Safe to say, the 28 other teams not named the Boston Celtics should be opening up their coffers for Anthony Davis before the trade deadline.
This was always going to be the first domino to fall in the sweepstakes for a generational talent like Davis. January 28th, 2019 is the day it all began. As reported by Adrian Wojnarowski, Rich Paul - Davis' agent - had informed the New Orleans Pelicans that Davis would not sign a contract extension this summer and thus asked for a trade to a team that allows him to contend for a championship. A move like this has been in the works for some time. Anybody who knows anything about the National Basketball Association was aware that Davis' time in New Orleans would be finite. The timing is not surprising per se, but it is compelling given all the noise that has surrounded the MVP-calibre big man ever since he hired Rich Paul as his agent over the summer.
At this point, the only reason Davis and Rich Paul make this move is that it maximizes the chances that the Lakers could be the team that ultimately trade for and sign Davis long-term.
If the Pelicans were to wait till the summer, that is when they could get the best possible offer from the Boston Celtics who by far have the best assets any team can offer. The Knicks could even get involved to acquire Anthony Davis should they win the lottery and trade a package with Zion Williamson at its core. But regardless of all of that, the next ten days are for negotiations between Magic Johnson and Dell Demps.
Despite having Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, and Lonzo Ball among other young assets, conventional wisdom would dictate that the Pelicans would wait for till the summer to get the best possible compensation package for their superstar. Forget the young player Danny Ainge could offer the Pelicans, the Celtics could potentially have four first-round draft picks this year. A trade package around Jaylen Brown or Jason Tatum (or both) combined with the multitude of high draft first-round picks should be enough to convince the Pelicans to be patient. The only hurdle in their way - in the simplest possible terms - is a rule within the CBA that prevents them from having both Davis and Kyrie Irving until the latter becomes a free agent on July 1.
Under the new regime of Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka had preached patience when they first took the reigns of the Lakers. They would have to undo all the damage done previously before they could rebuild the franchise into its former glory. But now is the time to go all-in. They failed to acquire Paul George when they assumed that they would not have to give up any assets and would merely join the Lakers as a free agent. Magic and Pelinka also failed to get Kawhi Leonard as they did not want to relinquish too many of their assets. Now is the time to strike given that the iron is hot. This might be their last chance to get a transcendent, cornerstone player who is only at the beginnings of his prime. Davis is posting career numbers that are comparable to that of Kareem Abdul Jabbar and exceed even the likes of Hakeem Olajuwon. Even if it means that the Lakers have to give up Ingram, Kuzma, Ball, Zubac, the secret to Magic Johnson's smile; they need to lay out everything they have on a buffet table and let the Pelicans have their pick. If they miss out on him right now, they cannot outbid some of the other teams in the running for The Brow.
As the news was unfolding, the LA Times reported that the Lakers initial offer would be Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Ivica Zubac, and a first-round pick. What is most interesting about this is that Brandon Ingram - who by the estimation of some has the highest upside of the Lakers young players - was not mentioned at all. Surely the Pelicans want Ingram in the mix. It would be absolutely stunning if the Pelicans did not want a 21-year-old, six foot nine wing player who has the talent and potential to be versatile on both ends of the floor. Magic Johnson and Pelinka have to be willing to move on from Ingram.
Clearly, this has been in the works for some time. Not just the rumors surrounding Davis joining the Lakers but the inevitable fact that he was going to leave New Orleans. He has spoken about how Kevin Garnett stayed too long in Minnesota and Garnett himself believes that Davis will don the Purple and Gold. But more specifically to the events that have transpired in the last 24 hours, the single common denominator is Rich Paul. He represents both LeBron James and is part of his inner circle. And, Davis hired him to be his agent this past summer. Ever since that day, everyone has thought about the pairing of Davis and LeBron. The 6-10 Chicago native - should be traded to the Lakers - might go down as the best player to ever play besides LeBron James.
Ideally, the Lakers were hoping to sign a star free agent this summer before trading for Davis. Given that this has not been the case, the Lakers still have the opportunity to create $20+ million in cap space this summer after trading for Davis. While this is not nearly enough to sign a player of Kevin Durant's ilk, it might be enough to entice a Khris Middleton, Tobias Harris, or even DeMarcus Cousins in joining the Lakers. Middleton and Harris especially will serve as much better complementary pieces to LeBron and Davis.
The Pelicans want as many bidders at the table - which should be just about every team in the NBA. The more buyers would result in teams driving up the price for Davis which would effectively eliminate the Lakers from contention.
The Lakers are definitely interested in Davis as are the Celtics. But if we look back at Paul George and Kawhi Leonard trade, neither player landed to their intended destination. A surprise candidate will come out to take a flyer on Davis. George was only supposed to stay with the Thunder for a season but has since signed a 4-year deal with them. Leonard could possibly make the Finals with the Raptors and how would want to a leave a contending team in a weaker conference? The couple of teams that stand out of the pack though. The aforementioned Raptors could construct a package around the Gem of a player that is Pascal Siakam. Bulls have some promising young players and just so happen to be situated in Davis' home town. Even the Warriors could surprise the league and trade for Davis should Kevin Durant decide to leave the Bay Area. Ideally, he'd want to move to a big market city that has a title contending squad, but if we are take anything away from the Paul George trade, it is that plans sometimes change.