Anthony Davis Requested a Trade. What’s Next?

It didn’t take long for NBA Twitter to catch fire when news came that Anthony Davis was not intending to re-sign with the Pelicans, and was requesting a trade out of New Orleans. As the internet exploded with memes and speculation about his destination, one aspect of the story stood out to me. The Brow wants to win titles. This makes the trade speculation a lot more interesting, as it puts an unusual constraint on his potential landing spots.

This is not to say, of course, that this isn’t typical of stars that demand trades, but rather it’s abnormal in the sense that AD has made clear that winning championships is what matters, not money.

With that in mind, I began to wonder what other teams might be interested in taking a gamble on AD, specifically teams that haven’t already received a lot of attention as potential trade partners for New Orleans. For one thing, the Lakers could get outbid pretty easily, despite their more agressive interest in the trade. Another problem with the usual suspects is Boston, who can’t make a trade until Kyrie Irving is on a new contract (or is involved in the deal, which is also unlikely).

So unless the Lakers clear house, or the Celtics turn this into a waiting game, there are definitely other teams worth exploring as landing spots for AD. There are some important things to keep in mind when thinking this through, however. First, the path to a title, both now and in the immediate future, is easier in the East. Second, teams must be in need of AD’s services, both positionally and skill-wise, to really be interested in making a move here. Third and finally, do these teams have the resources to get this trade done? I can think of a few, but some are far more likely than others.

The Toronto Case

The first team that came to mind as a dark-horse trade destination for AD was the Toronto Raptors. First of all, the team has depth at center, but no absolute killer out there. Unlike Philadelphia, Milwaukee, and some others that fit the bill, Toronto could certainly benefit from having Anthony Davis both short and long-term. Would Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright, OG Anunoby, and a pick get the deal done? Would Toronto be comfortable with that? Serge Ibaka is an interesting candidate, but his salary makes him harder to move and/or balance with New Orleans, and as a home-grown guy, I’d rather keep JV if I could.

If I were New Orleans, I would certainly be trying to get Pascal Siakam in the deal, but he has proven so valuable as a role player this year that I doubt Toronto would be super interested in moving him. With that said, a starting 5 of Lowry, Green, Leonard, Siakam, and AD would be one hell of a team on both ends of the court. Not to mention having such strong presences off the bench like Fred Van Vleet, Ibaka or Valanciunas assuming one doesn’t end up in the trade, and other competent role players to back them up, this sounds like a title team to me.

Not only would they be instantly a defensive bastion, but the on-court fit is better than you would probably expect as well. Kawhi and Danny Green are both efficient floor-spacers, Kyle Lowry is an assist machine, and Pascal Siakam can do more or less whatever you need at the 4. If I were AD, I’d be thrilled at this. No player on this team has an ego, it would be very easy to come in and be instantly embraced by the city and team, and that team could win a title this year and down the line as well.

The one downside to this for the Raptors is potentially disrupting the home-grown talent and culture guys that they have. But with a player like AD, I think that’s a chance you take.

The Portland Case

Another team that interested me in this thought process was Portland. They’ve been overdue to shake things up for a while, and they are a team that really is just one player away from being a contender, even in the West. The Trailblazers could try to move CJ McCollum, who for all of his struggles this year is definitely a player of value. He’s not enough to get the deal done straight up though, despite their near identical salaries.

Nurkic is also an interesting asset, and trading a center for a center would make the position fit easier, as well. It would be tough for Portland to get this deal done without digging into their depth a bit, but their depth isn’t going to push them above the 4th seed at best this year.

It’s been time for this team to try and push their ceiling up, and this would certainly be a good way to do it. AD is a top 5 player on both ends of the court, and with floor spacing that Damian Lillard and the other powerhouse shooters like Seth Curry and Meyers Leonard provide, AD would have all the room in the world to work down low. A starting 5 involving Dame, Aminu, AD, and players to fill in the gaps off the bench like Curry, Turner, Leonard, and Collins, I could see this rotation of guys making a strong run this post-season. The problem would be filling in the gaps at SG and SF, depending on who is involved in the trade, and what Portland gets back. Regardless, this team is well-suited to take in AD and instantly become a contender.

