5 Anthony Davis Trade Ideas: How Lakers, Knicks, Celtics Could Land Star Big Man

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    Tyler Kaufman/Associated Press

    LOS ANGELES — All-Star Anthony Davis is still on the New Orleans Pelicans’ roster, but for how much longer?

    Based on the latest reports, a trade seems imminent. 

    “New Orleans would love to have a deal in place by this coming weekend,” ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said Monday, noting that if the Pelicans make a deal with the Los Angeles Lakers or New York Knicks for the No. 3 or No. 4 pick, they would like to have a little time before the June 20 NBA draft to “meet with prospective players, perhaps even get them in for a workout.”

    That’s good news for either franchise, assuming New Orleans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin views a high lottery pick as a key piece in a swap. Davis asked out before the February trade deadline but has yet to be dealt. The 26-year old forward can opt out of his contract after the 2019-20 season.

    Wojnarowski also reported that Griffin has “instructed teams” to find additional partners for “multiteam trade scenarios that could direct assets for players or picks more preferable to the Pelicans.”

    In other words, New Orleans isn’t in love with Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kevin Knox and Dennis Smith Jr., the primary players the Lakers and Knicks can offer for Davis. If either wants a deal with the Pelicans, they’ll need to find other teams who covet their young players.

    What is Griffin looking for? Per Wojnarowski, the Pelicans want an All-Star, a young player with All-Star potential and two first-round picks. “The better the player, the softer the requests on the draft picks—and vice versa.”

    Earlier in the year, Davis’ preferred destination list reportedly included the Los Angeles Clippers, Milwaukee Bucks, Lakers and Knicks.

    Per Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium, Davis has narrowed his focus to the Lakers and Knicks “as the two desired long-term destinations,” although the Celtics remain an “aggressive” suitor, “understanding they would potentially lose him after one season.” The Brooklyn Nets are also “interested.”

    The clock is ticking with the draft nine days away.

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    LM Otero/Associated Press

    If one team has the advantage, it’s the Lakers.

    “[They] have the leverage of knowing that Anthony Davis wants to sign with them in free agency in 2020,” Wojnarowski said. “The rest of the league knows that and that there’s some risk in trading for [AD].

    That’s the gamble for Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka. How much should he give up now to give LeBron James a fellow All-Star? At what point is the cost too high, when waiting another year becomes the better option?

    The Lakers should be willing to give up two of their four top prospects, starting with the No. 4 pick and one of Ingram, Ball and Kyle Kuzma. Any deal would probably be agreed to in principle before the draft but executed in July when the Lakers officially gain cap space. If the Pelicans require an additional first-rounder, Los Angeles can offer its 2020 selection without violating the Stepien Rule.

    But it appears the Pelicans aren’t sold on Ingram (who is recovering from a blood clot that ended his season early) and Ball (who also finished the year hurt with an ankle injury and has an outspoken father in LaVar Ball, who may not appeal to Griffin).

    The Chicago Bulls could benefit from a point guard like Ball in a backcourt with fellow UCLA product Zach LaVine. Would the Bulls include Kris Dunn and the No. 7 pick? How about the Phoenix Suns with the No. 6 selection? Can the Pelicans do better than three top-seven picks?

    If New Orleans prefers veteran leadership, maybe Mike Conley can be had with some of the Lakers’ assets. Would the Grizzlies have interest in pairing Ball with prospective No. 2 pick Ja Morant? Would the Pelicans want to pair Conley (and his expensive contract) with Jrue Holiday in the backcourt? That would be a powerful defensive coupling.

    The Washington Wizards are still searching for a top basketball executive. They may not be willing to trade All-Star Bradley Beal, but if he’s available, he’d be a tremendous get for the Pelicans, perhaps with Ingram and draft considerations to Washington.

    Finding an available All-Star is no easy task. The Lakers may need to give up two of their top young players and the No. 4 pick to get a deal done. But if it gets too expensive, L.A. can always kick the can and wait for Davis in July 2020.

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    Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press

    The Knicks were a potential front-runner for Kevin Durant, but the All-Star forward’s recent Achilles injury may change those plans.

    The franchise has any number of players to offer, including Frank Ntilikina, Allonzo Trier, Mitchell Robinson, Smith and Knox to land Davis in combination with other stars.

    In addition to their No. 3 selection, the Knicks are owed a pair of first-rounders from the Dallas Mavericks as part of the Kristaps Porzingis trade. One is unprotected in 2021, the other is slated for two years later with heavy protections.

    If the Pelicans are underwhelmed with the Knicks’ offer, then New York will need to see what else it can reel in with other teams.

