By Reed Becker
With the New Orleans Pelicans winning the 2019 NBA Draft Lottery a lot of attention has turned to whether Anthony Davis would still want out of New Orleans since he now has the chance to play with projected number one pick Zion Williamson from Duke. New Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations, David Griffin, recently met with Davis to discuss their future. However, even though Griffin continues to say publicly that Davis might wind up staying with the Pelicans, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium TV, Davis still wants out of the Big Easy. With that being said, let’s review the teams that are in the race for Anthony Davis and which team can make the best offer.
Los Angeles Lakers: It has been widely reported this season that Anthony Davis’s first choice to be traded to is the Los Angeles Lakers. Also, it has been known that Los Angeles was already aggressively trying to trade for Davis at the trade deadline back in February. A Lakers offer could include: Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram and the fourth pick in the upcoming draft. However, even after the Lakers obtained the fourth pick in the draft lottery last week, Brian Windhorst of ESPN has reported that the Pelicans still have no interest in trading Davis to LA. This makes sense, even though the Pelicans now have a new team president, the way AD and his agent, Rich Paul, publicly tried forcing their way to LA angered New Orleans ownership. Furthermore, it has been reported throughout this season that New Orleans has no interest in sending Davis to a Western conference team. Although, that could change with Griffin taking over. Also, why would New Orleans obey Davis’s wish and help the Lakers build a super team in the same conference? Plus, the Lakers can’t offer a package that is as attractive as what some other teams can offer. A Lakers offer of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and the fourth pick in the draft is not attractive for several reasons. First, Lonzo Ball has constantly been injured since he entered the NBA and having to deal with the baggage that his father, Lavar Ball, brings makes taking Lonzo even less attractive. With regards to Brandon Ingram, he is the Lakers biggest trade chip, but is currently recovering from blood clots. Ingram is also not a good trade asset because, according to Brian Windhorst, NBA executives are worried about his long-term health. The Pelicans will certainly remember when Chris Bosh was forced to retire because of blood clots when they consider a deal including Ingram. And even though LA surprisingly moved up in the lottery for this year’s draft to snag the fourth pick, this draft class drops off a cliff outside of the top three. This would leave Kyle Kuzma as the only attractive piece to New Orleans, and they can get much more from other teams. In the end, the Pelicans will not wind up trading AD to LA due to the Lakers not having enough trade chips to offer the Pelicans.
New York Knicks: According to Shams Charania, if the Knicks would have won the NBA Draft lottery, they would have shifted their focus to trading the first pick and other assets for Anthony Davis. Even though New York didn’t win the lottery and got the third pick in the draft, the offer they could put together for New Orleans is still very attractive. The Knicks can offer: the third pick in the draft, the two Dallas picks they got in the Kristaps Porzingis trade (2021 unprotected, and 2023 top 10 protected), Mitchell Robinson, Kevin Knox and Dennis Smith Jr. The Knicks can try to sell the Pelicans on having two of the top three picks in this year’s draft, especially with the draft being strongest in the top three. New Orleans would be able to get Zion Williamson at number one, and if Memphis takes Ja Morant they could take RJ Barrett and reunite the two Duke teammates. Then there’s Mitchell Robinson, who was a steal by Knicks GM Scott Perry in the second-round last year and is vastly proving his skills to the league. According to Basketball-Reference.com, Mitchell Robinson averaged 5.7 blocks per 100 possessions, which led the whole NBA this season. Robinson is also in the top 10 in offensive rating per 100 possessions in the NBA (the amount of points his team scores when he is on the floor). This shows that his game is strong and still has a lot of upside as he is only 21 years old. And then there is one of the Dallas picks the Knicks got from Dallas in the trade for KP, although one would think they would only give up one of them. The Knicks doing this trade for Davis would put them in win now mode and increase their chances of getting Kyrie Irving and/or Kevin Durant in free agency. This would be a good deal for the Pelicans if they decide to go the young route and start from scratch because it would allow Griffin to pick his own players in the Draft.
Boston Celtics: The Celtics have the most attractive pieces that New Orleans could want, such as a deal including Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and two first round draft picks. For New Orleans, this is exactly the kind of return you are looking for because Tatum and Brown are two explosive players that could help accelerate a rebuild in New Orleans. Furthermore, the Pelicans would be sure to pay Tatum and Brown the money required to keep him when they become restricted free agents. The question will be if Boston will be willing to part with Tatum. If David Griffin plans on trading Davis before the draft, Boston probably won’t be willing to put in Tatum since they won’t yet know Kyrie Irving’s free agency plans. If Kyrie stays, then Boston would be more willing to include Tatum so they can build around Kyrie and AD long term. However, if Kyrie leaves then the Celtics probably would be less likely to include Tatum since he would be a key part of their future. Boston trading for AD on draft week with a leap of faith without knowing the fate of Kyrie Irving, given the start of free agency is 10 days after the draft.
There will certainly be a lot of talk about where Anthony Davis will play next year leading up to the NBA Draft on June 20th. The Celtics are the favorite, but it will come down to whether they will be willing to part with Tatum. If they are not, then New Orleans will shift their attention to the Knicks. Whatever happens, AD will have a huge impact on whichever team is able to acquire him.