The Clippers Case

This final one is easily one of the least likely, as the Clippers have made clear their interest in Kawhi Leonard this off-season. However, they are easily capable of making moves that would open up two max slots in their cap room, and part of that could be made possible through an AD trade. Although Davis has stated money isn’t important, I can’t imagine playing in LA isn’t at least slightly alluring. Plus, he gets to do it without all of the drama and sacrifice that involves playing with LeBron and for the Lakers in general.

That is all an aside, though. The real question is, how much depth does LA have to cough up in order to get this deal done? The easy part is matching salary. They have plenty of players of varying skill levels on various size deals, all or most of whom are perfectly fair value. Would NOP be interested in Montrezl Harrell, Danilo Gallinari, and some picks? As cruel as it would be to make Tobias Harris move again, he is also an undoubtedly valuable piece on a very solid contract. Getting Gallinari off the books makes more sense, however, as it alleviates more cap room as well as providing a very convenient opening at small forward for one, say, Kawhi Leonard.

As young players like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continue to improve, this starting 5 would only increase their ceiling even after adding two top 5 players in their prime. SGA, Lou Williams, Kawhi, Harris, and AD would be one heck of a lineup with plenty of upside and room for improvement. The best part of the Clippers is they have so many functional and valuable players, but none that are irreplaceable. This is a well-coached, consistent, and professional team that would be a prime landing spot for any marquis talent, but it would specifically would be a great spot for AD given LAC’s future plans and current situation.

The Conclusion

While I think it’s fun to imagine AD in green or yellow (actually now that I think about it, that’s the least fun thing I could do) there are certainly other interesting options that not only fit the bill for AD to go there, but also have interesting options as a return for New Orleans. If I were the Pelicans, there are certainly players I’d value on the teams I mentioned above more than I’d value any combination of Kuzma, Ball, Hart, and Ingram. So cheers, we’ve begun the next great NBA trade saga, so now all we have to do is wait.

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Grading Every Christmas Day NBA Match-Up

‘Tis the season of giving, and the NBA hath given a lineup of games for public view, so perfectly spaced out as to be able to watch various games throughout the day. Some of the games are clear rivalry games that the NBA is trying to push, whereas others are just individual teams from big markets that the league wishes to put on display. With that in mind, I’m going to go game by game and grade the game quality as well as provide a short blurb about the teams. Here we go!

Bucks @ Knicks: D | Not much to be said about this one. The Bucks have been shaky lately, but the Knicks are so widely devoid of any play-making talent that it probably won’t matter. Even if the Knicks pull off a Christmas upset, it probably won’t be pretty. More likely than that is a good old fashioned blowout courtesy of Giannis.

Thunder @ Rockets: B- | At the beginning of the season this match would have probably seemed like a really good one. Both of these teams started out mysteriously cold, and since then the Thunder have fared better. Houston is still struggling against even middling teams, while OKC is defending at a high level and PG is delivering on offense. I imagine this will be a good game nonetheless, but Chris Paul’s hamstring injury decreases the likelihood that this is a close, compelling game.

76ers @ Celtics: B+ | The NBA is, very clearly, exhaustively, trying to push this rivalry. LeBron leaving Cleveland officially signified that the reigns of the East would fall to the next generation, and in addition to the opening game being the same match-up, it’s clear that this is the narrative the NBA wants for the Eastern Conference. That said, it should be one of the most high-energy games all day, and it’s also very likely to be a close and exciting game. I wish it wasn’t at TD Garden again, seeing as the opening night game as well as the Christmas day game will be at home for Boston which kind of tells me that the NBA wants to push this rivalry, but wants to push Celtics exceptionalism harder. Injuries on Boston’s roster, particularly to their big men, blow this game wide open for Philly, especially because Boston hasn’t seen the Jimmy Butler Sixers yet.

Lakers @ Warriors: A- | The Lakers have begun to get a sense as to what lineups work for them, and the Warriors have finally begun to reach some consistency after reintegrating Steph Curry. Strong defensive teams have slowed the Dubs down and forced them on to suboptimal shots, and when the shots don’t fall like against the Jazz, it won’t take much to overcome them. LeBron doesn’t usually flip the switch this early in the year, but on a big stage and in the every-win-matters West, I think we’ll probably bear witness to the King in his true form. This match-up is an indirect finals rematch, too, which is why I imagine it made the cut for the Christmas games.

