Anthony Davis has been rumoured to be on his way out of New Orleans for quite some time, but yesterday (January 28th) it was finally confirmed. Once again a small market franchise is on the verge of losing their franchise player, but this one hurts much more. Davis is arguably a Top 5 player in the NBA, an excellent big man who guided the Pelicans to a 2nd round playoff berth last year. Yet even with such a talent, the Pelicans are 21st in attendance percentage, despite having the smallest capacity in the NBA. The men who brought basketball back to New Orleans, David Stern (former NBA commissioner) and Tom Benson (recently deceased majority owner) are no longer in the picture. Therefore, it would seem that the Pelicans days could be numbered, but there is still one saving grace. Oddly enough, it is Anthony Davis.
People seem to forget that Davis is a Pelican through the 2019-2020 season. Accordingly, the Pelicans have time to evaluate this situation and make a decision that will be for the betterment of their organization and Davis. Many thought one of the best suitors for Davis were the Boston Celtics, who under the Rose Rule, cannot trade for Davis until the summer of 2019, unless they trade Kyrie Irving. However, the Celtics appear to be unconfident about re-signing Irving, which would affect Davis’ potential contract negotiations. Consequently, it would make sense for the Pelicans to bide their time and evaluate their market at full strength. Biding their time until the off-season, will not only affect the Davis trade, but the direction and future of the organization. However, that does not mean a trade cannot happen by February 8th. The Pelicans have multiple options and a lot of potential suitors, so let us explore these options and suitors.
Option #1: Bottom Out and Collect Futures
Why only trade Anthony Davis? Why not trade any and every one over the age of 25? The Atlanta Hawks have two players from their 2016-17 roster (Taurean Prince and DeAndre Bembry), both 1st round picks from 2016. Currently 12 of the 17 roster players for the Atlanta Hawks are 25 years old or younger, their older players are veterans to fill out cap space and help coach the younger players. They have created an exciting brand of basketball, and play at the highest pace in the NBA. However, even Atlanta a bigger market than New Orleans is struggling to draw attendance. The Hawks are on the upswing at 80.8% (76.9% last season) and while this attendance number is still low, the Hawks are remaining committed to their model of young. Their youngest players such as Trae Young, John Collins and Kevin Huerter play premium minutes and are gathering valuable experience for their future NBA careers. If the Pelicans went with this option there are many questions surrounding it, so let’s ask and answer a few.
Does New Orleans have a market that will be patient with the franchise’s development? Probably not. This has already been covered but to revisit, the Pelicans are a team fighting for a playoff spot with a Top 5 NBA player and they cannot even draw 95% attendance. Their market is one of the smallest in the NBA, and their die-hard owner has passed away, passing franchise control to his wife. While Gayle Benson has not made any indication she would like to sell the Pelicans, there is a huge opportunity to turn profit. Her husband bought the Pelicans for $338 million and realistically, she could flip the team for close to triple of $338 million. Therefore, a sale would make sense for Benson and Seattle has been patiently waiting for an NBA franchise to be available. However, even a sale could keep the Pelicans in New Orleans if their collection of futures works. That begs the question, can they yield enough futures to justify this option? Absolutely, the Hawks have proven that is possible by making a complete overhaul of their roster. The Hawks have acquired young assets and have even more futures on the way. The Hawks will likely have two 2019 1st round picks this year, their own and the Dallas Mavericks (Doncic trade), they also have the possibility of four 2nd round picks. The Hawks will continue to stock their cupboards with prospects, and can create an exciting culture for Atlanta basketball. They will need to continue to hit the jackpot with their non-lottery picks, like they have with John Collins and Kevin Huerter, but they do look to be positioned for future success.
