Conventional wisdom holds that deadlines spur action, which is why this week, as Thursday’s trade deadline approaches, began with a flurry of activity from the parties involved in the Anthony Davis sweepstakes.
New Orleans is mulling over the Lakers’ offer and must decide whether they want to deal Davis now or wait until this summer when the Boston Celtics would be able to acquire Davis. Right now the Celtics are barred from acquiring Davis while they have Kyrie Irving on the roster due to an obscure rule involving the types of contracts under which the two players are playing.
Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson called Pelicans general manager Dell Demps on Monday morning, and by the end of their two phone calls, Johnson offered the Pelicans six players, two first-round draft picks, and salary cap relief, according to people familiar with their conversations who were not authorized to speak publicly.
The Lakers offered Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, Michael Beasley and two first-round picks.
They also offered to take on Solomon Hill, a 27-year-old small forward who grew up in Los Angeles and went to Fairfax High School. Hill is set to make $13 million next season, which the Lakers would stretch over the next three seasons if they acquire him, a person familiar with the Lakers’ plans said.
Demps has been authorized by Pelicans ownership to make the best deal possible, no matter where that means sending Davis.
One player resisting a potential move to New Orleans is Ball, who doesn’t technically have any say in his destination. According to people familiar with their thinking, Ball’s camp has been adamant since last week that it doesn’t want Ball in New Orleans and prefers another team. On Monday, Ball’s outspoken father LaVar went on the record with ESPN, saying he doesn’t want his son in New Orleans.
Among the Ball camp’s preferred destinations, Phoenix reciprocates the interest. The Suns have reached out to the Lakers and Pelicans and made clear their interest in joining the trade as a third team, according to a person familiar with their conversations who was not authorized to speak publicly.
One player not offered in any deals for Davis was Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, a sixth-year guard who does have the ability to control his destination. Caldwell-Pope, who is playing on a one-year deal worth $12 million, is not interested in being traded to New Orleans. Although Caldwell-Pope and the Lakers had been looking for a landing spot, one person unauthorized to speak publicly said Caldwell-Pope is unlikely to be traded.
The NBA’s trade deadline is at noon (PST) on Thursday.
As the morning’s conversations progressed, Davis’ representatives attempted to move the process along with a deed seemingly intended to deter the Boston Celtics in their pursuit.
Davis’ representatives at Klutch Sports informed the Pelicans that there were only four teams with which Davis would be interested in signing long-term if they trade for him: the Lakers, Clippers, Milwaukee Bucks and New York Knicks. Among those teams, only the Lakers are engaging with the Pelicans in trade talks.
The Clippers had not reached out to the Pelicans when Davis’ list became public. The Knicks tried last week but were rebuffed by the Pelicans. They then turned their attention toward trading star Kristaps Porzingis to the Dallas Mavericks.
It’s not the first time people close to Davis had expressed antipathy toward his landing in Boston.
On Friday, his father told ESPN he did not want Davis to be traded to the Celtics, citing the organization’s treatment of Isaiah Thomas. Thomas, who spent part of last season with the Lakers, played through a torn labrum in his hip during the 2017 playoffs, and also while grieving his sister’s death. Once they realized the extent of his injury, the Celtics discarded the two-time All Star, trading him to the Cleveland Cavaliers as part of the deal to acquire Kyrie Irving.
Boston would like to pair Irving with Davis. Because they acquired Irving while he was on a designated rookie extension, and Davis is currently playing on a designated rookie extension, they cannot acquire Davis until Irving’s current contract expires. Their hope is that they can re-sign Irving and then acquire Davis.
So far, Boston has seemed undeterred by Davis’ insistence he would not sign with them long-term.
There is precedent for teams trading for players without assurances about their future plans. The Oklahoma City Thunder did it two summers ago and were rewarded last summer when Paul George agreed to sign long term. The Toronto Raptors did it last summer for Kawhi Leonard.
The Lakers themselves traded for Dwight Howard despite Howard’s reservations about remaining in Los Angeles, giving up multiple draft picks and players to acquire him.
According to people familiar with their thinking, many teams around the league would like to see New Orleans wait, believing that Demps will get a better deal this summer than he can get now from the Lakers.