The Trade Deadline has finally passed, and the madness that comes with it: the trades that did happen, the ones that didn’t.
One potential move that ended anti-climatically (for now) was for the New Orleans Pelicans All-Star Anthony Davis and his attempted trade to the Los Angeles Lakers. Many hoped or anticipated that LeBron James and AD would be the new, elite duo in the NBA and would lead LakerNation to the playoffs.
But nothing came to pass, despite the Lakers’ multiple “Godfather offers” that reportedly included their entire young core, multiple first round picks and some cap relief, while also taking on the final year and a half of Solomon Hill’s contract. None of that made the Pelicans budge, and if the reports are true, General Manager Dell Demps and the rest of the Pelicans’ front office were never interested in the first place.
— Pelicans Nation (@_PelicansNation) February 5, 2019
Since Anthony Davis’ trade request went public, the NBA community has been ablaze with rumours, sources and other information predicting when, how and for whom Anthony Davis would become a Laker, but in the past couple days, there have been more sinister stories reported.
According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, not only did the Pelicans have no intention of trading with the Lakers, but they reportedly leaked news of the trade in an attempt to cause discourse within the Laker ranks and “bring them down a level” after multiple tampering charges.
So I asked @WindhorstESPN if the Pels ever intended to seriously engage with LA on Anthony Davis, or if all the talks & leaks were instead designed to sabotage the young Lakers as revenge for what N.O. sees as tampering, & he said "it's not just possible, it's what happened." 👀 pic.twitter.com/wki2hDPaEs
— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) February 7, 2019
“It’s not just possible, it’s what happened. I know that the Pelicans, you know—the Pelicans had a method to their madness, in the way this went. Did they know it was gonna lead to a 40-point loss, because everybody’s upset? Not necessarily.”
– Brian Windhorst on ESPN’s The Jump
This is all speculation. We don’t know for sure. But the majority of NBA fans note that the final offer the Lakers reportedly presented was a bad deal for President of Basketball Operation Magic Johnson – and the Pelicans still didn’t accept it, or even present a serious counter.
And if you’re a Boston Celtics fan, or a New York Knicks fan, or a Gregg Popovich disciple, you must be laughing pretty hard right now at the Purple and Gold. The Pelicans are, or at least their Twitter page was the mood for jokes.
— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) February 7, 2019
My question is this: What have the Pelicans gained from this?
Yes they’ve had their jokes, but let’s take emotion and spite out of this and look at this from a pure basketball perspective:
- Rich Paul, Davis’ agent, announced that they are only interested in signing long term with the Lakers, the Knicks, the Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Clippers. Whether this is true or not, these are the teams in the running for his signature in July 2020. It’s also been rumoured that the Knicks hold equal ground against the Lakers for a long term deal.
- Now that Davis will remain a Pelican until the end of the season, the Lakers’ biggest trade threat in Boston will be able to enter the fray.
- The clock ticks on: The closer we get to July 2020, the less leverage the Pelicans can wield over Anthony Davis. The last thing they want to do is let this drag out until August/September and let the pressure mount in Davis’ final season.
These are the facts. Now let’s look at some of the potential players:
Well we know they’ll be back again, with pretty much the same collection of young talent, expiring deals and first round picks at their disposal. It wasn’t, however, enough this time round.
They’ll have their chance, and can offer a potentially nice package, including the likes of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Al Horford, and a combination of first-round picks.
Here’s the issue, Kyrie Irving is a free agent himself, and could wind up in either of the New York teams or even LA. Anthony Davis’ camp has already said that he will not re-sign in Boston, but this will become a near certainty if Uncle Drew takes his talents elsewhere. Would Boston still give up the farm if all this came to pass?
They might get the number one overall pick, they might not. If they do, that might be the key component in an Anthony Davis trade. But with few players to offer, is a “Zion for AD” trade enough?
Aside from Giannis Antetokounmpo, what assets do the Bucks hold? Eric Bledsoe, Khris Middleton and newcomer Nikola Mirotić can all be free agents this summer. The Pelicans would hold zero power over them to stay in Louisiana.
The Clippers have some picks, but they’ve completely cleared the decks in an attempt to bring in two max free agents this summer. They’re probably the most attractive free agent destination, but what can they trade?
Here’s the skinny. The Lakers may not get this deal done, and Anthony Davis could end up elsewhere next season. Whether or not he’d remain with his new team or find a way to the other LA team in 2020 remains to be seen.
But that’s not the point.
Can you honestly tell me that any deal proposed this summer will match the Lakers’ last “Godfather offer”? Even if it’s from the Lakers, what’s to say that a polluted market could actually have adverse effects from the Pelican’s perspective. Too many teams, unwilling to send the farm because of the fear of a one-year rental, or because of their incumbent players jumping ship, or even because they want to hold onto a certain generational talent from Duke for the years to come? Are these eventualities not possible?
The question still remains, how likely is it that the Pelicans are going to have the last laugh?
When making trades, you act in the best interest of your team, without emotion. Otherwise you lose, it’s that simple. The Pelicans have acted with and overdose of spite and pride, and that cocktail comes with a nasty hangover. Pride cometh before the fall.
Featured Photo – Harry How / Getty Images / NBAE / USA Today / Double Clutch illustration