The Anthony Davis rumor mill will remain a point of discussion around the league all year long but it’s not going to result in any movement over the remainder of the season.
The Pelicans are firmly in the Western Conference playoff race and, barring injuries, they will stay in the hunt through the trade deadline in February. The franchise isn’t going to give up on the possibility of keeping Davis and making a deep playoff run when he still has another guaranteed year on his deal. Decision time waits for the summer when the front office can offer him a supermax extension that would pay him over $200 million for five years.
That’s good news from a Celtics perspective. They can’t trade for him this season anyway due to the obscure Derrick Rose rule, unless they included Kyrie Irving as part of the deal (a team can’t trade for two players on Rose rule contracts. Davis and Irving are currently on Rose deals, but Irving's expires this summer). There’s no guarantee that Davis will be available on the trade market next summer but it’s a certainty that the Celtics will be pooling many of their assets to acquire the All-Star if he ends up turning down that supermax extension from New Orleans, a move that would essentially force the Pelicans’ hand into making a deal. Letting him walk away for nothing would be disasterous for the franchise.
After watching Davis erupt for 41 points in an ugly 113-100 Pelicans' loss to the undermanned Celtics on Monday night, it’s hard to envision him not opting for a better chance at playing for a winner as New Orleans dropped to 14-15 on the year. The Garden faithful tried to shower Davis with cheers in warmups and introductions and Davis did notice.
“I heard it tonight,” Davis admitted when asked about the cheers. “But I’m just focused on this team. I’m trying to do whatever I can to help this team get wins with the roster we have. It’s been a rocky season so it’s on me to try to figure it out. I know the team follows me. I’m the leader and I’ve got to be the one to make sure that we’re ready to play every night. So for me, I just go out there and play with this team and go out there and try to have fun and get wins. All I’m worried about is getting wins for this team and hopefully, we can get further than we did last year.”
Getting into the second round (where the Pelicans playoff run ended last year against the Warriors) is going to be a tall task with this underwhelming roster in a loaded Western Conference. In the meantime, the best the Celtics’ can hope for is for their assets to maintain and gain some value while the waiting game for next summer continues.
It hasn’t been a great start to the season on that front as Jaylen Brown and Boston’s treasure trove of picks for the 2019 NBA Draft are coming in far below projections thus far. It’s even led some writers nationally to wonder just how good the Celtics’ stash of assets will be when next summer arrives. As a reminder, here’s a review of what the likely movable pieces the Celtics will have at the ready when this season ends, along with the years remaining on their deals:
Movable young player assets
Jaylen Brown (1 year remaining before restricted free agency)
Jayson Tatum (2 years remaining before RFA)
Robert Williams (3 years remaining before RFA)
Semi Ojeleye (2 years remaining before RFA)
Marcus Smart (3 years remaining before unrestricted free agent)
Terry Rozier (restricted free agent, sign-and-trade possibility)
2019 SAC pick (Top-1 protected)
2019 MEM pick (Top-8 protected)
2019 LAC pick (Top-14 protected)
Own first-round picks
While some of those assets have lost value in recent weeks, it’s important to consider what other squads could actually compete with Boston in constructing an appealing trade package. Let’s look at a few other top contenders to be bidding for Davis’ services next year and where things stand with each of the trade chips in those organizations.
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