Quibbl Roundtable: What Will Happen With Anthony Davis?

Anthony Davis requested a trade from the New Orleans Pelicans. What happens next?

Anthony Davis requested a trade from the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday, and the NBA world has been collectively losing its (mind) since.

There’s no way to oversell the ramifications here. Davis is the greatest big man to request a trade since Kareem Abdul Jabbar, and what happens with him could dramatically reshape the league. This isn’t puffery: this is that big a deal. No Jimmy Butler or Paul George drama comes close.

Quibbl’s NBA voices decided to take a crack at answering the simple question: what do you think will happen with Anthony Davis?

Joe DeFerrari: I always like to give you as scientific an answer as I can. That means giving as much solid content as I can, and as little of my own opinion as possible. So, let’s go to the survey results!

The Athletic conducted a poll of their beat writers about their team’s chances of landing Anthony Davis. Beat writers generally have a better understanding of their team than national folks, and you can’t get more knowledgeable than the folks at the Athletic. These were the teams whose beat writers signified they had a chance to land Davis:

  • Boston Celtics
  • Brooklyn Nets
  • Denver Nuggets
  • LA Clippers
  • LA Lakers
  • Miami Heat
  • New York Knicks
  • Toronto Raptors

National folks have singled out the situation in Philadelphia as particularly interesting. Ben Simmons has been an awkward fit offensively this year – Brett Brown has yet to figure out where the hell he can place Simmons when he’s not handling the ball. While the Pelicans would certainly raise their Brow at the chance to land the reigning rookie of the year, Rich Hofmann called a trade like that – which would break up a very successful young core with Davis’s odds of resigning unclear – unlikely. The Houston Rockets have also been tossed around, but Kelly Iko and Danny Leroux wrote that Houston’s contract structures and its lack of high-end assets make a deal unlikely.

The Celtics have the most assets to offer for Davis. The Lakers can put together an intriguing mix of youngsters, and have to be the most confident in the bunch about him resigning. The Clippers have plenty of reason to be ambitious with several stars in their sights this offseason; bringing in Davis makes them the most exciting team to join in the league. The Raptors could offer a solid package and not even really compromise their depth that much, and while they’re going all in on Kawhi Leonard, you might as well double down. The Nuggets have the assets, and pairing Jokic and Davis could make them a juggernaut. Pat Riley can never be counted out. The Nets suck less than they have, and the Knicks are always in this discussion, so why not.

So, what will happen?

There are multiple forces at play here. The overwhelming sense I’ve gathered from NBA media folks is that a deal before the deadline isn’t expected. The Boston Celtics can’t make a move for Davis until the offseason because of some funky stuff with Kyrie Irving’s contract (read more here). They have the largest cadre of assets by far; even if they weren’t ultimately the team to get Davis, their presence exerts pressure on other teams to offer better deals. It’s like if a brand new smartphone comes out that’s just worlds better than everything else on the market – everyone else will have to step up their game and make a better product, and you’ll be sorry you bought early.

But it’s not that simple. For one, dealing Davis now gives teams about a year and a half to convince him to stay. If you wait until the offseason, now teams have under a year – that difference really matters. Ask Oklahoma City. You can’t know how that will impact the quality of offers.

Maybe more importantly, there’s a human factor here. There are a lot of non-millionaires impacted by this situation, and their lives have sucked the last couple of days. A request like this places a dark cloud over the organization, and ownership (who’ve really had a rough couple of weeks) might just want this whole thing over with. If you move Davis now, at least you get a fresh start instead of having to endure an awkward five months with an unclear future.

This is a good time to remember that New Orleans is not New York or California. If they fall into the cellar for multiple years, they could be a serious relocation candidate. The pressure on this organization goes way beyond basic worries. Their survival as an organization is at stake, and a lot of people could lose their jobs. None of this is Davis’s fault, but it really does suck.

Based on the tone of the organization’s announcement following the trade request and the assessment of much smarter people than me, I’d expect Davis to stick around New Orleans past the deadline. Then, come July, expect the Boston Celtics or the Los Angeles Lakers to swoop in and steal the best thing to happen to this franchise in the history of its existence. At least he’ll go to a hard-on-their-luck team that could use some sunshine to end their struggles. What’s it been, 5 years? There’s only so much losing we should rightfully expect those teams to endure.

