Davis Is Ready to Fly Away from the Pelicans Nest
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski dropped quite the bombshell on Monday when he reported that New Orleans Pelicans star forward Anthony Davis has asked the team for a trade. Per the report, Davis will refuse to sign any contract extension to stay in New Orleans.
He would prefer the team trade him as soon as possible. Doing so will allow the Pelicans to recoup future assets without losing Davis for nothing if he walks as a free agent.
Davis is currently under contract with the Pelicans through the 2019-20 season. He will be eligible to sign a 5-year extension worth $240 million with New Orleans in the summer. His agent, Rich Paul, told ESPN that Davis has not asked the Pelicans to trade him prior to next week’s trade deadline.
Paul said via text message to Wojnarowski;
“Anthony wants to be traded to a team that allows him a chance to win consistently and compete for a championship. Anthony wanted to be honest and clear with his intentions and that’s the reason for informing them of this decision now. That’s in the best interests of both Anthony’s and the organization’s future.”
The Pelicans have thus far publicly resisted the idea of trading their star player, but that will likely change now that Davis has made his made his intentions known.
Odds Favor L.A., Boston
The Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics are the betting favorites to land Davis once the Pelicans decide to part ways with him. The Lakers have a leg up on Boston because the Celtics are unable to acquire Davis this season as long as Kyrie Irving is also on the roster.
NBA rules prohibit one team from having 2 players under the designated rookie contract extension at the same time. Because both Irving and Davis are under contract via the same exception, the Celtics will have to either trade Irving or wait until Kyrie’s current deal expires at the end of the season before trading for Davis.
So, the Celtics are essentially out of the running for Davis until this season ends, which gives the Lakers a few months to negotiate as presumed frontrunners. The Lakers have famously tried and failed to trade for other superstars like Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in recent years.
They will undoubtedly emerge as a suitor for Davis, but it remains to be seen whether the Pelicans would have interest in what the Lakers have to offer in exchange for A.D. Young players like Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram will likely headline any package the Lakers float the Pels’ way.
If the Pelicans wait until the summer, they will likely ask the Celtics for a package centered around young star Jayson Tatum. Others like Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier, and Marcus Smart may also be of interest to New Orleans. The Lakers are listed at +125 to be Davis’ team at the start of next season, while the Celtics have the second-best odds at +300.
The New York Knicks (+550) and Philadelphia 76ers (+700) are also considered to be candidates to land Davis via trade. The Knicks would likely have to part ways with young star Kristaps Porzingis, while any 76ers deal will likely focus on former Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons.
The Pelicans have made just 2 playoff appearances in Davis’ 6 seasons with the team since the franchise drafted him with the No. 1 overall pick out of Kentucky in 2012. “The Brow” has averaged 24 points, 10.6 rebounds and 2.4 blocked shots over his first 6-plus seasons as a pro.
He is putting together arguably the finest campaign of his career this season. Through 41 games, Davis is averaging 29.3 points, 13.3 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game. He has also connected on 32.5 percent of his looks from 3-point range.
The Pelicans tried to pair Davis with another star in DeMarcus Cousins a couple of years ago. The tandem thrived together before Cousins suffered a ruptured Achilles last January. Rather than re-signing to stay with Davis, Cousins opted to sign a 1-year deal to join the Golden State Warriors last summer.
New Orleans swept the Portland Trail Blazers in last year’s playoffs before being beaten in the second round by Golden State. Davis is currently sidelined due to a sprained left index finger, but he is expected to return to the court sometime next week.
Long Road for Pelicans
Davis’ request comes at an awkward time for the Pelicans, who just re-signed star guard Jrue Holiday to a lucrative new contract in the summer of 2017. Holiday said that Davis’ presence was a huge factor in his decision to stick around. Holiday’s contract was for 5 years and $126 million.
The team has also surrounded Davis with decent complementary pieces like Julius Randle, Elfrid Payton, and Nikola Mirotic.
However, injuries and inconsistency have plagued New Orleans for much of this season. The Pelicans are just 22-28 after a 4-0 start to the season. New Orleans currently occupies the No. 13 seed in the Western Conference, which makes them one of the more disappointing teams in basketball.
They have the on-paper talent required to at least be a playoff team, but they are currently 6 games back of the Los Angeles Clippers for the eighth and final postseason spot.
Trading away Davis will likely jump-start yet another rebuilding process for a team that is familiar with such things. It was less than a decade ago when Chris Paul voiced his displeasure with the state of the franchise before he was ultimately shipped to the Los Angeles Clippers in a trade.
Davis was the prize of the team’s rebuilding effort back then, but it’s now looking like the team will have to start all over yet again.
Davis has indicated that he would be willing to play out the rest of the current season with the Pelicans, which makes a trade before summer look increasingly unlikely.
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