As you surely know by now, New Orleans Pelicans superstar Anthony Davis requested a trade. He wants to leave that derelict organization for one that will give him a chance to contend for championships. The Pelicans can deal him by next Thursday’s trade deadline, or they can wait until the season ends—or, theoretically, they could keep him around until his contract expires after next season, and lose him in free agency. They almost certainly won’t do that third thing.
Every team in the NBA wants to trade for Anthony Davis. There are only maybe like three or four players at most in the entire sport whose teams would not trade them straight-up for Davis in a heartbeat if the opportunity arose, if their teams are smart and the salary math could be worked out. But alas, not all of the teams are smart, the salary math does not always work out, and I am very sorry to say that your dumbass team will not trade for Anthony Davis.
Why not? Let’s take a look. Here’s why your dumbass team will not trade for Anthony Davis.
Because I am a Wizards fan, one of the very first things I felt (when I first became capable of feelings, but also) when I learned that Anthony Davis had requested a trade was: Shame. It would be great to have the mighty Davis on the embarrassing team I root for like a real horse’s ass. I would part with up to half of my liver to make it happen.
But the poor, stupid Wizards are radioactive and not even their own players want to play for them. They’re also smushed flat against the salary cap like it is the large brick wall a cannon fired them into. Also they have very little (none) by way of the kind of talent the Pelicans would have to take back in order to feel okay about trading away the best player they’ll ever have. Even if someone in New Orleans’s (admittedly very bad) front office were insane enough to be like “Sure, yes, I have been taking rips of hot glue fumes all day and I have decided that we will take Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, and what the hell, even John Wall, why not, in exchange for the most gifted player in basketball and whatever other crap will make the salary cap math work”—even then, it won’t happen.
Davis’s lone publicly stated destination criteria is that he wants to compete for championships on his next team, and I regret to say that a lineup of Davis, Thomas Bryant, Trevor Ariza, someone named Chasson Randle, and Tomáš Satoranský will not be competing for a championship, even if you give them machine guns. Because Davis can just straight-up say “I will not sign an extension with your busted team, and in fact will throw myself into a ravine if you trade for me,” he has the effective power to veto any trade. I feel confident that he would rather be traded directly to hell than to the Wizards.
In a way it’s kind of nice to know that the Wizards literally do not have enough stuff to badly overpay for Davis. (No one does, but they especially do not.) Because if any team could make trading for Anthony Davis something to regret and feel embarrassed about for a decade afterward, a team run by Ernie Grunfeld would find a way. As it is, they’ll probably fuck up and trade half their roster for Ed Davis, instead.
Anyway, this blog is about trying to make everybody else feel as bad as a Wizards fan today.
One of the best scenes in the classic animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender comes at the end of its complex, ambitious, brilliant second season. The diabolical Fire Nation princess Azula has infiltrated the Earth Kingdom’s capital city, Ba Sing Se, and conspires with Long Feng, Machiavellian advisor and power-behind-the-throne to that kingdom’s ornamental monarch. Their plan is to overthrow the king and conquer the Earth Kingdom, though of course each of these fiends intends to betray the other as soon as that’s accomplished.
So their plan comes to fruition and the king is deposed. In the throne room, Long Feng (voiced by the immortal Clancy Brown!) springs his double-cross and commands his secret police to arrest Azula—but they don’t move. Why not?
AZULA: It’s because they haven’t made up their minds. They’re waiting to see how this is going to end.
LONG FENG: What are you talking about?
AZULA: I can see your whole history in your eyes. You were born with nothing, so you’ve had to struggle, and connive, and claw your way to power. But true power, the divine right to rule, is something you’re born with. The fact is, they don’t know which one of us is going to be sitting on that throne, and which one of us is going to be bowing down. But I know. And you know.
With that, Azula sits on the throne, looks poor sweaty Long Feng dead in the face, and says, “...well?” And after an anguished moment, Long Feng, who up until this point has been absolutely ruthless and unrelenting in his pursuit of power and control over the Earth Kingdom, realizes that on some fundamental level he believes what she’s saying, and he steps forward and kneels.
LONG FENG: You’ve beaten me at my own game.
AZULA: Don’t flatter yourself! You were never even a player.
