In January, the six-time All-Star informed the New Orleans Pelicans that he would not re-sign with the franchise when he reaches free agency in 2020. Since then, the Pelicans have been fielding trade offers ahead of Thursday’s trade deadline, though it’s unclear if they’re determined to trade him now - they could instead wait until the summer.
Davis’ list of preferred destinations is important. With just one and a half years left on his contract, teams will be hesitant to go all-in trading for the superstar unless they believe he’ll re-sign. The three-time All-NBA selection has made it clear he will sign a long-term deal with any of those four teams, thus giving them incentive to bring everything to the table, while discouraging the other 25 teams from doing so.
So let’s take a look at each of the four teams on Davis’ list, and glance into what that team can offer, and what a trade would mean for the Golden State Warriors.
But first . . .
Teams not on the list
New Orleans is under no obligation to trade Davis to a preferred destination. Those teams are just made public to increase their offers, and therefore increase the odds that Davis ends up somewhere he wants to be.
But ultimately, the Pelicans will take the deal that they believe is best for their franchise. And while Davis has said that he will sign a long-term deal with the Lakers, Clippers, Knicks, and Bucks, he hasn’t said that he won’t sign a deal with anyone else.
A team could very well take a chance on a rental, hoping that once he’s in their organization he’ll see that they’re worth staying with (whoever trades for Davis can also offer him more money than anyone else, so there’s that).
Last offseason, the Oklahoma City Thunder traded promising young players Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis to the Indiana Pacers for one year of Paul George, even though it was public knowledge that George intended to sign with the Lakers in free agency. A year with the Thunder came and went, and George ended up re-signing with the organization without even meeting with Los Angeles. Teams will be willing to take that risk with Davis, a phenomenal talent.
The most interesting team is the Boston Celtics, who are brimming with assets. Boston is equipped with Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and a very large number of draft picks, but they’re forbidden from trading for Davis this season, due to an odd rule in the CBA. Davis reportedly is uninterested in Boston, out of fear that Kyrie Irving will leave - but if he re-signs this summer, then watch out. The Celtics would have the best trade package, and a team Davis would likely want to stay with.
But that requires no trade transpiring in the next three days . . .
Los Angeles Lakers
Top trade assets: Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart, Ivica Zubac, first-round draft picks.
How it impacts the Warriors: A trade to the Lakers - which is rumored to be Davis’ top destination - would certainly be interesting. On the one hand, the Lakers assets aren’t great, which means they’d have to give up almost all of them (plus some veterans for salary purposes), and completely gut their team. On the other hand, Anthony Davis and LeBron James is a helluva foundation to build a team around.
Trading for Davis would be a long-term plan for the Lakers, who would look to add a big free agent over the summer, creating a big three. Irving and Kevin Durant will surely top their wish list.
If they can lure that third free agent, they would immediately become title contenders next season. But it won’t happen this year.
Los Angeles Clippers
Top trade assets: Shai-Gilgeous Alexander, Jerome Robinson, first-round draft picks (one pick already traded).
How it impacts the Warriors: Try as the Clippers might, they’ve never been the Warriors rivals. And right now they’re far enough from contending that Golden State would probably love to see this move happen, if for no other reason than to keep an elite player from teaming up with LeBron James, and to laugh at the Lakers failed attempts to land a big name.
Adding Davis greatly increases the chances that the Clippers sign Durant, Kawhi Leonard, or Jimmy Butler this offseason, but even so, that team is likely a piece or two away from matching the Dubs.
Top trade assets: Thon Maker, Donte DiVincenzo, first-round draft picks (two picks already traded).
How it impacts the Warriors: As you can see, Davis ending up in Milwaukee is virtually impossible. Barring the Pelicans trying to make a statement about small-market teams, there’s really no feasible way that Milwaukee can offer a package that would compel New Orleans to even answer the phone. Four of the Bucks five starters will be free agents this summer, and the fifth is the ultra-untouchable Giannis Antetokounmpo. So, it ain’t happening.
But if it did . . . . Antetokounmpo and AD would form a pairing of perennial MVP and Defensive Player of the Year candidates who are 25 or younger. That’s a championship core on steroids.
New York Knicks
Top trade assets: Kevin Knox, Dennis Smith Jr., Mitchell Robinson, Frank Ntilikina, first-round draft picks (including two Dallas picks).
How it impacts the Warriors: New York’s enormous trade with the Dallas Mavericks last week impacted the Warriors in a big way. The Knicks opened up enough cap space to sign two max free agents next year, and they haven’t hidden the fact that they’re targeting Durant and Irving. If they were able to swing a trade for Davis, while maintaining that open spot, they’d be even more alluring to free agent superstars.
It’s really difficult to imagine the Knicks doing anything competent, even when handed a high-caliber roster. But it’s also really difficult to imagine Irving, Durant, and Davis teaming up and not being a force to be reckoned with.
While the Davis saga is a huge bummer for the New Orleans fanbase, it’s a reminder of just how fun the NBA is. A Davis trade - whether that’s sometime this week or sometime this summer - will likely have an enormous ripple effect throughout the league, impacting numerous teams and star players.
But one thing feels clear: No matter what happens, it’s unlikely to effect the Warriors odds of three-peating come June. But it sure could make 2020 interesting . . .