The Pelicans have a leg up on the Hawks as well. Davis is a far higher value player than anything the Hawks used to acquire futures. Presumably, all other 29 NBA teams will have some interest in Anthony Davis trade talks, with 10-12 teams have a strong vested interest. When you look at it from that perspective the Pelicans are not in a horrible spot, but we will talk trades later. The next important question to ask, is if the Pelicans roster is fairly expendable. The answer is yes, the Pelicans only have one player signed through the 2020-2021 season (Jrue Holiday), and can create flexible packages to offload veterans. Holiday is also the type of veteran who could help coach younger players and usher in a new era of Pelicans basketball. The Pelicans are in a prime position to, “BLOW IT UP” – Kevin O’Connor. But, what if the Pelicans do not have faith in a blow up? What if they feel they need futures and player(s) right now, better yet they want an all-star or borderline all-star in return.
Option #2: Try to keep winning and remain competitive
Option #2: Try to keep winning and remain competitive
If the Pelicans want to try to keep winning and just see no value in bottoming out, they have a road-map to make this work. As I mentioned earlier, they have one of the Top 5 players in the NBA, there is a lot of value in trading him. I have created 5 possible trade scenarios for the Pelicans to remain competitive, while offloading Davis.
Try to Keep Winning (5 trades)
How this works: I am going to list a team or multiple teams that the Pelicans could potentially trade with. Davis will be a part of every single potential trade and after detailing the trade, I will explain why the trades makes sense all teams involved.
Portland Trail Blazers
(1st scenario AD is signing)
(2nd scenario AD is not signing)
Timing: This summer
Portland receives: Anthony Davis and Solomon Hill
New Orleans receives: CJ McCollum, Zach Collins, Caleb Swanigan, Gary Trent Jr., Portland 2019 1st round pick, Portland 2019 and 2020 2nd round picks, Portland 2021 1st round pick
Timing: This summer
Portland receives: Anthony Davis, Solomon Hill and Kenrich Williams
New Orleans receives: CJ McCollum, Zach Collins, Evan Turner and Portland 2019 1st round pick
Why it makes sense for Portland: Damian Lillard is not getting any younger, but is the clear leader of this Blazer team. CJ McCollum has been itching for more touches and moving him for Davis makes perfect sense. Dame, AD and Jusuf Nurkic are your three-headed monster, when surrounded with role players this is a great team. With Nurkic on a friendly deal, the Blazers are an Evan Turner trade away from having the cash sign Davis and more. If they do not get the guarantee of Davis signing, they could throw Turner into this trade and just squeeze out a deal with the Pelicans.
Why it makes sense for New Orleans: New Orleans has the opportunity to have a dynamic backcourt between Holiday and McCollum and in this scenario, McCollum is finally the guy. Holiday is used to being a sidekick beside Davis in New Orleans, McCollum could also fit into Alvin Gentry’s fast-paced style in New Orleans. Collins would add to the Pelicans youthful frontcourt behind Julius Randle, and once again fit coach Gentry’s system. While Evan Turner could jump into a starter’s role, while helping coach younger players. And of course the 1st round pick(s) is always nice to have, even if it is late in the round.
Dallas Mavericks & Orlando Magic
Timing: Before the trade deadline
Dallas receives: Anthony Davis, Solomon Hill and Timofey Mozgov
Orlando receives: DeAndre Jordan, Dwight Powell, Jalen Brunson, Dallas 2020 1st round pick and 2019 or 2020 2nd round pick (Warriors get 2019 if it is 56-60) and option to swap 1st round picks with New Orleans in 2021
New Orleans receives: Harrison Barnes, Nikola Vucevic, Dennis Smith Jr. and Dallas 2022 1st round pick
Why it makes sense for Dallas: Dallas has Luka Doncic, and he is on a rookie contract. I think that sums it up. They can push the envelope while it is possible, if Dallas got Davis they would absolutely have a great chance to sign him. Barnes has looked okay this year, but has not lived up to his contract, if they were to bring in Davis that is a player who would exceed their contract’s expectations while pulling in other players who want to win. Dennis Smith Jr., also appears to not be gelling so why not move him while he has value?
