Realistic Superstar Pairings That Could Form in Anthony Davis Trades
While the New Orleans Pelicans and new executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin will try their best to convince Anthony Davis to stay, a trade seems like the best course of action for all parties involved.
Even if Griffin can pitch Davis on the idea of playing with presumed No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson, the Pelicans still run the risk of the big man changing his mind next summer and leaving in free agency for nothing. Griffin simply can't take this risk without some sort of serious verbal commitment from Davis—something he's unlikely to get.
Instead, plenty of attractive trade options loom.
We know the Los Angeles Lakers are interested, and the asking price shouldn't be as high this time around since Davis is down to just one year left on his contract. The Boston Celtics and New York Knicks should both be in the running, and each has the ability to pair a star (or two) with the 26-year-old.
This is the name of the game. No disrespect to Jrue Holiday, but Davis needs more help if he wants to reach—and even win—an NBA Finals. He needs a second superstar.
Luckily, a trade out of New Orleans would mean plenty of opportunities to play with one.
Kemba Walker, Anthony Davis on New York Knicks
How Davis Gets There: Trade centered around 2019 No. 3 overall pick, PF Kevin Knox, PG Dennis Smith Jr., G Frank Ntilikina
How Walker Gets There: Signs four-year, $141 million max deal
The Knicks will be star hunting this summer, and they could have nearly $70 million in cap space at their disposal. While they'll shoot for Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving first, landing Walker would be a fine consolation prize.
Walker was recently named to the All-NBA third team after he averaged a career-high 25.6 points to go along with 4.4 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 1.2 steals per game. While this means Charlotte can now increase its offer to five years and $221 million on a supermax deal, the chance to play with someone like Davis on the Knicks may be too much for him to pass up.
Walker was born in New York and grew up a Knicks fan. And lest we forget, Cardiac Kemba tore through the 2011 Big East Tournament held in Madison Square Garden.
The Pelicans should covet the Knicks' No. 3 overall pick, as it would give them the opportunity to pair former Duke teammates Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett while picking up some additional prospects in the process.
The Knicks shouldn't deem anything off-limits in a trade for Davis, who is perhaps their key to recruiting stars in free agency. Dennis Smith Jr.? Kevin Knox? Mitchell Robinson? Front-row tickets to see Billy Joel? Name your price, Pelicans.
Davis and Walker would be a dynamic pair—one likely good enough to grab home-court advantage in the Eastern Conference.
Kyrie Irving, Anthony Davis on Boston Celtics
How Davis Gets There: Trade centered around SF Jayson Tatum, SG Jaylen Brown, G Marcus Smart and first-round picks
How Irving Gets There: Re-signs with five-year, $190 million max contract
This may be an all-or-nothing scenario. We could see both Irving and Davis in Boston this fall, or neither could end up on the Celtics.
If Irving ends up returning, likely on a five-year max deal, part of his negotiations may revolve around the Celtics offering a large part of their young core for Davis. Re-signing the point guard would be the easiest part for Boston.
The Celtics lucked out when a trade between the New Orleans Pelicans and Los Angeles Lakers fell through this past February, and they'll finally get their chance at the six-time All-Star this offseason. As Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe reported before the 2019 trade deadline, the two teams have already had plenty of conversations:
"Sources said the Pelicans have sought guarantees from the Celtics surrounding specific packages, but the Celtics have been reluctant to make absolute promises, simply because so much can transpire in five months, such as injuries. Nevertheless, sources said, the Celtics have made it clear that they will be ready and willing to offer an explosive package when the time arrives, and that no specific player will be off limits in negotiations."
Parting with Tatum and Brown means Boston would officially be punting on its future for the present. The Celtics own three first-round picks to use as ammunition this offseason and also possess the Memphis Grizzlies' top-six protected pick for 2020—a selection that becomes completely unprotected in 2021.
Of course, if Irving chooses to sign with the New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets, Lakers or any one of his many expected suitors, a trade for Davis—likely a one-year rental in that scenario—would die.
Damian Lillard, Anthony Davis on Portland Trail Blazers
How Davis Gets There: Trade centered around SG CJ McCollum, C Jusuf Nurkic, 2019 No. 25 overall pick
How Lillard Gets There: Two years, $61.4 million remaining on contract
Portland has no reason to break up its tremendous backcourt duo, especially after it reached the Western Conference Finals this season.
Unless there's a chance to pair up draft classmates Damian Lillard (No. 6 overall in 2012) and Anthony Davis (No. 1 overall in 2012), that is.
