I have been writing the same thing consistently since I heard it from sources at Summer League (it’s since been confirmed to me). Countless other NBA reporters and broadcasters have said the same thing:
New Orleans does not want to trade Anthony Davis. Not to the Lakers — even though LeBron James kicked up a dust storm saying it would be “incredible” to play with AD — not to anyone, and they won’t unless they are forced to do so. The Pelicans are active on the trade market right now, but as buyers not sellers, they’re making a push to impress Davis and win now. Then, come July 1 they will put a designated veteran $235 million guaranteed contract in front of him Davis, $40 million more than anyone else can offer. If, at that point, Davis says no the Pelicans will have no choice but to listen to offers. However, he may say yes — that’s a lot of cash and he feels a connection to New Orleans — and the Pelicans are going to give him that chance.
In his latest piece at ESPN, the well-connected Brian Windhorst echoes the same points.
The Pelicans aren’t interested in trading Davis and instead have been engaged in trade talks to try to improve their team around him. They are currently in 12th in the standings but, as is the nature of the Western Conference, they are just three games out of fourth place….
Certainly they recognize their situation with Davis is tenuous, and they feel the pressure. But they absolutely want to get to the summer, when they can potentially offer Davis a supermax extension that would potentially pay him $70 million more than he can get anywhere else. If they do have to face the reality of a trade at some point down the line — a definite possibility if Davis rejects the extension — they would want to make sure the Celtics are able to make a bid. Not because it’s a foregone conclusion that’s where Davis would go, but so that it would juice the marketplace.
Right now the Celtics could not trade for Davis because they already have one player on a Rose Rule rookie contract extension on the books in Kyrie Irving and the CBA prohibits teams from trading for a second one (Davis is on a Rose Rule contract, too). That all changes July 1 when Irving becomes a free agent, but the Celtics can do nothing before then.
In theory, Davis could try to force his way to the Lakers now, before the Celtics can bid, but he does want to try to make it work in New Orleans. Another point Windhorst wrote about.
Davis has given no indication he wants to leave New Orleans. In fact, he has been dedicating himself toward the team over the past year more than ever before. He’s playing through injuries. He’s playing out of his preferred position. He has shown noticeable leadership growth. He’s having a career season and has a real chance at the MVP award.
Nothing drives the NBA like trade rumors, and Davis is by far the biggest fish out there, the rumors will not die. But there will be nothing on the hook there until July. At the earliest. And maybe not at all.