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NBA Daily: Pelicans Shouldn’t Rush A Davis Deal

Anthony Davis has asked out of New Orleans just ahead of the trade deadline. Spencer Davies writes on how things got to this point and what the future holds for both parties.

Spencer Davies

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It’s time to play the game again: Where will *insert superstar here* land after making a trade demand?

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski started out our week with a major news drop, reporting that Anthony Davis has requested a trade and will not re-sign once his contract is up in New Orleans. Rich Paul, Davis’ agent at Klutch Sports, relayed that his client is looking for a place where he can “win consistently and compete for a championship.”

New Orleans Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry says he has already spoken with Davis, who has no plans to sit out and will honor his contract. Remember –the All-Star forward is not a free agent until the summer of 2020.

Before we get into the whole ordeal of how things got to this point and what’s to come, let’s get one thing straight—this isn’t just any other player. This is Anthony Davis.

Davis is a walking double-double that can post whatever stat line he pleases any night he steps foot onto a basketball court. He is a monster presence in the paint with top-tier shot-blocking ability and is an undeniable force on the offensive end — a franchise changer.

Any team would be incredibly fortunate to acquire Davis. The most popular destination in probably everyone’s minds would be the Los Angeles Lakers.

LeBron James and Paul are the top dogs in Klutch Sports, an agency that lured Davis in this past September. The King has been rumored to be asking for another superstar to play with in Hollywood. It just makes too much sense. And don’t get it twisted, this report came out as a “tick-tock” move to get the wheels turning on preparing a deal – a major reason the Pelicans want a close eye on those all so familiar tampering rules.

But who’s to say Los Angeles has enough to offer?

According to Yahoo Sports reporter Chris Haynes, the New York Knicks are preparing to make an offer for Davis, as they have plenty of assets to construct a trade with. May they be willing to part ways with a dissatisfied Kristaps Porzingis? Would Kevin Knox or a first-round pick suffice?

These are valid questions, but is this really a team that will win consistently, as Davis supposedly prefers? It’s certainly a top market, however, that winning part of it isn’t happening unless New York can find another superstar-caliber talent in the offseason. Regardless, though, Davis reportedly would be willing to sign his extension in the Big Apple, which is surprising considering the state of the team currently.

The Boston Celtics have been linked to Davis for the past several years, but can’t legally trade for him until July 1 due to the Designated Rookie Extension Contract rule in the CBA, which states that a team can’t have two players on such a deal together. Kyrie Irving will become an unrestricted free agent on that date.

Earlier in the season, the Golden State Warriors were mentioned as a potential destination for Davis, but let’s not kid ourselves—they don’t have the assets to make that happen. Unless there’s a crazy swap of epic proportions with Kevin Durant or something, don’t count on it.

We could speculate from dusk ‘til dawn if we wanted to on this matter. Here’s what this reporter sees happening: Nothing.

Ask yourself this question: If you’re the Pelicans, why would you deal Davis right now? Again, this is not the final year of his deal.

As far as we know, he’s not somebody that will make a big fuss out of the situation. Usually, a disgruntled superstar in a locker room who knows of his intentions isn’t good, but Davis doesn’t seem like he’d be that type of player to disrupt things. If he’s going to be professional about it, then what’s the rush?

In all honesty, when healthy, the Pelicans are a good team. Julius Randle is boasting some loud numbers in a career-season and what will likely act as a contract year. Jrue Holiday continues to be sensational, averaging over 20 points and more than eight assists per game for the first time in his career. They have not been able to bring in a wing to complete the puzzle, yet playing smaller has worked on the offensive end.

So who or what do you point the finger at for not putting it all together? To be frank—the injury bug, for the most part.

New Orleans has been banged up almost all year long. After a fast start, they lost Elfrid Payton for two months. Between an ankle injury and a recent calf strain, Nikola Mirotic has been nicked up. Solomon Hill has missed a chunk of games. Even Davis, who is currently dealing with a left finger issue, is a part of these setbacks.

