In what will be a tumultuous NBA offseason, at the eye of the storm is 26-year-old Anthony Davis, who is at worst a top-10 NBA player. After dealing with injuries that limited him to 60-68 games in his first four NBA seasons, Davis played 75 games in the two seasons after. He finished 2018-2019 with only 56 games, but he missed only two weeks due to injury, and would have likely topped 70 games if not for his reduced playing time after demanding a trade from New Orleans.
Teams, including the Knicks, will be lining up their assets for Davis because he is a true superstar. Before delving into what teams might offer, here are Davis’ numbers from 2017-2018 just so everyone understands how ridiculously good he is.
2.6 BLK (led league)
It is important to note that Davis’ contract does expire next summer, and he will not sign an extension with a team before next summer for financial reasons. His agent has made it known that the Lakers are his preferred destination, and that he would re-sign there.
Ian Begley from SNY reported that he would “consider re-signing with the Knicks if he felt he could be successful there,” according to SNY sources familiar with the matter. A Davis trade for the Knicks would only be on the table if the Knicks land Durant and another star, making Davis the third piece. The implication is that his chances for success in New York would be high and he would want to re-sign.
Los Angeles Lakers Assets
2019 4th overall draft pick, control of future 1st rounders, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart, Moritz Wagner
Asset Analysis: The Lakers have a good volume of accomplished young players with years of control remaining on their contracts. Ingram has one year of control left before his team can extend him, while Ball, Kuzma and Hart all have two more years on their rookie contracts. Guys like Ingram and Kuzma have already shown they can play in the NBA. Moving up to get the fourth pick makes their vault of potential trade assets formidable.
X-Factor: The Lakers are sure Davis would sign there long-term, so they would not hesitate to put a huge package together. The real determining factor here is whether Pelicans ownership wants to deal Davis to the Lakers at all, given how LeBron James’ agent orchestrated Davis’ trade demand to get him to LA. According to ESPN's Jackie McMullen, Pelicans owner Gayle Benson has instructed GM David Griffin to avoid trading Davis to the Lakers, reportedly telling him, "To the Lakers, over my dead body." Benson, however, has denied that ever happened.
Potential Offer: According to Adrian Wojnarowski, we already know they offered Ball, Ingram, Kuzma, Hart, former player Ivica Zubac, two first -round draft picks and salary cap relief to the Pelicans back in February. That offer looks better now with the Lakers owning the fourth pick.
My guess is they come out swinging early with an offer of:
Ingram, Ball, Kuzma, Hart, Wagner, 2019 4th overall pick, 2021 first-round pick and then negotiate from there. Even without offering more, this would be a difficult offer for the Knicks to beat.
New York Knicks Assets
2019 3rd overall pick, 2021 unprotected Mavericks Pick, 2023 top-10 protected Mavs pick (also top-10 protected in 2024 and 2025 if it does not convey in 2023), control of all their future first rounders, Mitchell Robinson, Kevin Knox, Frank Ntilikina, Dennis Smith Jr., Allonzo Trier and Damyean Dotson.
Asset Analysis: The Knicks have the youngest set of assets with the most years of control of any team in the Davis sweepstakes. Smith turns 22 in November, Robinson and Ntilikina will both be 21 when the season starts, and Knox will turn 20 in August. Dotson is 25 and Trier is 23. Ntilikina and Smith are only two years into their rookie deals, while Robinson and Knox are both coming off their rookie seasons with three seasons of cost control ahead of them before they can be extended. This is also the least accomplished set of young players any team can offer. All of them except Robinson have underachieved so far in their careers.
The Knicks also have arguably the best crop of draft picks, with the third overall pick this year, all their own selections, and the Mavericks picks in 2021 and 2023. If the Pelicans are interested in a total tear down and putting as many young players and future picks around Zion Williamson, they might have the best offer.
X-Factor: A Davis trade for the Knicks does not make sense unless they land two other stars in free agency, and then make a deal for him afterwards. This shouldn’t bother the Pelicans who need to wait until July 1st to include Boston in any conversations. The Knicks should also feel comfortable Davis will re-sign if he is joining Kevin Durant and a star like Kyrie Irving or Kemba Walker. It might come down to how willing the Knicks are to include Mitchell Robinson, their best player asset, and their future picks in a package together.
14th, 20th and 22nd overall pick in 2019, 2020 Grizzlies 1st rounder (top-6 protected, unprotected in 2021), control of their own future first rounders, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Gordon Hayward
Asset Analysis: Jayson Tatum is probably the best individual asset any team can offer for Anthony Davis of the three major suitors. Jaylen Brown is close to the top too, though he is already in his third year. Marcus Smart is making $13 million per year and is a good player. The Celtics draft picks, particularly the Memphis pick, are extremely valuable.
X-Factor: How confident are the Celtics that they can convince Davis to re-sign next summer? Davis has been non-committal, at best, about Boston. The Celtics also have to wait until after July 1st, when Kyrie Irving becomes a free agent, to complete any deal due to CBA rules. If Irving isn’t returning to the Celtics, can they win with Davis given how stripped their roster would be after a trade? The Celtics can make the best offer, but will they want to?
Potential Offer: What Irving does will swing this an awful lot, but the Celtics best offer would include Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, their 2019 14th overall pick, the 22nd overall pick and the Grizzlies future draft pick. In my personal opinion, I don’t think this offer materializes and the Celtics never end up being big players for Davis because Irving decides to leave.
Just for fun, this is how I would rank the assets available in a Davis trade:
Brandon Ingram (if his blood clot is cleared)
Knicks 3rd overall pick
Lakers 4th overall pick
Grizzlies Draft pick (owned by Boston)
Marcus Smart (only this low because of his 52 million dollar contract)
Unprotected Mavs Pick
3 Celtics 2019 draft picks
Dennis Smith Jr.
Odds are that a mystery team is going to emerge to pursue Davis without a guarantee he would re-sign there like the Thunder did with Paul George or the Raptors did with Kawhi Leonard. Could the Clippers offer up Danilo Gallinari, Montrez Harrell, Landry Shamet and a bunch of draft picks? Do the Nuggets offer up some kind of combination of Gary Harris or Jamal Murray? Do the Trailblazers break up their Lillard-McCollum duo? Do the Nets put together some offer of draft picks with Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen? There’s no way to know.
Assuming the Pelicans do not simply rule out the Lakers as a potential trade partner, which it sounds like they might, the Knicks are going to have to beat their offer.
What will the Pelicans prefer?
2019 3rd overall pick, Kevin Knox, Dennis Smith Jr, Frank Ntilikina, 2021 and 2023 Mavs Picks
2019 4th overall pick, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart, 2021 Lakers Pick
The Lakers offer is probably better unless the Ingram injury terrifies the Pelicans or they like RJ Barrett much more than anyone the Lakers can select at four. What will likely decide whether a trade with the Knicks gets done is whether they are willing to include Mitchell Robinson in a deal. If they aren’t, it might not be enough.
At a price that high, it also might not be worth doing that trade. Robinson, an elite rim protector on a rookie contract with defensive player of the year potential could be a difference maker on a team with Durant and Irving carrying the team offensively. It might make more sense to pursue a different veteran like Bradley Beal instead, so the team can hold onto Robinson.
Let the NBA trade wars begin…