It’s easy to imagine — and the Lakers have been imagining it for a while — but now, it may be easier to see it than ever.
Anthony Davis, the one-browed, inside-outside scoring, defense-altering big man, running pick-and-rolls and catching lobs from LeBron James, two of the NBA’s top six players teaming up in purple and gold. It’s Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 2.0.
It makes so much sense for the Lakers. But what the Lakers can’t control, what agents and players can’t control, is if it doesn’t make the most sense for the New Orleans Pelicans.
Davis’ public trade request Monday got the gears of imagination grinding for the Lakers — just like it did for 28 other teams. Some teams probably fired off trade offers as soon as James’ and Davis’ agent, Rich Paul, spoke to several media outlets outlining Davis’ desire to be traded.
The timing, the way this surfaced in the weeks leading up to the deadline has plenty of people around the NBA confident that Davis wants his future in Los Angeles with the Lakers, something insiders thought even before Davis joined Paul’s Klutch Sports in September.
But the Pelicans don’t have to make that a reality, especially not on Davis’ timeline. They’ve got options. And, at least for now, they’re telling people they have time.
The best arguments for New Orleans waiting until this summer to move Davis don’t change because of his public request.
One high-profile Davis suitor, the Boston Celtics, can’t trade for him right now (unless they move Kyrie Irving) because of a rule in the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement that prohibits teams from having two players on the roster who have signed designated rookie extensions.
Come July when Irving enters free agency, the Celtics can put together a package of young players (including Jayson Tatum) and multiple first-round picks from their cache, including a Memphis pick that could end up being unprotected in 2021 with the Grizzlies staring a massive rebuild right in the eye. And then they could re-sign Irving, skirting around the rule in the CBA.
Another reason to wait: The No. 1 pick in the 2019 draft, possibly Duke forward Zion Williamson, is an incredibly attractive option for the Pelicans. There’s no way to know who will own that pick until after the season.
The Knicks’ pick, which could be No. 1, could also very easily end up outside of the top four. New York could try to package that pick and Kristaps Porzingis in an all-out move to try to make Madison Square Garden an even more attractive place for free agents like Kevin Durant next summer.
All the offers won’t necessarily be better in the summer, though.
Teams with an eye at a title run in the next two years might be willing to trade assets for Davis even if there are assurances that Davis will head to the Lakers in free agency in the summer of 2020.
Oklahoma City gambled on Paul George and it paid off. And even if it doesn’t with Davis, adding a MVP-caliber player for two title runs might be enough to unseat the Golden State Warriors.
Toronto, which gambled for Kawhi Leonard this past offseason, has exciting, young, cost-controlled players like Pascal Siakam if the Raptors want to bet again. Davis and Leonard would make the Raptors the favorites in the East, and if Leonard still decides to bolt, the Raptors could turn around and trade Davis again this summer if decided to not commit beyond the length of his current deal.
The same goes for Denver – a team with tons of assets like guards Jamal Murray and Gary Harris and the talent necessary for a deep playoff run.
The sexiest trade possibility would probably come from Philadelphia if the 76ers decide they’d rather pair Davis with Joel Embiid and Jimmy Butler instead of Ben Simmons, whose lack of outside shooting has presented some problems. But Simmons, who like Davis and James is repped by Klutch, could turn down a rookie extension in New Orleans, potentially making him less attractive to the Pelicans.
You can’t ever count Houston out of these deals, and if Davis is hell-bent on Los Angeles, the Clippers could put together an interesting offer centered around rookie guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, big man Montrezl Harrell and either Tobias Harris or Danilo Gallinari.
The list goes on – Davis is that good and interest is that high.
New Orleans has options and a deal with the Lakers is a good one.