As Bleacher Report’s Preston Ellis points out, all but one of the Pels’ top five-man lineups in net rating has played fewer than 71 minutes together. That’s a shame considering how hot the team started to open the season.

The front office could’ve tried to go after a proven small forward to shore up the defensive end, with size lacking in positions one through three. Players like Trevor Ariza or Robert Covington, just as examples, might’ve made a huge difference. With that said, though, it’s not as if general manager Dell Demps hasn’t made an attempt to surround Davis with talent.

Around this time two years ago, Demps pushed all of his chips to the center of the table. He traded Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway, then-rookie Buddy Hield and a 2017 first-rounder for Omri Casspi and All-Star big man DeMarcus Cousins. New Orleans didn’t make the postseason that year, but Boogie and The Brow became a revelation.

The Pels had a legitimate big three and veteran leadership the following season. While they had their ups and downs throughout the course of the campaign, January 2018 was a hot month. Having just ripped off seven wins in eight games, Cousins tragically suffered a torn Achilles in the closing moments of the team’s victory over the Houston Rockets. He’d be ruled out for the rest of the way, never to be seen in a NOLA uniform again.

Demps once again made it a point to not give up after taking a huge hit, so he acquired Mirotic to soften the blow and bolster the roster once more. It paid off right away.

New Orleans fought valiantly in Cousins’ absence and, behind the brilliance of Davis, Holiday, Mirotic and Rajon Rondo, made it to the second round of the NBA Playoffs before getting eliminated by the Warriors in five games.

Despite losing Cousins to that Golden State squad, the offense has actually improved statistically since then. The quick, up-and-down pace of the Pels’ has worked well with the personnel on the roster. It’s kind of ironic considering they’ve had two Defensive Player of the Year candidates for the past few years, but the glaring problem is on the defensive end, where they are often outmatched and unable to contain the corner three.

Davis’ timing with this announcement is not surprising because the season has quickly gone into a downward spiral. New Orleans sports a record of 22-28. They’re seven-and-a-half games back from first place in the Southwest Division and six-and-a-half games back from the eighth-seeded LA Clippers in an ultra-competitive Western Conference.

It’ll be intriguing to see whether the Pels decide to strike the iron while it’s hot or if they wait regarding a Davis deal. Reports are indicating they’ll be working on their own time and even the team’s latest statement confirms there will be no rush on jettisoning The Brow out of town.

It’s a shame that things will end like this, be it this season or next—especially with the poor luck NOLA has had on the injury front—however, it’s not all that unexpected. Arranged marriages between players and teams don’t always work out long-term anymore. It’s becoming more and more common for athletes to look out for themselves above all else. Some guys prefer the bright lights and big city, others want to win championships.

Based on what has been put out there, it sounds like Davis wants the best of both of those worlds. Unfortunately for him, he might have to wait until after the season for that to happen.

But if New Orleans does the opposite and finds a can’t-miss deal, then there will obviously be no choice. On the condition it happens, the organization would probably be throwing in the proverbial white towel on the year. Zach Lowe of ESPN reported that they have made Randle, Mirotic and E’Twaun Moore all available for picks.

Still, in the meantime, the Pels should keep playing Davis the way they have been. Nobody’s holding anybody hostage.

Just as players have to go by their feelings, teams have to look out for themselves, too. They can’t just give in to demands if it’s going to negatively affect what they’re trying to accomplish.

The Pels are down, but not out of the postseason race yet and Davis is an MVP candidate. If the deadline passes without agreeing to a deal, then they can treat this as if it never happened until the final buzzer sounds on their season.

Spencer Davies is a Deputy Editor and a Senior NBA Writer based in Cleveland in his third year with Basketball Insiders. Covering the league and the Cavaliers for the past five seasons, his bylines have appeared on Bleacher Report, FOX Sports and HoopsHype.

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