As much as the Blazers love McCollum, the 27-year-old has yet to make an All-Star team but should be in line for a max contract in 2021. Nurkic is coming off a career year (15.6 points, 10.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.4 blocks), but even his presence likely wouldn't have been enough to get the Blazers past the Golden State Warriors.
For this pairing of Lillard and Davis to happen, Portland already has half the work done. Lillard is under contract for the next two years and is expected to receive an additional four seasons at $191 million, per Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.
So why would Griffin and the Pelicans take this offer over others that offer young talent and draft picks? It all comes down to New Orleans wanting to stay competitive instead of diving into a rebuild.
Jrue Holiday and Zion Williamson are a nice start, but adding McCollum and Nurkic would likely make the Pelicans a playoff team in the West. Putting veteran talent around Williamson would also help ease his transition into the NBA and let him showcase his underrated passing game.
Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis on Toronto Raptors
How Davis Gets There: Trade centered around PF Pascal Siakim, SF OG Anunoby, C Serge Ibaka, 2021 first-round pick
How Leonard Gets There: Re-signs on five-year, $190 million max deal
Like with Irving in Boston, Toronto must first convince Leonard to re-sign before it makes any trade offers for Davis.
The good news for the Raptors? Even if they end up losing to the Golden State Warriors, reaching the Finals for the first time in franchise history is a fine first step toward convincing Leonard to put down roots.
Making the Finals and putting together a trade package for Davis? Walking away from that would be extremely tough.
Leonard would get an additional year and about $50 million guaranteed if he re-signs with the Raptors over any other team, and they've clearly done a fantastic job maximizing his talents and resting him at the right times during the regular season.
Toronto doesn't have quite the cupboard of trade assets that other teams possess, but moving Davis to the Eastern Conference should carry extra appeal for New Orleans.
Siakim (18.7 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.2 steals this postseason) would be the headliner here, while Anunoby (21 years old) could become the long-term answer New Orleans craves at small forward. Ibaka (expiring $23.3 million deal) would provide the Pelicans with a veteran mentor for Zion Williamson before freeing up cap space next summer.
Leonard and Davis together would be one of the best defensive duos the NBA has ever seen, and both members are capable of dropping 40 points on any given night, as well.
LeBron James, Anthony Davis on Los Angeles Lakers
How Davis Gets There: Trade centered around SF Brandon Ingram, PF Kyle Kuzma, 2019 No. 4 overall pick
How James Gets There: Three years, $117.7 million remaining on contract
If at first you don't succeed...
After an embarrassing failed trade between New Orleans and Los Angeles, neither of which even made the playoffs, both front office leaders have either been fired (Dell Demps) or quit (Magic Johnson).
Perhaps no agent has dealt with David Griffin more than Rich Paul, who represents Davis and a trio of players who operated under the Pelicans' executive vice president of basketball operations in Cleveland—James, Tristan Thompson and JR Smith. Griffin's presence alone should have reignited Davis trade talks with the Lakers.
L.A. shouldn't have to offer up its entire young core and draft picks this time, since it'll only be getting Davis with one guaranteed year left on his deal.
While James will be 35 by next postseason, he'll be extremely well-rested (career-low 1,937 total minutes this season, compared to 3,948 in 2017-18) and is the top passer featured in this article. He's also proved time and time again he can be the best player on a championship-caliber team, which is a role he might not even have to fill with a healthy Davis.
Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Anthony Davis on New York Knicks
How Davis Gets There: Trade centered around No. 3 overall pick, PF Kevin Knox, PG Dennis Smith Jr., G Frank Ntilikina
How Durant Gets There: Sign four-year, $164 million max deal
How Irving Gets There: Sign four-year, $141 million max deal
What's better than pairing Davis with a superstar? Putting him with two, of course.
The Knicks and their $70 million in potential cap space have the ability to do so. While players such as Kemba Walker and Jimmy Butler may have interest in coming to New York, the team should aim even higher.
According to Bleacher Report's Howard Beck, "Rival executives will tell you, without hesitation, that Durant is bound for the Knicks; that Irving is likely to join him."
The Knicks could jumpstart this process with a trade for Davis.
With the No. 3 overall pick as the centerpiece of this deal, the Pelicans would have a nice rebuilding core featuring Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett, Knox, Smith, Ntilikina and whatever else they demand from the Knicks.
If Durant and Irving were leaning towards the Knicks to begin with, the opportunity to play with Davis would all but force them to put pen to paper. Not only would they become the favorites to win the East, but they may become the Finals favorite with the Warriors losing Durant in the process.