 

Ryan Cluett: What’s going to happen to Anthony Davis? As a Celtics homer and basketball aficionado, I’d definitely love to see the “Brow” land in Beantown. He’ll contribute to an existing Pantheon of fantastic eyebrows, which includes Patrice Bergeron and JD Martinez. However, life has a way of making sure we don’t get what we want.

The Pelicans will do their absolute best to keep Davis in New Orleans, as GM Dell Demps will probably turn off his phone and DMs for the next few days.

Davis will serve a suspension for a few games for his agent’s shenanigans, discover a long-lost lineage of Saiyan blood and become a Super Saiyan of legend that we all know him to be, and guide them into the eighth spot in the West. The Pelicans reach the Conference Finals, lose to the Warriors, and Davis wins the MVP.

In the summer, Davis will get a call from King James, and he’ll take his beautifully manicured brow to the sunny pastures of LA…

 

Dan Ross-Rieder: 

1. Anthony Davis is a hyper-valuable player who is also one of the most misunderstood athletes in the NBA. A player that can put up 30-20-10 in a given night is unheard of and that he is doing it with such consistency, is mind-boggling. He’s Lebron James. He’s Kevin Garnett. Tracey McGrady. Tim Duncan. Dirk Nowitzki. You get the point.

2. His stature is irrationally diminished because he plays on a pretty terrible Pelicans team. Basketball is a 5-on-5 sport. No matter how great the player, you need team talent to win.

3. He is probably the best big man in the game, but his greatness is currently happening during a transition, where we are starting to see the resurgence of the Big Man. Joel, Giannis, KD. Steph Curry did not shoot the big man out of existence and NBA teams are figuring out how to reinvent the big man in an era where data analytics has meaningfully improved the alignment of in-game strategies and team design.

4. Lebron James and Rich Paul are straight up hustling. If I’m a Pelicans fan, I hate it. If I am an NBA fan sick of California teams gaining unfair advantage, this feels like WWF. But this is back scene wheeling and dealing at its finest.

The whole thing has been orchestrated with massive sophistication. From the Times Friday announcement to the resurgence of the Kyrie / Lebron narrative (this was handled masterfully by Lebron), media announcements have been masterfully managed to land the right points for the right audiences.

– persuade Anthony Davis that the pathway to Boston is not as reliable or as steady as it might appear
– persuade the Pelicans that the chance of landing a trade for Boston assets might be riskier
– persuade the Pelicans that anything Davis might believe this, reducing his trade value to Boston, etc.

When was the last time you’ve seen a player manage anything like this? I’m guessing Rich Paul is leading the charge, but LeBron is guiding perceptions and influencing alignments on the ground, dinner by dinner, tweet by tweet, phone call by phone call.

5. Paul and LBJ are keeping Magic out of this. He already got an unprecedented $50,000 fine after his comments about Paul George, a clear warning that there was a “red line” recruiting players who were already on contract. The Lakers and league have a certain reputation (for example, in 1994 xyz swooped in and grabbed Shaq after his unhappy contract negotiation with the Orlando Magic, Kobe demanded a trade to LA as a hornets draft pick). To put it more bluntly, the Lakers are sneaky and constantly trying to steal everybody’s (big) man.

What’s next:
– if Davis goes to LA, expect Kyrie Irving to follow, bringing them to parity with the GSW.
– Davis to LA Is going to be tough. LA doesn’t have much to offer. Looking at the assets, I’d say no way…
– that said! the LeBron Lakers have done enough to put a Boston trade under question that the Pelicans might worry they could walk away empty handed. Loss aversion is a powerful motivation. They just might blink.
– Lebron is probably healthier than it seems. Waiting to return makes sense until figuring out where AD lands. Expect him to return after a trade deadline or a trade.
– an Anthony Davis – Lebron pairing probably doesn’t make it past the warriors this year. And where does Tyson Chandler fit in? But it seriously opens up the possibility of an upset especially if the Lakers develop some sort of “bigs line up”… AD, Tyson, LeBron paired with a backcourt of Rondo/Ball/Hart/etc. is probably different than anything we’ve seen in the modern NBA, and will at a minimum open the door to a flood of fascinating Quibbls.

 

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