One of the problems in building a team with one transcendent young star and then a deep cast of good but limited supporting players expertly sorted into complementary roles is, no matter how good your regular season performance, in the playoffs you’re probably doomed to get smushed by a team with a thinner roster but a greater number of genuine stars who can win matchups and kick piles of ass just on sheer overwhelming force of talent. But another one of the problems with that kind of squad is that when a genuine mega-star like Anthony Davis demands a trade to a team that will contend for championships, the only way to get him is to send back in return the one player upon whose ability is staked the promise that your team could ever contend for championships.
The Bucks with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Anthony Davis would be the actual coolest basketball team of all time. The Nuggets with Nikola Jokić and Anthony Davis, likewise, would be the actual coolest basketball team of all time. But those dreams cannot come true, because no combination of the admirable role-players surrounding either of those two space-alien MVP candidates could ever hope to entice the Pelicans to part with Anthony frickin’ Davis. Not when they could just wait until the summer and see who lands the first overall draft pick, or what the Boston Celtics can offer once Kyrie Irving’s Rose Rule contract comes off the books.
Alas. I guess you shoulda thought of that before you assembled extremely good, likable, entertaining young teams with legitimate Finals ambitions, suckers!!!!
All of what I just wrote, only without any big stars or legitimate Finals ambitions.
Basically all of what I wrote about the Bucks and Nuggets, only the Rockets are not likable and probably don’t have any legitimate Finals ambitions now that their whole gameplan is just to hope James Harden can score 70 points each night, and the Rockets with Harden and Anthony Davis would not be the coolest basketball team of all time.
It’s fun to imagine that Anthony Davis could be traded for in a way that effectively amounted to adding him to the Blazers as they presently exist. Damian Lillard! C.J. McCollum! Jusuf Nurkić! And Anthony frickin’ Davis! He wouldn’t have to play center (he doesn’t like playing center), and he and those wonder-guards could do extremely cool-ass shit! This is one of the few teams that seems like it could become a genuine threat to the Warriors if it could somehow just straight-up add Anthony Davis, the way the Warriors were able to just add Kevin Durant a couple seasons ago.
Unfortunately, as I understand it, the Blazers would have to trade their entire roster, then borrow the Phoenix Suns’ roster and also trade that whole roster, in order to make the salary cap math work, here. That’s a bummer.
All of what I just wrote about the Blazers, but with different pronouns.
“We’ll send you Kryglfiv Slbndrytz, Borf Beanes, and the second-round pick only we could possibly use to find an effective professional player.”
Even if any of these teams could get Anthony Davis for nothing at all, it would not satisfy his desire to be traded to a team that will allow him to contend for championships.
I bet Mavs fans are all like “We are the sleepers here! Who can best a package of Dennis Smith Jr., Harrison Barnes, and DeAndre Jordan? No one, that’s who.”
I bet Knicks fans are all like “Eyyyyy, we’re in da fuckin’ driver’s seat here! Who can do bettah than Kevin Knox, Frank Ntilikina, the first-round pick that probably will not get Zion Williamson, and da Big fuckin’ Apple? No one, dat’s who. Gabbagool.”
The next established star with the ability to write his own ticket who chooses to go to Minnesota will be the first! And it’s not gonna be Anthony Davis!!!!!!
I wonder if the stuff they shipped off to bring back Blake Griffin would have been enough to score Anthony Davis. Probably not. I guess we will never know.
I saw a thing yesterday that was like “The Heat can get right in this sucker by offering Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow, Bam Adebayo, Goran Dragić, and their first-round draft pick!” Presumably leaving Anthony Davis to play frickin’ small forward in a truly insane lineup with, like, Hassan Whiteside, Kelly Olynyk, Tyler Johnson, Dion Waiters, and no future ever. I am extremely into this very bonkers idea, for reasons such as being a fan of a Southeast Division rival.
Apparently Davis has the same agent as Ben Simmons, who’d be the obvious guy for the Sixers to offer, except that their mutual agent is not going to agree to one of his clients being banished to the post-Anthony Davis wasteland in New Orleans just for the sake of appeasing another one of his clients.
Here is a question. If Anthony Davis were a pie, how big a piece of that pie could you buy with Markelle Fultz, the first overall pick in the 2017 draft? (The answer is: You would not even be allowed to enter the bakery.)
