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Three key moments to watch in upcoming Anthony Davis trade drama

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Anthony Davis will be traded. Before next season.

Just because it didn’t happen at the trade deadline last week — as Davis, his agent Rich Paul, and the Lakers wished and pushed for — doesn’t mean the Pelicans will keep him into next training camp. New Orleans understands it needs to get as much back for Davis as it can to help jumpstart a rebuild, and the Pelicans believed they could get a better deal this off-season than they could in February.

Now what happens?

First, Davis plays the rest of the season for the Pelicans. He’ll have reduced minutes, likely sitting out back-to-backs, and those things could hurt his All-NBA/post-season awards status a little. However, that’s the only real price — so long as Davis stays healthy. Everyone involved will just hold their breath every time he steps on the court, hoping he avoids injury.

After that, there are three key moments to watch.

1) The NBA Draft Lottery on May 14. There is a potential franchise-changing star at the top of this draft in Duke’s Zion Williamson. After that, there’s a drop off in talent and questions about the guys next on most draft boards — R.J. Barrett (Duke), Ja Morant (Murray State), Nassir Little (North Carolina), Cam Reddish (Duke) — which means the Pelicans may not be wowed by pick No. 3 or No. 5 (unless they fall in love with one of those players).

If the team that wins the draft lottery is potentially willing to deal the pick — we’re looking at you, New York Knicks — the Pelicans will listen. Most likely, especially with the new, flattened out lottery odds, the winner of the lottery will be a team that would keep it (Cleveland, Chicago, Atlanta) but the Pelicans are interested to see the lottery outcome and how it could impact the offers coming their way.

2) The Eastern Conference playoffs. So much of July’s free agency could hinge on the taste left in players’ mouths by the postseason. For example, Kawhi Leonard may feel very differently about staying in Toronto if the Raptors make it through to the NBA Finals than if the team is bounced in the second round.

In the Davis saga, this becomes mostly about the Boston Celtics. The Celtics lobbied the Pelicans to wait, not to trade Davis at the deadline, to give them a chance to get in on the bidding and fulfill GM Danny Ainge’s dream scenario of pairing Davis with Kyrie Irving. Talk to front office people/scouts around the league and they believe almost to a man the Celtics can put together the best offer the Pelicans will see. (Some Lakers’ fans push back on this idea every time I write it, I will tell you what I’ve heard from sources in the league: Jayson Tatum is higher rated because of his potential than any Laker youngster, the Memphis pick is not only more valuable than any Laker pick it could be the second-best asset offered to New Orleans, and most have Jaylen Brown right in the mix with the Lakers Lonzo Ball/Brandon Ingram/Kyle Kuzma core.)

However, Ainge’s dream of pairing Irving with Davis only works if Irving stays and re-signs with Boston this summer. Ainge is confident it will happen, but he’s on an island with that one. The Celtics have played like individuals, Irving has called out his young teammates for not sacrificing enough of their games (while he has sacrificed almost nothing in terms of shots and usage rate), and rumors persist around the league that Irving wants to join Kevin Durant in New York. If Irving leaves the Celtics the calculus changes for Ainge — he probably can’t put Tatum in any offer. And that makes it difficult to put together a clear best offer.

Bottom line: If Irving is frustrated and disgruntled and wants out of Boston, the Lakers and everyone else are in the game. (And everyone else could now include the Los Angeles Clippers, who can put together a package based around Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Lou Williams, plus a bunch of first round picks, including the Miami 2021 unprotected pick. That might tempt New Orleans.)

3) Can the Lakers make a trade to get back in the Davis game? Will they need to? From the day it was leaked Davis had asked for a trade out of New Orleans, sources with an understanding of the Pelicans’ thinking told me the Pelicans were not going to rush the process. They would be patient. One part of it was they liked the idea of multiple bidders getting involved. Another part was they didn’t want to feel pushed and bullied into a trade.

Another aspect was the Pelicans were not that high on the Lakers’ young players — they were good, but not as good as the Pelicans wanted.

