Every team trying to acquire Anthony Davis before next week’s trade deadline must beat an offer the Pelicans can’t even accept yet.
The Celtics can’t realistically trade for Davis now, because both he and Kyrie Irving are designated rookie scale players. Teams are limited to one such player acquired by trade. But Irving’s contract status will change this offseason, and Boston can deal for Davis while keeping Irving then. The Celtics are loaded with assets and could quite conceivably make the strongest offer.
This makes the situation incredibly complex for New Orleans and every other Davis suitor now, though. Everyone must evaluate: What will Boston offer?
I think Boston has sent a message to the Pelicans: “Be patient. Wait for us. We are going to be in this, and we’re going to be willing to talk about essentially everyone on our roster outside Kyrie Irving.”
The big name is Jayson Tatum, the Celtics’ 20-year-old rising-star forward who’s still under team control for at least three more full seasons. He might be the most valuable single player the Pelicans could get for Davis.
But would Boston really deal Tatum? I’m curious about the Celtics’ exact message. There’s obviously a difference between “willing to talk about essentially everyone on our roster outside Kyrie Irving” and promising now to trade anyone outside Irving. Even if Boston made that latter pledge, nothing is guaranteed. The Pelicans would have to be quite trusting.
Even believing the Celtics are sincere goes only so far. There are so many variables between now and July. What if the still-improving Tatum dominates in the playoffs? What if Davis further emphasizes he wants to join only the Lakers and wouldn’t re-sign in Boston? What if Davis gets hurt (though New Orleans could remove that risk by shutting him down).
For his part, Tatum said he’d trade himself for Davis. But no matter what’s said and even intended now, it’s far too soon to know whether Danny Ainge would agree in July.
The Celtics have plenty of other assets – including Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and extra first-round picks – to trade for Davis. Even if Tatum gets taken off the table, the Pelicans could get a good offer from Boston for Davis.
But a better offer than other teams will present now?
That’s the tricky question New Orleans must assess before the trade deadline.