Trail Blazers @ Jazz: B | This will probably be an interesting game, but there is significantly less story-line as a basis for its inclusion as a Christmas day game. In reality, it’s just a game between two teams who need a win. Donovan Mitchell’s efficiency has been problematic all year, but the Jazz still sport a respectable defense behind star center Rudy Gobert, who probably doesn’t get enough credit for the impact he has when he checks in. Regardless, the Blazers are currently in the playoffs and the Jazz are a good way’s out of it, but there’s still a perfectly logical route for the Jazz to get in; they just need to win and win now. They can’t afford to have bad nights against other fringe teams like Portland, who are perfectly beatable if things go right. I mean, if you’re competing with the Sacramento Kings for a playoff spot, you’re never really out of it. The Jazz are still in a better place moving forward than, say, the Pelicans, but that’s no reason to be content with an L on Tuesday night.

The games this year follow some pretty clear patterns. The legacy teams who sport a geographic rivalry and were renewed by young talent, the one-man-army versus the people who have bested him the past 2 years, and the rest are filled out with identity-seeking playoff contenders looking to make a statement. Except Bucks/Knicks. That game just plain sucks.

The Other 29: 12/10/18

The last few weeks have been a stratifying force in the NBA, and while the rankings in the West are still quite complicated, there is a much greater sense of who’s fake and who’s for real across the board. So without any further ado, here is a sneak peak into the upcoming week’s notable matches in the NBA:

Grizzlies @ Nuggets: This game taking place in the Mile High city Monday night will be a battle of two teams who have exceeded expectations in the season thus far. Not only have they both made surprise appearances at the top of the Western Conference leader board, but both teams continue to make a statement on defense in ways that they failed to last year. Both teams are in the top 4 of opponent points allowed (per teamrankings.com), so you can probably bet this game will get dragged into the mud. Impact players for Memphis include the renewed Marc Gasol and early ROTY contender Jaren Jackson Jr. who have both been dynamic scorers and capable defenders down low. Mike Conley continues to show strength as a veteran 1-guard, and it makes you wonder how you forgot that this team was good when they weren’t injured. Nikola Jokic continues to be a triple-double threat every night, and the depth of scoring potential with guys like Jamal Murray and Gary Harris proves to make Denver one of the most well-rounded teams in the hunt right now. Both Denver (17-9) and Memphis (15-10) are in the playoff bubble right now but nobody in the West can spare even a single win, although it matters more for the Grizz specifically.

Trail Blazers @ Rockets: This game, which will be one of 3 games played Tuesday night, is probably the most entertaining on the docket. Both teams need to keep any and all momentum they can build, as Houston is at the 2nd lowest spot in the West (but also have the highest potential to improve out of any West team, I’d argue) and Portland is hanging on to a playoff seed by a thread. Both teams are lethal on offense, but struggle on defense, so hitting the over wouldn’t be an awful bet. Chris Paul hasn’t looked like himself much this year, making the 1-2 punch that usually is Harden and Paul more like a 1-punch, 2-open-handed slap. Nevertheless, the Rockets are back on track on offense. Dame Lillard, meanwhile, has been beasting lately putting on some performances that make me thankful I wasn’t playing against him in fantasy that week. In the past 2 weeks, Dame has averaged just under 30 PPG, which would put him 4th in the league for that time frame. Whether or not either of these teams can sustain into the post-season I can’t say, but a nice little midseason shootout would be fun.

