I’m a Knicks fan, so you’d think I’d tell you to root for Anthony Davis to end up in New York. End of story. Thank you, next.
But, seriously, the most interesting trade demand in modern NBA history is choc full of drama that’s probably going to peak around the Feb. 7 trade deadline and most likely be resolved in the summer. Settle in for plenty of Woj bombs and other breathless reports about the Pelicans all-world forward taking his talents elsewhere over the next several weeks. But maybe the question we need to be asking isn’t where he’s going to end up, but rather where he should end up—i.e., where would Davis’ addition be the best for the NBA and basketball at large this season, in a hypothetical scenario where the Pelicans feel compelled to ship him out of town in less than 10 days? And I’m here to tell you it should be the Lakers. Stick with me as we run through the scenarios.
Of course, there are a number of potential teams that have the assets to trade for Davis, and the Pelicans are going to require a haul for their superstar. The Knicks need ALL. THE. HELP. THEY. CAN. GET, and they could pull the trigger on a trade featuring what could be a top pick in June’s draft (ideally Zion Williamson), plus tradable assets in Kristaps Porzingis and likely somebody else on the roster. Knicks fans will debate shipping that combo for AD, but a rehabilitating 7’3” unicorn and a rookie don’t combine to equal AD’s value on the court. It's not even close. Plus, having Davis on the roster would help attract high-level free agents much more than a roster featuring Porzingis, whoever they draft, Kevin Knox, and other young guns. The only problem here is watching AD raise the Knicks from the basement to legit contenders would take time, and there would be no instant satisfaction for basketball fans in seeing him go to a team that won’t make the playoffs this year.
If you want the Western Conference playoffs to be anything other than a Warriors coronation, AD needs to wear purple and gold.
Boston is the most logical spot in the East, since the Celtics have more assets than God to throw at the Pelicans to seal a deal. Plus, they’re positioned to be a perennial title contender. It would be cool to have another superstar swing back to the lesser conference. AD teaming up with any combination of Boston’s many talented players would be a lot of fun to watch and instantly make them serious, serious title contenders. But could the Celtics somehow keep either Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown in a potential deal? Even if the goal is to team AD with Kyrie Irving, if Davis’ arrival meant Tatum and Brown had to be shipped out, that would kill some of the buzz of bringing him to Beantown.
However, there are two big buts in any AD-to-Boston scenario. For starters, Davis reportedly isn’t that high on landing in Boston. And while the Celtics have dreamed of pairing Kyrie with Davis, AD can’t join the Celtics until the summer because of a collective bargaining agreement stipulation that says an NBA squad can’t have two players who are on designated player rookie extensions. Kyrie Irving, of course, is the other DPRE player, so he’d have to declare himself a free agent before the Celtics offer the Pelicans anything for Davis. Plus, who knows if Kyrie re-signs with the Celtics? So, again, no instant in-season satisfaction with this one.
The Bulls have been rumored as a destination for AD, but, as with the Knicks, the idea of winning in Chicago anytime soon is so far-fetched that even the pull of his hometown wouldn’t be enough for Davis to sign an extension in Chicago—a requisite for any team trading for the superstar, since whatever squad must give up the farm for AD and can’t justify a rental. The Bulls are trash and will not sniff the playoffs, so, yet again, there would be zero in-season satisfaction for basketball fans seeing AD shipped to Chicago. There are other squads that could muster up enough assets to make an offer for AD, but that’s generally expected only after the NBA Draft lottery is finalized in May, and, just like all the above scenarios, no in-season satisfaction.
So that leaves Los Angeles as the most likely landing place for Davis, and for good reason, since the Lakers have plenty of young, enviable players and could actually match up salaries with the Pelicans to make a trade work without too much drama. We all know the reasons why AD has been linked to the Lakers, tops among them the representation he shares with LeBron James. Whether it’s giving up Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball and draft picks, or giving up Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart, Ivica Zubac, and draft picks, or some other crazy combination thereof, the Lakers have almost as many tradable/coveted assets as the Celtics. As a bonus, the Lakers don’t have to worry about any CBA stipulations holding up their pursuit of a second superstar.
As long as you’re not a fan of one of the Lakers’ rivals, you should be rooting for Davis to land in Los Angeles before the trade deadline, because it would take the stretch run and the playoffs to a new level. We’ll start by rationalizing that at age 34, LeBron is likely in the waning days of his prime, and if you’ve seen the Lakers, you know he needs a lot more help if they’re ever going to give the Warriors a run over a seven-game series. He has a finite window to go after a few more championships as one of the game’s premiere players, and watching him and AD run up and down the court, lobbing alley-oops and executing perfect pick-and-rolls for the NBA’s most glamorous squad would be basketball porn. Davis is just 25, arguably a top three player, and if the Lakers had two of the top three players in the league paired together for the next few years, they just might make Golden State sweat out a few playoff series before the dynasty inevitably dies.
All I really want is a little drama in the Western Conference playoffs this spring and that’s why I’m rooting for AD to land with the Lakers before the deadline. Because the way Golden State is currently configured and playing, what makes you think they’re not going to waltz right past the West and into a fifth-straight NBA Finals? Pair LeBron with Anthony Davis and Lakers-Warriors instantly becomes the series you’d wish we could save for the Finals—not a conference final. The star power would be through the roof, the individual matchups incredible, and leading up to a potential playoff showdown, you know the addition of a second superstar would make LeBron kick his game into a new gear once he returns from injury.
So root for the Lakers to grab AD before somebody else does. Because it would be crazy to see AD and LeBron develop their chemistry. Because Los Angeles is forever about star power. Because the game’s biggest star really needs another one right now. And because if you want the Western Conference playoffs to be anything other than a Warriors coronation, AD needs to wear purple and gold.