Why it makes sense for Orlando: I find it really hard to see Nikola Vucevic buying back into Orlando. They are in no man’s land, not good enough to contend and not bad enough to tank. This is a great way to make the best of a bad situation. They would get an expiring DeAndre Jordan contract, a young point guard (Brunson) which they desperately need and Dwight Powell who has a player option in 2019-2020, but is then off the books. On top of that they ditch the Mozgov contract for 2019, making room for them to be a salary dump target for teams looking to swap picks for bad contracts. Finally, they get an additional 1st in 2020, a 2nd and the option to swap picks in 2021.
Why it makes sense for New Orleans: Vucevic would need to sign for this deal to work, but I think there is a good chance he would. A similar market to Orlando, the Pelicans could provide a less stressful environment for Vucevic while putting him on the best team he has ever played on. Barnes is a good wing, who can be great and with a change of scenery is going to get that opportunity. Smith Jr., also would benefit from a new coach and system, as Rick Carlisle and he have not got off to the best start. New Orleans gets a pick down the road and get 2 players in their prime while adding a young guard who has crazy athleticism and good potential.
Timing: This summer
Philadelphia receives: Anthony Davis and Solomon Hill
New Orleans receives: Jimmy Butler, Markelle Fultz, Furkan Korkmaz, Landry Shamet and Philadelphia 2019 1st round pick, conditional 2021 1st round pick if Butler does not begin 2019 or 2020 season with Pelicans and if Davis signs with Philadelphia (if Butler remains or Davis doesn’t re-sign conditional 1st becomes 2nd)
Why it makes sense for Philadelphia: Jimmy Butler is a polarizing figure, and could disrupt the long-term chemistry of the Sixers locker room and core. From a talent standpoint, losing him would feel miniscule in stature when they would have the opportunity to bring in Davis and create one of the best frontcourts of all-time. Anthony Davis and Joel Embiid, a nearly unstoppable force in today’s NBA. It would also work to Davis’ liking as he would go back to playing the 4, a personal preference for him and it would defy today’s modern NBA. The Sixers would be able to pound the rock in the paint better than anyone in basketball, while putting floor spacers like JJ Redick around Davis and Embiid who are both above-average passers for big men. The obvious follow-up move for the Sixers would be to focus on grabbing more wings and floor spacers. They would get a step ahead by also collecting Solomon Hill in this trade, a wing that could provide valuable bench minutes.
Why it makes sense for New Orleans: The Pelicans would be swinging for the fences. Butler is actually a safe part of this trade, because he could opt out or only end up staying for one season. Of course if Butler ended up buying in and playing to his abilities, then he could easily be signed to a max. However, the true wildcard in this trade is Markelle Fultz. Will a change of scenery and a low pressure market finally help Fultz? I think it would be a much better fit for the former 1st overall pick, playing behind Jrue Holiday and playing in a fast-paced system built for young NBA players. On top of that Furkan Korkmaz and Landry Shamet have lots of potential to grow, and are good shooters, who Alvin Gentry could use effectively off of the bench. As well, the cherry on top is the 1st round pick, and the potential of a second 1st.
Philadelphia 76ers and LA Clippers
Timeline: Before free agency this summer
Philadelphia receives: Jrue Holiday
La Clippers receive: Anthony Davis
New Orleans receives: Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Montrezl Harrell, Markelle Fultz, Wilson Chandler, Clippers conditional 2021 1st round pick (If Davis signs, becomes 2nd round pick if Davis does not), Philadelphia 2020 1st round pick
Why it makes sense for Philadelphia: Suddenly Philly has two dominant playmakers on offense, Holiday and Ben Simmons and finally they have some more spacing on the floor. Holiday is having a career year as a playmaker and he has proven to be a very capable shooter. He got great off-ball experience with Rajon Rondo running some point New Orleans last year. It would also be a homecoming of sorts. Holiday originally a Sixer, would be excited about the opportunity to join a young contender. He would get a similar setting offensively with a dominant big like Joel Embiid. Philadelphia would also get to move on from Markelle Fultz and forget about that, the 1st round pick would not mean much as they would be competing to win a title or Eastern Conference title.
