Now the mad, mad race is on.
All along the Pelicans have pushed to win now with Anthony Davis and in the process win him over so he would sign a $239 million max extension with the team next July and stick around. But as the Pelicans have slumped to 22-28 this season, the odds of Davis deciding he wanted to stay in New Orleans grew longer and longer — he has said cares about legacy more than money — and Pelicans management could not put together a team around him that could win (or stay healthy enough to win). The Pelicans had their chance and blew it.
Rich Paul, Davis’ agent, has told the Pelicans that AD wants out, a story broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
As I said, now the mad, mad race is on.
Although don’t expect the Pelicans to rush this. It would be a surprise if Davis is traded soon, more likely it is either around the draft or early July (probably the latter). New Orleans doesn’t want to trade him, but if they have to (and they do now, it would be a franchise killer not to) they are not going to rush into this, the Pelicans are going to extract as much as possible out of any trade. The Celtics and Lakers are the most mentioned suitors for Davis, but expect every team in the league to at least make a call.
The timing of this announcement opens the door for teams to rush in and try to make a move before the Feb. 7 trade deadline — before Boston can get involved. Specifically, there’s no reason to make this move — and make Davis a villain in New Orleans — other than to give the Lakers an advantage.
The Lakers will move aggressively before the Feb. 7 trade deadline because Boston cannot trade for Davis during this season (unless they trade Kyrie Irving away in the process). The NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement does not allow a team to trade for two Rose-rule, max extension rookie contracts. Irving has one, so does Davis. The Lakers are not bound by such restrictions and should/would put any player on the roster not named LeBron James in a trade offer. (Remember LeBron has dined with Davis during this season, he’s started his recruiting process.)
Boston, however, has higher-valued young talent. That starts with Jayson Tatum (who said even he would trade himself for Davis), but they have a deep roster of good, young players (Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier, Semi Ojeleye, among others) and they will have as many as four first-round picks in the upcoming NBA Draft: Theirs, Sacramento’s (they get the better of the Kings or Sixers picks, No. 1 protected), the Grizzlies (top 8 protected), and the Clippers (lottery protected). If the Pelicans are patient, the Celtics could make draft picks for them then trade them to New Orleans after July 1.
The question is, do the Pelicans want to rebuild or do they want a package of players to help them compete right away (sort of like the deal the Spurs got for Kawhi Leonard)? If it’s the latter, it opens up some interesting doors, such as Portland putting together an offer around C.J. McCollum then hoping they can win Davis over in a Paul George with Oklahoma City kind of way.
The more likely outcome is the Pelicans drag this out as they try to start a bidding war between teams. But, anything is possible.
It’s going to get wild.
Now the game is afoot.