Raptors @ Warriors: I mean, you all knew this was coming, right? The early projection for a finals preview, the last meetup between these two saw a Raps’ win at home despite Kevin Durant joining the 50+ club that night, although this time it will take place at Oracle, which is probably the most hostile arena to play in at the moment, Toronto being a close runner-up. Toronto has looked absolutely pristine on defense, as they have many well-sized, switchable disruptors and a lineup of bigs that can protect the rim. They also have that Kawhi Leonard fellow, who I’d argue plays the most disruptive, aggressive style of defense in the league that won’t get you a foul. Golden State, however, has just gotten Steph Curry back into the rotation, and when he was out, it was painfully clear how much he matters for them on the court. Klay’s efficiency plummeted, Durant was tired and taking more contact, and there was that drama with Draymond Green which came from the fact that there wasn’t a clear option to take the ball down court for the game-winner. Which, I mean, Kevin Durant is a pretty obvious choice, but I suppose without your point guard it’s a little less straightforward. This game has little implication total-wise, but it matters in team’s abilities to test out lineups and start making long-term adjustments for the post-season. Plus, the last game was a thriller.

Alright guys, that’s gonna do it for The Other 29 for this week. I’m hoping to get the finale of my Sixers’ Big 3 piece up soon this week, once finals are all sorted out and it gets a bit less hectic, so be on the lookout for that! Thanks for reading and TTP!

The Other 29: 11/26

Welcome all, to the second installment of my new Monday column The Other 29, in which I seek to examine some exciting match-ups in the upcoming week for the 29 non-Sixer NBA teams. I’m still experimenting with exactly how I’d like to format the column, but for the meantime I’m gonna keep going day by day, match-up by match-up. Without further ado, here is the week’s marquis games:

Celtics @ Pelicans, Monday 11/26: Both Boston and New Orleans enter this battle of conflicting styles with records of 10-10. For Boston, this is much more comfortable as .500 is still good for the playoffs for right now, but I digress. New Orleans is a steamrolling juggernaut with AD on the floor, but lack any semblance of an identity without him. Alternatively, the Celtics look like they lack an identity no matter who is on the floor for them, even when Kyrie Irving is playing well. It’s easy to assume that the point guard playing better would make the offense improve as a whole, but this has not been the case in Boston. They still sit at the bottom of the barrel at 25th in offensive efficiency and 23rd in PPG, and they just can’t seem to find their footing on that end of the ball. Defensively, they’ve still been a bastion, as Al Horford continues to anchor a switchable, efficient defense. With that said, Boston’s wins have come from dragging the game into the mud and trying to play a physical game while attempting to improvise on offense. New Orleans, however, has dealt with having to sit AD for health concerns off-and-on, leaving them with two potentially very different teams on a nightly basis, depending who they have in. As good as Nikola Mirotic has been offensively, the team struggles to mount a cohesive game-plan without AD, and the offense has suffered. This game will be a battle between one team who wants to throw for 140 and one team that wants to hold their opponent to 90. Mostly, this game matters in order to see the ways in which a win or loss shakes up the rankings, as the Pelicans need to climb the rankings and the Celtics are at risk of falling down.

Warriors @ Raptors, Thursday 11/29: This will be the first meetup of the Western Conference and Eastern Conference leaders and the respective favorites to make the Finals entering the season. Rumor has it that Steph Curry will be playing again after a brief absence due to injury, and the Raptors offense has looked much more optimized in recent games, with Kyle Lowry doing more to initiate plays and Kawhi Leonard being a threat for 25 or so every night. Additionally, Toronto’s bench and role players have stepped up; the Raptors look like far and away the deepest contending roster in this year’s NBA. It will be interesting to see how quick of an impact the return of the senior splash brother will have, as the point guard responsibilities have diminished Klay Thompson’s offensive efficiency and the team just looks like a panicked scramble without Steph to hold it all together.

Nuggets @ Trailblazers, Friday 11/30: Both Portland and Denver are two of the more deep rosters contending for high playoff seeds in the West, however they both also seem to struggle to maintain consistency. So much of the Nuggets’ offense relies on Nikola Jokic initiating plays and staying out of foul trouble, neither of which are very easy for a ball-dominant big man with defensive issues. Meanwhile, Portlands’ backcourt continues to look like one of the very best out there, I’d say truly only the Warriors have them convincingly beat in that regard. At the end of the day Denver continues to face a decision between strong offensive but weak defensive backcourts, or more stable but less efficient lineups on offense. No matter which pill they take, it will be interesting to see how CJ and Dame try to exploit either weakness, and the big-man battle between Nurk and Jokic will determine a lot as to which team mounts an offense easier.