rim. The Pelicans have tried to surround Davis with help in the past but some unfortunate events have taken their train off of the rails a bit. The Demarcus Cousins deal was supposed to spearhead a movement of talent into the Bayou but an unlucky injury and a stale market for the big led him to Golden State in the offseason. With the unpredictability of the effects of an Achilles tear to a player the size of Cousins the Pelicans couldn’t justify committing a lot of money to him long-term. Instead of 1st class talent the Pelicans have a lot of 2nd and 3rd tier talent. Jrue Holiday, Nikola Mirotic, and Julius Randle are all nice pieces but in the grand scheme of things don’t move the needle much even with Davis in the fold. It’s clear to have any sort of shot at going deep in the playoffs (out West) you need at least two stars and maybe even a third guy on the fringe of star talent. If not for a key injury or some other factor in the future, it doesn’t seem like this Pelicans team will have much of a chance to make any sort of noise. Last season might have even been their peak with this core and that’s not a great occurrence granted Davis hasn’t won a thing in the NBA team-wise. Naturally, the Pelicans would like to either extend Davis or figure out a trade suitor in order to avoid a situation where they lose him for nothing.
If things continue how they’ve been and Davis doesn’t feel that he has a real chance to win then a trade would have to be in order. The question is, where will he land and what will the cost be? As far as the strength of the package it’s tough to tell. Kawhi Leonard cost a pretty penny (Derozan, Poetl, 1st Rounder) but then at the same time Cousins went for Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway, Buddy Hield, a first, and a second. As far as some of the teams that might be interested on the trade front we turn our focus to some Bovada odds (opening the season) on where Davis could be playing his first game of the 2019-20 season and the type of packages each team could offer.
Los Angeles Lakers (-190 Odds):
Receive: Anthony Davis
Trade to NO: Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, 2019 First Round Pick
The Lakers get their superstar to pair with LeBron James and make LA an even more desirable landing spot for big time free agents while New Orleans gets some young pieces, a draft pick, and an expiring contract (KCP 12 million dollar expiring) to clear some money off of their books in the summer. This wouldn’t be a bad starting point for a rebuild in NO as Ingram (21 years old) can slide in for them at the 3 while Lonzo (21 years old) either splits time with Jrue Holiday or plays along side him and they bump Holiday to the 2. They could get creative and with the youth on the roster this gives them the ability to sign free agents before having to pay their young talent.
Boston (+250 Odds):
Receive: Anthony Davis
Trade to NO: Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Aron Baynes, Guerschon Yabusele, top 1 protected 2019 First Round Pick (SAC)
This one was more difficult to put together than the Laker deal as the Celtics have a bunch of large contracts (more than 20 Million) and a bunch of small contracts (less than 8 million). I tried to keep Marcus Smart out of the deal but it wasn’t feasible given the contract situations and him having a deal friendly 11.6-million-dollar cap hit to use. The Celtics land their big fish and roll out a starting 5 of Davis, Horford, Hayward, Tatum, and Kyrie. This bumps Horford down to his natural position at the 4 and gives the Celtics a core that in time could prove to be one of the best of this generation. For New Orleans, Jaylen Brown (22 years old) will be making an impact in this league for a long time and he’s the prototypical wing to build around with plenty of growth to be had. Smart gives them a defensive savant and possibly someone they could start at a guard position and effectively run the offense. The Kings pick is a wild card but should fall into the top-10 once things are all set and done while Baynes and Yabusele act as both salary filler and solid rotational players for a rebuilding franchise.
New Orleans (+300 Odds):
Receive: Hopefully expiring contracts/picks but honestly anything works
Trade away: Solomon Hill and whomever else they want on the bench
Since they obviously can’t trade Davis to themselves New Orleans has some work to do in order to keep him happy. Currently, NO will have 88.9 million in cap hits next summer which includes a player option for Julius Randle (9.07 million) and a team option for Jahlil Okafor (1.7 million). For Davis to actively want to stay they are going to need to bring in some top-tier talent. This means they’ll have to shed salary from somewhere and a good start would be to find anybody on the planet who wants 2 years and 25 million dollars’ worth of Solomon Hill (yuck). Honestly, just call like the Hawks or something and try to swindle some expiring contracts or a draft pick. If that doesn’t work, attach a pick to him and get him out that way, it quite frankly doesn’t matter what they get for him the cap space is what needs to be increased. He needs to be gone and the Pelicans need that 25-million-dollar space under the salary cap in order to lure a star.
Golden State (+750):
Receive: Anthony Davis
Trade to NO: Klay Thompson, Shaun Livingston, Jordan Bell, 2019 First Round Pick, 2020 First Round Pick
This is by far the scariest and most interesting of all of these hypothetical deals. After this season, things might look a whole lot different in Golden State. Klay’s deal is up, Demarcus Cousins is due for a big contract (probably elsewhere), and Kevin Durant will most likely opt out and pursue free agency. There’s a very real scenario where guys might leave after (probably) winning their third straight title (With KD) and fourth overall with this basic group of Steph, Klay, and Draymond. A move for Davis would be groundbreaking but with the current state of the NBA the possibility isn’t out of the question. Maybe GM Bob Myers wants to get out ahead of the eventual departure of his current core and revamp the whole roster. Who knows. The case for the Pelicans would be that they’d have half a season or so to convince Klay to be their number one star and sell him on the franchise. Albeit a tall order, maybe New Orleans thinks it can be done and they can eventually lock him in long-term (look at how OKC sold Paul George). Jordan Bell is a young piece with high defensive upside and first round picks are always welcomed to any rebuild no matter their position. While this is all very unlikely due to the Warriors quest for a championship this for sure would cement the Warriors (again) as one of the top 2-3 teams in the association for years to come.
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