After the season ends for the Lakers, they may quietly explore a trade that could send some of those young players out to bring back someone the Pelicans’ value more highly. Who is that? Likely someone we don’t know is available. However, if there is a mystery “team X” that highly values Ball or Ingram, and a pick gets thrown in the trade, it works for our mystery team. If the Lakers can add a couple better first-round picks it might help, too.

And it might not matter.

The Pelicans are going to do what they believe is best for the franchise this summer — and that could mean changing general managers, bringing in a new front office for Magic Johnson, Rob Pelinka and the front office to negotiate with. What that new front office is looking to get back in a trade, and how they value certain players, could vary from the people the Lakers have been negotiating with so far.

Which means there’s just a lot of uncertainty around the coming Anthony Davis trade.

We’re all just trying to read the tea leaves. Which is why we’ll be watching these three areas closely.

Report: Bucks trying to trade Tony Snell or Ersan Ilyasova with draft-pick sweetener

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Coming off their best season in decades, the Bucks will send four quality players into free agency – Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez, Malcolm Brogdon and Nikola Mirotic.

How will Milwaukee keep its core intact?

Maybe by unloading Tony Snell ($11,592,857 salary next season, $12,378,571 player option the following season) or Ersan Ilyasova ($7 million salary next season, $7 million unguaranteed the following season).

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

With Bird Rights for Middleton, Brogdon and Mirotic, Milwaukee faces no salary-cap restrictions on keeping just those three. The only cost is real dollars, including potential luxury-tax payments.

It’s trickier with Lopez. Giving him the non-taxpayer mid-level exception (which projects to be about $9 million) – the most they can pay without opening cap space – would hard-cap the Bucks at a projected team salary of about $138 million. That could be a difficult line to stay under.

Unless Snell or Ilyasova are off the books.

Neither player has a desirable contract, which is why Milwaukee is shopping them with a draft pick attached. But both can still contribute. Ilyasova is a smart veteran power forward who shoots well from outside and takes a lot of charges. Snell is also a good outside shooter, and though his all-around game is lacking, there’s a dearth of helpful wings around the league.

The Bucks have the No. 30 pick in Thursday’s draft. They could select on behalf of another team then trade the draft rights. The Stepien rule applies only to future drafts.

Beyond that pick, Milwaukee is short on tradable draft picks. The Bucks have already traded two protected future first-round picks and their next three second-rounders. Dealing another first-rounder would require complex protections. Perhaps, a distant second-rounder is enough.

It’s important for Milwaukee to figure this out. Giannis Antetokounmpo likes this core group, and everyone is watching his level of satisfaction with the Bucks as his super-max decision approaches.

Toronto police: Report of shooting at Raptors championship parade

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Update: Toronto police:

 

 

The Raptors’ championship parade was interrupted by a scary situation.

Toronto Police:

Bruce Arthur of the Toronto Star:

Especially in large crowds like this, chaos and confusion can spread quickly. Hopefully, everyone is OK.

The scene was quite strange, as speeches were interrupted while people in sections of the crowd fled:

The Raptors are continuing their speeches now.

Report: Nets not extending qualifying offer to Rondae Hollis-Jefferson

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The Nets appear to be on the verge of signing Kyrie Irving. They opened double-max cap space to pursue a second star like Kevin Durant, Tobias Harris or Jimmy Butler.

Brooklyn isn’t going to let Rondae Hollis-Jefferson foil that plan.

The Nets could make Hollis-Jefferson a restricted free agent, giving them the right to match any offer he receives. But do so, they must extend a $3,594,369 qualifying offer. That’s essentially a one-year contract offer he could accept at any time. If he did, he’d count against the cap at $3,594,369. Brooklyn doesn’t want to risk that.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The Nets could still re-sign Hollis-Jefferson. This just prevents him from unilaterally accepting the qualifying offer and jamming up cap space.

But this signals Brooklyn is ready to move on. Hollis-Jefferson, who become an unrestricted free agent after spending his first four years with the Nets, might also be ready.

The 24-year-old Hollis-Jefferson has settled in as an undersized power forward. He’s a switchable defender and active offensively. Playing power forward somewhat covers for his lack of shooting and ball-handling ability, but that can still be exploited.