Why it makes sense for Los Angeles: Anthony Davis wants to go to LA, so why not just deal him to the Clippers? It would be a hilarious reality if the Lakers got curved for the Clippers, but Davis might actually buy into the Clippers. With Avery Bradley and Tobias Harris’ future contract off the book, the Clippers will have an absurd amount of cap space. They would also have Davis to recruit other players, what if Boogie Cousins decided to join Davis in LA? Could Kawhi Leonard end up with the Clippers? How about Klay Thompson or Kevin Durant? There are a lot of possibilities for the Clippers and Davis would absolutely fill the superstar void that they lost when Blake Griffin and Chris Paul were shipped off. The biggest loss they would have on this trade is losing Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, but this is a worthwhile deal to trade a future all-star for a Top 5 NBA player.
Why it makes sense for New Orleans: This is probably the best case scenario. The Pelicans do not gain back an Anthony Davis talent, but they add a lot of pieces that can have an impact right now and on their future. Tobias Harris would most likely sign a max contract and even if he did not, the Pelicans still pick up Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Montrezl Harrell, players who seem to be getting better and better game by game. It hurts eating Avery Bradley’s contract sure, but Wilson Chandler’s contract is expiring this summer and they are also getting Markelle Fultz. Fultz is the aforementioned wildcard, but in this model they could even try to flip Fultz. Think about it, with Gilgeous-Alexander being their likely point guard of the future why not flip Fultz for something else the Pelicans might need?
That was a lot of content was it not? Those are the 5 trades that make the most sense if the Pelicans want to pull off what Gregg Popovich pulled this summer with Kawhi Leonard. When the Spurs acquired DeMar DeRozan, Jakub Poetl and Toronto’s 2019 1st round pick for the aforementioned Leonard and Danny Green. I bet you were shocked to not see a single Lakers trade offer, well do not worry we are going to explore the Pelicans option to blow it up. Accordingly, what if the Pelicans do not want to compete? What are potential trades if they want to start fresh?
Blow it up (5 trades)
Los Angeles Lakers
Timeline: At the trade deadline
Los Angeles receives: Anthony Davis
New Orleans receives: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Ivica Zubac, Los Angeles Lakers 2019 1st round pick, Los Angeles Lakers 2020 2nd round pick
Why it makes sense for Los Angeles: This was the plan all along was it not? LeBron James has been poaching Anthony Davis for some time. Davis signed with Klutch Sports Group (LeBron’s agency) and has had Rich Paul (LeBron’s agent/friend) courtside at many games this season. Davis would undoubtedly sign an extension, as this is his preferred destination. Davis would also help the Lakers recruit one more star to create the next Big 3 for the NBA to deal with. He would instantly be on an immediate contender as he would be joining the best player of this generation, this is certainly Davis’ best wish.
Why it makes sense for New Orleans: Kyle Kuzma has been a stud this year, and besides LeBron has been the best Laker. He is averaging 19 points per game and has room to grow, if he can continue to grow his range and 3-point shot, he could put up 25 a night. However, personally the most intriguing part of this trade would be Lonzo Ball. I am a big believer in Ball’s growth as a player and while he is a project, he is definitely worth a look. His arrival would likely mean that Jrue Holiday would be traded as well, but I still believe Ball can be an all-star point guard. In a faster-paced system with less media coverage he could grow into his true potential. Let us not forget Ball is 21, this dude has a lot of time to come into his own. Probably the most underrated part of this trade would be the addition of Ivica Zubac, who has been on a tear in January. In a mere 17.4 minutes per game Zubac is averaging 12.2PPG and 6.5RPG, the Lakers are +60 this year when Zubac is on the floor. Of course finally the Pelicans are getting an additional 1st round pick, which is vital to this rebuild.
Los Angeles Lakers & Orlando Magic
Timeline: At the trade deadline
Los Angeles receives: Anthony Davis
Orlando receives: Lonzo Ball
New Orleans receives: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Jonathan Isaac, Kyle Kuzma, Ivica Zubac, Los Angeles Lakers 2019 1st round pick, Los Angeles Lakers 2021 1st round pick and option to swap 2019 2nd round picks with Orlando
Why it makes sense for Los Angeles: Please refer to last Lakers paragraph.
