The Celtics brass is unlikely to be involved in significant action on trade deadline day, but they won’t be able to exhale until the clock turns to 3:01 p.m. as they wait to see if their master plan of acquiring Anthony Davis remains a viable option heading into the summer months.
Amid a week and a half of trade rumors, posturing and requests from the All-Star big man, the Celtics appear poised to move past the nightmare scenario of Davis getting dealt elsewhere. The Lakers have reportedly been away from the negotiating table since Tuesday afternoon, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com, refusing to bid against themselves with no direct give-and-take coming from the Pelicans side regarding Davis.
It remains to be seen whether the Lakers ever had much of a chance of landing Davis before the deadline from a patient Pelicans front office, especially since there is not a guaranteed All-Star among the Lakers young core amid underachieving seasons from the likes of Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram. Instead of giving LeBron James a viable running mate a year early, Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka have seemingly poisoned the Lakers locker room by floating half the team in trade rumors without the trump card needed to close the deal.
That problem for LA is one that will remain in place this summer as well with Davis negotiations: they can package all the players and draft picks they want, but none of those pieces is a sure thing to pan out and that’s what a rebuilding Pelicans franchise needs when they deal away a top-5 player in the league. They don’t want a bunch of lottery tickets that might not cash out and that’s what a glut of first-round picks from the Lakers would amount to, in addition to their young prospects. No team that has Davis on it is going to be picking in the top-10 of the draft for the remainder of his prime. Even if the Lakers offer the motherload (four first-round picks for every other year starting in 2019), it’s highly unlikely Dell Demps is going to be around in his position long enough to make the most of that kind of stash.
Meanwhile, no other suitor has emerged to the forefront with an offer that the Pelicans had to jump at now and that comes for good reason. The teams Davis wants to go to (Milwaukee, LA Clippers, Knicks) per reports don’t have the assets to trade for him right now. The Clippers did add a few additional pieces to their asset stash on Wednesday and it’s possible they could jump into the bidding this summer, but why would they after dumping their best player to Philadelphia? They don’t want to lose a first-round pick to Boston (top-14 protected for 2019) so adding a win-now piece like Davis would provide no help on that front in the interim.
Other contenders may be tempted to add Davis for a year and a half rental, but not at the cost of blowing up their team midseason. That’s what would be required to outbid Boston right now, or at least the hypothetical Boston package. The squads that might be motivated to do it (Houston) don’t have enough. Others with the pieces to (Philadelphia) have gone in other directions.
The Celtics themselves have been in contact with the Pelicans on multiple occasions this week, according to league sources. All of the expected names from Boston’s end (Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart) have been brought up in some form but