Here is something totally fucking insane and impossible-seeming: In the abstract, the Kings might actually be one of the clubs that could offer the kind of stuff that a wise team would take back in exchange for its huge star who wants to be traded, and might even be able to offer that stuff without consigning that star to a future as the only decent player on a devastated roster padded out with cheap veteran mercenaries on short-term contracts. They’re stacked with frickin’ blue-chippers! Who haven’t even been ruined yet!!!
Unfortunately, there’s context that makes this impossible. For one thing, the Pelicans have been having trouble sustaining a fanbase even with Davis, who was already extremely famous when they drafted him, who has broadly lived up to the expectation that he’d be a world-devouring space monster in the NBA, and who reliably gets them onto a handful of national-TV broadcasts per year all by himself. If they can choose between, say, Boston’s Tatum, Los Angeles’s weird and crappy yet nonetheless famous young players, and literally any combination of Sacramento’s very promising and exciting youths, they will tell the Kings to go to hell, because nobody is coming out to the arena to watch Marvin friggin’ Bagley. For another thing, I bet Davis’s agent would shoot him with a tranquilizer dart and secrete him away to the frozen Canadian north before he would let him accept a trade to the Kings, a perennially dysfunctional franchise in a small media market that plays its games in the middle of the night with no one watching.
In conclusion, my colleague and friend Patrick Redford can go to hell.
The Warriors definitely could trade for Anthony Davis. I don’t know how they could do it, I just know that they could find a way, and maybe they will. I just want it known that I will bring about the destruction of planet earth if that happens.
Basically all the reporting says this is where Davis wants to go, even if he hasn’t officially said so. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski says this is the only place where Davis will sign a contract extension, and that the reason his agent made the trade request public now, before the deadline, was to give the Lakers a head start on the Celtics, who are barred by the collective bargaining agreement from acquiring Davis until after Kyrie Irving’s contract expires in July.
This would be so easy for the Lakers if either Lonzo Ball or Brandon Ingram were not pure butt! If either of them had delivered on the hype that attended their respective arrivals in the NBA, this would be an easy sell for all parties. The trade would have happened already. Davis would have made his request in private and the deal would have been done by the time anybody could report that it was happening, and we could all move on to looking forward to Davis and LeBron James wrecking shit and smushing the Rockets and possibly even throwing a minor scare into the Warriors. It’s only an awkward, drawn-out, public affair because Lonzo and Ingram shit mondo ass and the Pelicans don’t want to trade for those bums when they could wait an awkward six months and get the guy drafted right behind Lonzo instead!
It’s very possible that Davis just simply doesn’t have enough leverage to make this happen. The Pelicans aren’t going to the playoffs anyway, so even if he were to, like, threaten to pull a Kawhi Leonard and sit out the rest of the season if he’s not a Laker by the trade deadline, that may not be an unacceptable price for the Pelicans to pay if it gets them to a place where they can trade him for the first overall pick—or where they can at least find out what they can wring out of the Celtics. What I am saying here is, if the Lakers don’t get Davis—if they miss the last best chance they’ll ever have to pair a still-great LeBron with that good of a teammate—it will be because Magic Johnson fell for the hype surrounding a tryhard third guard with a broken jumpshot whose dad suckered everyone into believing he was Steph Kidd.
It couldn’t be more clear that New Orleans’s front office wants to wait until July and trade Davis for Boston’s best offer, which the League Knowers seem to agree contains Tatum and Al Horford and some other stuff, probably draft picks or whatever. It also seems pretty clear that the Celtics would happily move on from Kyrie if it could land them Davis, who is comprehensively better at basketball and who also has tended not to make a habit of being a smarmy passive-aggressive weasel who uses the media to trash his own teammates for playing, broadly, the same way he plays. If Davis is still a Pelican after the trade deadline, it seems like pretty much everybody is in agreement that he’ll probably wind up among the Tic Boys.
The funniest possible outcome, though, will be if, after years’ worth of trade cycles in which Celtics honcho Danny Ainge declined to make—and congratulated himself for declining to make—the splashiest cash-in move available, holding his resources in reserve for the club’s long-term goals, it turns out that the big move he did make, trading for Kyrie, foreclosed the possibility of him making the infinitely better move to land Anthony Davis. That is why it is your solemn moral duty to root for the Pelicans to trade Davis to the Lakers, and for Kyrie to then ditch the Celtics this coming summer.
Will that happen? Who knows. I just wanted to spread bad vibes all around, and I believe I have done that. This blog is over!