When NBA players and owners met together to reconstruct the CBA two years ago, the supermax deal was created. It meant more money for players with the intent of increasing the likelihood that stars and superstars in small markets would remain put instead of leaving for the brighter lights.
However, the deal hasn’t gone as planned. DeMarcus Cousins left the Sacramento Kings and New Orleans Pelicans since. The money was not enough to keep Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, or Jimmy Butler in Indiana, San Antonio, or Minnesota.
And now the speculation surrounding Pelicans’ superstar, Anthony Davis, departing grows by the day. Rumors of a potential trade were swirling for over a year now and fueled when the Pelicans did not do what they needed to retain All-Star DeMarcus Cousins.
The Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics were immediately the two popular landing spots for him and it’s no secret that they are two of his top preferred destinations.
The Lakers are the Lakers- residing in Los Angeles, owning the most glamorous brand in the NBA, and employing LeBron James, while the Celtics are a storied franchise with the best collection of assets to acquire Davis. And when the 25-year-old forward/center switched agents to be represented by Rich Paul of Klutch Sports (part of the LeBron James umbrella), additional smoke burnt.
With the Lakers looking to add another star to pair with James, all signs are pointing to Davis ending up in the purple and gold. With all that has been said (and unsaid), in addition to the Lakers having the assets to pull off a deal, it feels inevitable at this point. James was even on record talking about having the 25-year-old MVP talent on the Lakers roster.
“That would be amazing,” James told ESPN on Tuesday before the Lakers’ 115-110 loss to the Brooklyn Nets, referring to the Lakers landing Davis through a trade. “That would be amazing, like, duh. That would be incredible.” And of course, it would be. Who wouldn’t want a seven-year veteran that has yet to hit his prime with career averages of 23.7 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks while shooting 51.6% from the field (52.7 effective field goal percentage)?
He is in the midst of another excellent season, averaging 28 points, 12.3 rebounds, and 2.8 blocks with his usual strong efficiency. This, after averaging 28.1 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks last year and 28 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks two seasons ago. Whether he wants to leave or not has not been confirmed but the common belief is that he wants to join up with LeBron James in Los Angeles, even though he downplayed James’ comments.
“I don’t really care,” Davis told ESPN of James’ comments Wednesday night after the Pelicans’ 123-115 loss to the Bucks. “Obviously, it’s cool to hear any high-caliber player say they want to play with me. But my job is to turn this team around. If we’re 15-17, that means I’m not doing my job.”
Yet, even if he wanted to leave, and told ownership and management so behind locked doors, they have no obligation to move him. Davis is under contract through 2020 and can be offered a $239 max deal which would be a lot of money to turn down.
Then again, the supermax hasn’t prevented players to want out from their current situation, especially a mediocre one. The Pelicans are currently 15-17, 13th in an extremely competitive Western Conference with not much cap flexibility. And if they commit so much to Davis, they would not be able to improve upon the team they have right now. Luring top free agents to small markets is tough already. But not having the money they desire makes it virtually impossible.
Presently, the team isn’t anywhere near a title contender. Last year’s Pelicans team was the most successful in the Anthony Davis Era, and it resulted in a 4-1 loss in the second round of the Western Conference Playoffs.
If he wants to win, then asking for a trade is the best option. That has been the strategy with Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, and Jimmy Butler, and it worked out in their favor. However, their public perception took hits. Davis may not want to ruin his image so he could refrain from asking for one. But losing and mediocrity take a toll on everyone, thus even if it’s not in his DNA to do so, he may ask for it soon.
And if that happens, the clock starts clicking on the Pelicans. They can try holding out to show strength, but in these situations, moving the player earlier is better. If Davis wants to go to the Lakers as speculated, asking for a trade this season may be his best bet.
The Celtics won’t be able to make a deal of the magnitude of Anthony Davis because of a weird rule from the current CBA surrounding the Designated Veteran Extension. They won’t be able to trade for Davis until Kyrie Irving’s contract expires (because he qualifies for the extension).
This means that the Lakers would not be bidding with their biggest rivals who also happen to have the best assets to give up for Davis. So while they will have to give up something significant, they won’t be directly competing with anyone until next summer, if it gets that far, so their asking price won’t be as high.
The Lakers have the assets in Josh Hart, Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and draft picks. They would not be moving all of them, but realistically, three of the players have to be included. Los Angeles would love to hold onto Kuzma with how well he fits with James but may have to include him. A package surrounding Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, and a pick/Josh Hart is enticing as well, considering the circumstances.
The stars are aligning for AD to end up in La-La Land. Of course, we have been teased like this in the past, but having LeBron James on the roster makes it feel more real.
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