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5. Los Angeles Clippers
Over the last two years, the Clippers have traded Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Tobias Harris. They clearly have no problem striking deals.
Mainly viewed as a free-agent destination because of ample cap space, heaps of young assets and their long-known interest in Kawhi Leonard, the Clippers should also be viewed as a serious threat to make a blockbuster trade. Danilo Gallinari’s expiring contract is one valuable chip, and incoming first-rounders from Philadelphia in 2020 and Miami in 2021 are two more.
Throw those together with some young talent—like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and/or Landry Shamet, as ESPN’s Bobby Marks outlined—and the Clippers could put together a real package for Anthony Davis.
The Clips are ambitious, laden with desirable pieces and clearly positioning themselves to add stars. It’ll be surprising if they don’t make a bold move.
4. Boston Celtics
Much depends on Kyrie Irving‘s free-agency decision. If he bolts, the Celtics may be less incentivized to deal for Davis, as the cost might be too great for a potential rental. In a vacuum, AD would clearly be worth Jayson Tatum and/or Jaylen Brown and future picks. But if Davis would only be a one-year stopgap because he might not stick with a Kyrie-less version of the team, the deal makes less sense.
Still, the Celtics are among the front-runners to add Davis. They’ve been linked to him for months, they have the ability to offer a good return and they should be motivated to change the narrative surrounding the team after a disappointing and semi-dysfunctional season.
Though Gordon Hayward would be tough to move on his current contract, and though Al Horford (if he opts in) might be too valuable to lose, trades involving those two could also warrant blockbuster status.
3. New York Knicks
The No. 3 pick (which seems likely to be Zion Williamson’s Duke teammate, RJ Barrett), incoming first-rounders from the Mavs in 2021 and 2023, Mitchell Robinson, Dennis Smith Jr., Kevin Knox and even Frank Ntilikina give the Knicks a whole lot of blockbuster ammo.
And that’s before considering their potential free-agent haul, which might attract certain superstars who have a modicum of control over where they’re traded because they can broadcast where they might be willing to re-sign in 2020. You know, superstars like, say, Anthony Davis.
No wonder Brian Windhorst said on ESPN’s The Jump that the Knicks had moved ahead of the Lakers and Celtics in the Davis sweepstakes. That’s good enough for a No. 3 ranking here, even if the Celtics can offer more current NBA-caliber talent in Tatum and Brown.
2. Los Angeles Lakers
We’ve already discussed the possibility of the Lakers adding Beal as a fallback option if free agency goes sideways (as it so often has for them in recent seasons), and the Lakers were more entangled with Davis this past season than any other team.
With LeBron James‘ prime coming closer to its end every second, the Lakers should be desperate to add established, star-level talent. Otherwise, they’ll risk wasting yet another season of near-peak LeBron. Squandering one was bad enough; blowing two would be unforgivable.
The Lakers are going to do something big, and while the pervasive chaos within the organization may only mean “something big” is a massive mistake, they’re inevitably going to shuffle this deck.
Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and the No. 4 pick give Los Angeles the pieces it needs to swing a trade or two. Coupled with desperation, Klutch Sports connections and a long pursuit of Davis, we’ll see a deal get done somehow.
1. New Orleans Pelicans
By now, the reason New Orleans ranks first should be obvious: We spent the last four sections discussing Davis trade possibilities.
Though new executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin is doing his best to project confidence in the organization’s ability to keep Davis, that stance is likely posturing. If suitors believe Davis might stay beyond 2020, it may cause them to improve their trade offers.
Had Griffin rolled into his introductory press conference and shouted, “Guys, we’re not going to keep AD. He’s ignoring my calls and changed his location on social media to ‘not New Orleans,'” interested teams would have known they had the Pels over a barrel. The lowball offers would have poured in.
Considering all the ugliness and awkwardness that followed Davis’ trade request last season, it’s nearly impossible to imagine him reversing course. And we’ve had no indications that he will.
AD is the safest bet to move, and he’s the biggest name on the market. That makes the Pelicans the easy pick for No. 1.