Why it makes sense for Orlando: I mean why not right? Lonzo Ball in Orlando. The Magic need a point guard for the future, so why not roll the dice with Ball? The Magic have drafted so many wings and big men, yes it would suck to give up Jonathan Isaac, but personally I think Ball has a higher ceiling and is an upgrade. Ball would get his wish to be a starting point guard and he might even entice Nikola Vucevic to stay. This move from an organizational perspective could be used to tell Vucevic that the Magic are building around him, and attempting to build a winner for the future and now. It is certainly risky for Orlando, but really what have they got to lose? This is a flyer they should 100% be exploring.
Why it makes sense for New Orleans: On top of getting the aforementioned Kuzma and Zubac, the Pelicans get two 1st round picks instead of just one and add Jonathan Isaac, an athletic freak. Isaac has played just over 70 games in his NBA career, a staggering low number and accordingly it gives you the sense that he has lots of room to grow. Statistically he has improved in almost every aspect from his rookie season, and yes I think he would benefit from Gentry’s system. A much faster paced offense, where Isaac would get the chance to get out and run more in transition suits him. His athleticism can take over and help him create more offense chances for himself and his teammates. Furthermore, the Pelicans would be able to hang on to Holiday this way if they are so inclined, while also adding a lot of young talent and futures.
New York Knicks
Timeline: At the trade deadline
New York receives: Anthony Davis
New Orleans receives: Enes Kanter, Kevin Knox, Frank Ntilikina and New York 2019 1st round pick
Why it would make sense for New York: This would be a change of pace eh? Knick fans who have quite literally been cheering against their team this year, fully embracing the tank the Knicks have found unique ways to lose games. But, they also have talked about going out and landing big free agents this summer. What better way to recruit big free agents, then picking up Anthony Davis? The Knicks would have to instantly flip the switch and try to win games as they would be trading away their 1st round pick, but with Davis that would be much easier. Think about the real possibility of having Kyrie Irving, Anthony Davis and Kevin Durant all playing on the Knicks in Madison Square Garden. SING IT WITH ME!
Why it would make sense for New Orleans: Kevin Knox is a stud and at a mere 19 years old has lots of room to grow as a player with Jrue Holiday finding him for jumpers and cuts, Knox could come into his own even quicker. Frank Ntilikina is a big project, but he already has all the makings of an above-average defender. Perhaps a faster-paced offense could help the young guard figure himself out as a pass first point guard. Finally, the real reason this trade works. That 1st round pick, imagine if the Knicks won the lottery anyways. The Pelicans would lose Anthony Davis, but still get Knox, Ntilikina and Zion Williamson. If you do not know who Zion is get out from under your rock. The mixtape god, “the next one” Zion is tearing up college basketball and would change everything for whichever franchise drafts him. This trade is a big risk for the Pelicans they would either fail to gain a lot, if the Knicks lost the lottery, but if the Knicks won the lottery the Pelicans would likely save their franchise. Yes, Zion is that good.
Miami Heat & San Antonio Spurs
Timeline: At the trade deadline
Miami receives: Anthony Davis
San Antonio receives: Jrue Holiday
New Orleans receives: Hassan Whiteside, Pau Gasol, Lonnie Walker IV, Patty Mills, Justise Winslow, Bam Adebayo, Yante Maten, Miami 2019 1st round pick, San Antonio 2019 1st round pick and Miami 2021 Conditional 1st round pick (If Davis signs, if he does not 1st becomes a 2nd)
Why it would make sense for Miami: Pat Riley is one of the best recruiters in NBA history. The man that brought LeBron and Chris Bosh to Miami could somehow re-create this by starting it off with an Anthony Davis trade. Davis could be swayed by the opportunity to build a powerhouse in Miami, as with Whiteside off the books, Riley could begin to manipulate his roster and make another Big 3 for the Heat. He would absolutely be breaking the prospect bank by trading away Justise Winslow, Bam Adebayo and Yante Maten, but the Heat have the assets and cap space to focus on becoming a contender. They would still keep Derrick Jones Jr., for their development and the 1st round picks would mean little to them as they pushed for championships with Davis and his potential entourage.