Why timing of Anthony Davis trade matters so much for Lakers

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The Lakers will get Anthony Davis.

That’s clearly the only thing that matters to them.

Not only will they send the Pelicans a massive haul of draft picks and young players, the Lakers could lose significant cap space with the trade’s structure.

Los Angeles and New Orleans can’t complete the reported deal until the league year turns over June 30. Then, the NBA immediately goes into a moratorium in which most transactions aren’t allowed. The moratorium ends July 6. That’s when two main options emerge.

Option 1: Trade July 6

Let’s start with Davis’ trade kicker, a bonus paid to him if traded. Davis’ base salary next season is $27,093,018. His 15% trade bonus could raise his salary $4,063,953 to $31,156,971. Davis could waive all or a portion of the bonus. The Pelicans would pay the bonus, but the Lakers can also include enough cash in the trade to cover the full bonus amount.

The Lakers will send Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart (combined salary: $17,918,965) and the No. 4 pick (which will count about $7 million against the cap) to New Orleans.

Davis’ salary will be between $27,093,018 and $31,156,971 next season, depending on his trade kicker.

Simply, the Lakers’ incoming salary in the trade will be about $2 million-$6 million higher than their outgoing salary in the trade.

That works just fine under the cap rules. The Lakers will have way more than $2 million-$6 million in cap space. As far as salary matching, teams can always trade when they end up under the cap.

So, after this deal, the Lakers would have about $24 million-$28 million in cap space.

But there’s another path that would give the Lakers even more flexibility.

Option 2: Trade July 30

On July 6, if they renounce all their free agents and waive Jemerrio Jones‘ unguaranteed salary, the Lakers project to have about $33 million cap space.

That’s about enough for a max salary for a free agent with fewer than 10 years experience – someone like Kemba Walker, Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard or Kyrie Irving. Or multiple helpful role players.

The Lakers could spend all that money then trade for Davis.

Here’s how they could get Davis after reaching the cap line:

They’d sign the No. 4 pick June 30. (Signing first-round picks is one of the few moves allowed during the moratorium.) He couldn’t be traded for 30 days after being signed. Hence, the July 30 date on this trade. But his actual salary would count toward the trade. Unsigned draft picks count $0 in trades.

In this salary range, the Lakers could acquire 125% of the outgoing salary in the trade plus $100,000. Aggregating Ball, Ingram, Hart and the signed No. 4 pick would allow the Lakers to acquire about $31 million of salary. That covers Davis’ full salary and most, if not all, of his trade bonus.

But why would the Pelicans wait?

That’d mean the No. 4 pick can’t play for them in summer league. There’d also be complications flipping the No. 4 pick to another team.

It’d also tie up a portion their cap space until the trade is completed, as they’re the ones holding the more-expensive Davis through July. Most good free agents will be off the market by July 30.

New Orleans could always reach an unofficial agreement with a free agent then make the deal official after the Lakers trade. But that requires trust, and some free agents might not go for that.

There’s no upside in waiting for the Pelicans. The only question is how much downside.

What’s at stake?

A quick recap:

If the Lakers trade for Davis sooner, they’d project to have $24 million-$28 million in cap space (depending on his trade bonus).

If the Lakers trade for Davis later, they’d project to have about $33 million in cap space.

That extra $5 million-$9 million could go a long way.

What now?

It doesn’t sound as if the Lakers pressed New Orleans to wait until July 30 before accepting the trade.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times:

For now, the plan is to execute the trade on July 6, right after the moratorium ends on the start of free agency — and it’s unlikely that will change.

The Lakers could always negotiate with free agents June 30-July 5 then decide. If they want the additional cap space, the Lakers could try to entice the Pelicans with extra draft picks to delay. But that’d make the trade even more costly to Los Angeles.

The alternative might be even more grim – the Lakers not finding worthy players in the first week of free agency. Los Angeles could even view that as a face-saving move to justify the timing of this trade.

But if the Lakers make this trade July 6 then claim they didn’t have good use for an extra $5 million-$9 million in cap space, they’ll only be telling on themselves.