    The suspects are similar to the Lakers’ options: Can they help the Grizzlies get value for Conley, or the Wizards for Beal? The Houston Rockets may look to move off Chris Paul‘s contract. Could New York get something done with Smith, Knox, picks and other pieces?

    Would the Pelicans happily reunite with Paul, as a veteran leader to help show Williamson the ropes while playing to win games alongside Holiday in the backcourt?

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    Winslow Townson/Associated Press

    To have a serious shot at Davis, the Celtics likely need to offer Jayson Tatum. He fits the bill as a potential All-Star.

    The Celtics have multiple first-rounders (Nos. 14, 20 and 22) along with a Memphis Grizzlies first that is top-six protected in 2020 and unprotected in 2021. Even as Memphis works through a potential rebuild, none of those picks are close to what the Lakers and Knicks can offer at the top of the coming draft.

    Per Charania, the Celtics remain “aggressive” even though they understand he prefers Lakers and Knicks and that he could just be a one-year rental.

    How far is Boston willing go to get a deal done, especially if All-Star guard Kyrie Irving leaves in free agency?

    If the Celitics include Tatum, technically Gordon Hayward was an All-Star in 2016-17, although he’s not quite the same player he was before a devastating leg injury in 2017. At $32.7 million for next season plus a player option for 2020-21, Hayward may not appeal to the Pelicans. Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown would probably be more valuable, despite their lack of All-Star credentials.

    Perhaps Tatum, Hayward, No. 14 and the Memphis pick for Davis, with Solomon Hill (expiring at $12.8 million) coming back to Boston to help offset some of Hayward’s contract, would work. Without Hayward and Hill, the Celtics would need to send Smart with Tatum to make salaries match, along with potential throw-ins like Semi Ojeleye, Robert Williams and/or Guerschon Yabusele.

    The answer instead may be finding a third-team for Hayward, though his contract may be too big of a challenge to offload.

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    Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

    The tie to the Nets stems from Trajan Langdon, who recently moved from Brooklyn’s front office to become the general manager in New Orleans under Griffin.

    If the Pelicans can keep Julius Randle, who has a $9.1 million player option and shares an agent with D’Angelo Russell in Aaron Mintz of Creative Artists Agency, the move may have some pull. Russell is coming off an All-Star season, but the Nets are hoarding cap space for this summer. The team has a pending trade with the Atlanta Hawks, sending out multiple picks to dump the contract of Allen Crabbe.

    That may be to pair Russell with a star in Brooklyn, but the Nets could move on if they have designs on pairing Davis with Irving. The challenge is Russell will be a restricted free agent this summer. He has to choose to join the Pelicans via sign-and-trade to help the Nets make a deal.

    Langdon may place a higher value on Russell or any of the other Nets such as Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert, Joe Harris, Rodions Kurucs and/or Jarrett Allen. If so, Brooklyn could have the advantage. Russell could push a deal over the top.

    Of course, the question becomes: At what salary? Are the Pelicans willing to go above $20 million a year for Russell?

    Since the Nets don’t have any significant draft considerations to offer, a Russell deal could be a fallback plan in July if the Pelicans can’t get something done. If that happens, then perhaps a package built around Dinwiddie, LeVert and/or Allen might work, though that leaves the Nets with minimal depth.   

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    Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press

    The Clippers will have the cap space this summer to sign at least one or possibly two star free agents. The team’s goal is to add, not subtract, although Danilo Gallinari may need to be sacrificed in trade to make that happen.

    His $22.6 million expiring salary for next season might be a reasonable contract for the Pelicans to take on, and Gallinari is a talented scoring forward.

    Los Angeles is owed a 2020 first-rounder (with heavy protections) from the Philadelphia 76ers and an unprotected 2021 first from the Miami Heat. The latter is a nice trade chip, though it pales in comparison to the selections the Lakers and Knicks can offer immediately.

    Beyond the picks and Gallinari, the Clippers have a young player in 20-year-old Shai Gilgeous-Alexander who would probably tip the scales in their favor if they gave him up. That’s not the Clippers’ intention, but if that’s the key to adding an All-Star like Davis, maybe L.A. will relent.

    Both Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell were the heart of the Clippers this past season, along with Patrick Beverley, who is an unrestricted free agent. Again, the Clippers want to add to their solid mix, not scrap it all for one player, even if he’s one of the league’s best.

    Be it the Clippers, Lakers, Knicks, Celtics or a surprise team (perhaps the Denver Nuggets or Suns?), the Pelicans need to make a move on Davis sooner than later because once teams have made their draft picks or used up their cap room in July, the options can dwindle quickly.

    Davis’ trade request has been hanging over the league since January. Certainty ahead of the draft and free agency would be a welcome change.

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