The Pelicans are already moving on from Anthony Davis. Dell Demps might be stuck in the denial phase—he is reportedly “not picking up the phone” to field incoming trade inquiries—but the team has already yanked Davis out of their standard pregame hype video, and pulled his image from their Twitter page. Most significantly, they are also reportedly weighing whether Davis should ever suit up again in a Pelicans uniform, whether or not he is traded before next Friday.
The logic here is rock solid, and also sucks whole mounds of shit. The Pelicans aren’t realistically positioned to make a playoff push this season, whether Davis plays or not. And since they are no longer concerned with salvaging their playoff hopes for the sake of convincing Davis to sign an extension, the best thing they can extract from this season is a nice juicy lottery pick in the 2019 draft, plus whatever haul they can score from trading the best player in the history of their organization. And since Davis is no longer invested in the success of the franchise, he has absolutely nothing to gain from risking his health for however many wins he could help secure between now and whenever he eventually leaves town.
So it makes sense for everyone involved, except basketball fans. Holding Davis out means depriving fans of one of the supreme talents in the sport, and for the deeply irritating reason that CBA restrictions designed to limit player movement and protect idiot general managers from the consequences of their own stupidity make it potentially more profitable for the Pelicans to wait until the offseason to complete a trade. This isn’t just about the bogus Rose Rule, which functionally keeps the asset-rich Celtics out of the conversation until Kyrie Irving’s current contract comes off the books. Draft incentives also drive this move, by giving the Pelicans more to gain by losing than by winning, and by making it worth their while to wait for an established draft order before they go shopping for “future assets” in a blockbuster trade. For that matter, the salary cap and luxury tax, along with restrictions on how teams over those thresholds can operate in trades, severely limit the flexibility teams need in order to involve themselves in the Davis sweepstakes. And while we’re here, the reverse draft order makes securing Davis right now potentially problematic for the value of draft picks offered in exchange for his services. The pool of suitors is artificially capped, as is the type and number of fungible trade assets, as is the immediate benefit of having Davis under contract for all but a few hopeful contenders. The whole thing is rigged, and poorly.
It’s just a shitty reality of the league’s current structure, this narrow corridor of compounding and self-inflicted circumstances that makes holding a healthy superstar out for 36 games by far the likeliest and most logical development. It makes little sense for Davis to take the floor again for the Pelicans; the happiest development would have them trading him someplace else, like, tonight, but that also makes little sense, because various cynical and esoteric restrictions make the league inflexible specifically with regard to player movement. So instead of watching LeBron James and Anthony Davis—or Kyrie Irving and Anthony Davis, or Joel Embiid and Anthony Davis, or [God help us] Steph Curry and Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant and Anthony Davis—rampage down the closing stretch of this NBA season, we’re likely to see Davis spend the next two months and change wearing a dipshit suit on the bench, or not at all. Real cool league you’ve got there, NBA.