Why it would make sense for San Antonio: Gregg Popovich’s last stand, the old dog goes down swinging. Popovich does not seem overly interested in a rebuild, but the Spurs are not good enough to contend for a title. Popovich will not admit that though and will try anything to become a contender, picking up Jrue Holiday would be a great move. The Spurs would finally have a true point guard for this season, as well as a great mentor Dejounte Murray when he returned. They would escape Pau Gasol and Patty Mills contracts and potentially have the cap space to bring in some nice off-season additions. They would only lose a 1st and Lonnie Walker IV, but with the Raptors 1st round pick coming their way this year it is a risk worthwhile taking.
Why it would make sense for New Orleans: This is the biggest haul from a pure asset standpoint the Pelicans are going to get. Three 1st round picks, while it is quite likely none of them will be lottery picks they can put those picks to great use. They are also getting Justise Winslow, who has basically become a point-forward this year and has improved leaps and bounds offensively while still being steady defensively. Big and bad Bam Adebayo has continued to develop and while his statistics do not jump off the screen, his defense has improved and he has become more efficient offensively. Both of those players have lots of room to grow as well. Yante Maten is more of a throw-in and is a long way away, but the Pelicans have a chance to swoop in and steal Lonnie Walker IV. Coming off a meniscus tear, the Spurs have been patient with Walker and have been easing him back into the lineup, but this guy has all the makings of an NBA starter. Walker likes to get out and run with the ball, and like shooting off the bounce. Accordingly, he is a natural fit to Gentry’s offense in New Orleans and can flourish in this system. A quick reminder that he is only 20 years old. Eating the Gasol, Mills and Whiteside contracts is worth landing three strong young players.
Timeline: This summer
Boston receives: Anthony Davis and Solomon Hill
New Orleans receives: Jayson Tatum, Terry Rozier, Al Horford, Los Angeles Clippers 1st round pick (if outside of Top 14, if inside Top 14, New Orleans receives Boston 1st round pick), Boston 2021 Conditional 1st round pick (If Davis signs, becomes 2nd round pick in 2021 if Davis does not)
Why it makes sense for Boston: A lot of people thought this was the original slam dunk trade, but with Kyrie Irving’s frustration brewing, it seems less and less likely. With that being said, Danny Ainge is a masterful tactician and may be able to retain Irving if Anthony Davis is coming to Boston. The Celtics have had Davis on the radar for quite some time and this would be their best shot at landing an additional superstar, as well as keeping Irving. They would have to give up Tatum to do this, but that is a price worth paying especially when they can offload Al Horford’s contract and the impending payday for Terry Rozier. On top of Tatum they would have to give up a pair of 1sts, which would hurt, but it costs to acquire great talent. The Celtics would instantly become the team to beat in the Eastern Conference.
Why it makes sense for New Orleans: Jayson Tatum was a stud in the playoffs last year and led the Celtics into a toe to toe with LeBron James and the Cavaliers last season. Tatum truly looked brilliant last year in the playoffs and while he has not reached that playoff level this year, he has still made improvements and become even more fearless. The best part is, he is just the tip of the iceberg in the trade. Horford is a beloved veteran who would likely opt-in and spend an extra season in New Orleans helping develop talent, and the Pelicans would have the option to flip Rozier or pay the young guard. The extra futures would help too, of course in building a young core around Tatum and potentially Rozier.
All in all it is evident that the Pelicans can still somehow salvage an Anthony Davis trade, and they truly need to. The ball is in their court, and they have to do a deal that makes the most sense for their franchise, not for Anthony Davis. The fate of New Orleans professional basketball hangs in the hands of the Pelicans front office, if their staff botch this trade I truly believe the Pelicans will be flying Northwest in 5-7 years. Godspeed New Orleans.