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Toronto Raptors Receive: Anthony Davis
New Orleans Pelicans Receive: OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka, 2021 first-round pick (top-three protection)
When It Happens: On or after draft night if and when Kawhi Leonard (player option) commits to staying in Toronto.
The Raptors are a tantalizing destination for Davis insofar as they’re prepared to enter the running. They might not be.
Kawhi Leonard needs to stick around for them to make this gamble, and his return is far from a given. Few people claim to know what he’s kind of, sort of, and the ones who do aren’t shy about predicting a hookup with the Los Angeles Clippers.
“I still think he’s coming to L.A.,” ESPN.com’s Ramona Shelburne said on ESPN Los Angeles (via NBA writer Tomer Azarly). “I think the Clippers are in the driver’s seat. I’ve thought that for a long time just because he seems to be a guy who wants his own team.”
Feelings can change. More importantly, bird’s eye views can be wrong. Leonard just hit the biggest shot in Raptors franchise history—and one of the NBA’s clutchest game-winners of all time. Toronto is his team, and he’s four wins from an NBA Finals appearance.
Basketball situations don’t get much better. The Raptors would still promise one of the best winning situations even if they flame out against the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals. Short of teaming up with another superstar on the Clippers, he won’t find a more direct line to a title. And even that might be overstating L.A.’s appeal.
Going after Davis is a sales pitch to Leonard by itself. The Raptors can’t fork over the moon without a guarantee he’ll return, but the two parties can reach a mutual understanding: Get Davis, and Leonard stays put. Or Leonard could re-sign independent of Toronto’s interest in Davis. The Raptors are that good, and team president Masai Ujiri can view a potential Davis trade as a bonus pursuit of Leonard’s commitment.
Not many suitors can beat this package. The Raptors themselves will be hesitant to pull the trigger if they wind up winning the title. Pascal Siakam is a Most Improved Player favorite and a bona fide building block.
It will not be a surprise if he entrenches himself in the top-25 discussion over the next half-decade. He can defend nearly every position, and he’s more than a third wheel on offense. He can lead fast breaks, jump-start pick-and-rolls and even create his own shot in the half court without the use of screens.
Davis is still better. Siakam would be worth dealing if it means keeping him long-term. A Leonard-Davis duo, with Kyle Lowry and Marc Gasol (player option), would make Toronto the Eastern Conference alpha next season—and perhaps the title favorite if Durant leaves the Golden State Warriors.
Neither the Knicks nor Lakers will beat this offer. The Celtics can, but Siakam is the best individual player the Pelicans can receive ahead of next season. Jayson Tatum has the tools to eventually leapfrog him. For now, Siakam has the advantage.
Getting OG Anunoby, who has two years left on his rookie-scale contract, and Serge Ibaka’s expiring deal would be a win for the Pelicans. This return would allow them to rebuild without bottoming out. Anunoby, Ibaka, Siakam, Jrue Holiday and E’Twaun Moore will not win any championships, but New Orleans would remain competitive and retain its lean cap sheet for free agency.